Cincinnati Bengals at Atlanta Falcons (-4.5, 38)
The Bengals limp into Week 2 of the preseason after suffering some key injuries.
Left guard Travelle Wharton suffered a season-ending knee injury early into the Week 1 preseason win over the New York Jets and the team is looking to either second-year man Clint Boling or third-year practice squad player Otis Hudson to fill that spot.
Second-year quarterback Andy Dalton could be under fire if there are holes in the pass protection. Dalton went 4 for 9 for a total of 54 yards in the preseason opener while the Bengals offense mustered just 213 yards and a rushing touchdown.
"This game, we've got to go out, we've got to keep doing things, try to move the ball," Dalton told reporters of Thursday’s game plan. "When we have chances to make big plays, we've got to make them and capitalize on every opportunity we get."
Cincinnati will also be without linebacker Rey Maualuga, defensive end Carlos Dunlap, running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis, and safety Taylor Mays, who all suffered injuries in Week 1 of the preseason.
The Falcons got rolled in their preseason opener, falling 31-17 as 1-point favorites to the Baltimore Ravens after jumping out to a 14-0 start.
Starting QB Matt Ryan got a good workout, throwing for 155 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 9-of-15 passing. However, once the starters hit the bench in the second half, Atlanta’s reserves coughed the ball up three times.
Julio Jones and Roddy White are quickly becoming the premier receiving tandem in the NFC and dynamic running back Jacquizz Rodgers showed his speed on offense and special teams. New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter is exploiting that speed with a regular three wide receiver set.
“That three-wide receiver set, one tight end and one back has been good for us in the past,” Ryan told reporters. “We’ve got talented guys to fill out those positions. It will probably be something that we use.”
The Falcons lost a big cog in their rushing game when rookie full back Bradie Ewing suffered a season-ending knee injury versus the Ravens. Atlanta signed veteran FB Lousaka Polite to take his place.Cleveland Browns at Green Bay Packers (-3, 40.5)
The Browns opened their preseason slate with a 19-17 win over the Detroit Lions as 3-point underdogs in Week 1.
Cleveland is leaning towards a heavier work load for its starters this Thursday. This increase in action is because the Browns take on the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 3 of the preseason then turn around and face them in Week 1 of the regular season and don’t want to tip their hand.
Rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, who passed for 62 yards with an interception and a fumble in the preseason opener, may be one of the few players not having their minutes extended. Head coach Pat Shurmur doesn’t want to mix up his first and second strings too much, claiming “the game gets a little sloppy at times.”
Cleveland will continue to take a solid look at its options in the backfield, with rookie running back and first-round pick Trent Richardson on the mend after knee surgery. Running backs Chris Ogbonnaya, Brandon Jackson and Adonis Thomas got the bulk of the carries in Week 1 of the preseason, with Cleveland marching for 120 rushing yards on 30 carries. Montario Hardesty is penciled in as the starter with Richardson out, but only ran four times for 16 yards Friday.
The Packers took one on the chin in their preseason debut, losing 21-13 to the San Diego Chargers as 2.5-point underdogs.
Green Bay got a scare from running back James Starks, who left Thursday’s game with a turf toe injury. He’ll miss only a week of action but didn’t look sharp before leaving the field, rushing for just 16 yards with a dropped pass and a fumble. That prompted the Packers to sign RB Cedric Benson to bolster the running game. Benson has had his share of off-field troubles but told the media he’s a changed man.
Bettor could see a lot of Benson and the running game with Aaron Rodgers’ top two threats on the sidelines. Receiver Greg Jennings is expected to miss Thursday’s game while recovering from a concussion and tight end Jermichael Finley is doubtful with a bruised quadriceps.
Randall Cobb was the top target against the Chargers, reeling in four catches for 58 yards and second-quarter touchdown from backup Graham Harrell. Harrell is expected to get another long stint under center Thursday.
"I think it’s very important to see as much of Graham Harrell as we possibly can," head coach Mike McCarthy told the media. "That’s where he is in his development. He doesn’t have a lot of playing time under his belt. Really last year is the most significant time he was able to have in a preseason.
"So I feel like he’s a little behind as far as opportunities based on his age and how long he’s been out of college but also No. 1 is Aaron. We have to make sure he gets his allotted work and make sure the No. 1 offense is where we feel we need to be up to the second preseason game."
Rodgers was ushered out quickly after going just 2 for 8 for 16 yards and an interception, caused by a hard hit, in Week 1 of the preseason. Problems on the offensive line have the Packers playing it safe with the face of the franchise. Rodgers may playing limited minutes Thursday.