There are just two NFL preseason games on the board Friday night and we dive into the must-know news and notes for handicapping the NFL odds around this pair of tune-up tilts:
Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn told the media he plans to roll out his full QB depth chart for Friday’s preseason opener against the Jets, including No. 1 quarterback Matt Ryan. Last year, Ryan had a quick but effective series in Week 1 of the exhibition slate, going 3 for 3 for 32 yards and a passing touchdown in a loss to Miami. The former MVP is projected to see the same workload Friday.
Behind Ryan is veteran Matt Schaub, who also played limited first-half snaps in last year’s exhibition opener, Garrett Grayson, and undrafted rookie Kurt Benkert. Quinn really wants to get his rookies some run, so expect Benkert to get the bulk of the snaps in the second half. The Virginia product has a pro-ready arm but his accuracy and consistency are in question. The total for Friday’s game in New York opened at 36.5 but has dropped to 35 points.
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Penalties have plagued the Jets training camp so far, sending plenty of players to the deck for their push-up punishment. Beat reporters have been blown away by the number of tune-up whistles heading into Friday’s preseason opener versus Atlanta.
"That's something we'll talk about and have to clean up," defensive lineman Leonard Williams told the media. "It's something we need to work on and be consistent about. It's something that comes with practice."
New York was called for 119 accepted penalties in 2017 – ninth most in the NFL – equaling 1,035 yards against. Most of those calls came early in the season, and Bowles was able to crack down on calls in the second half of the season.
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Gruden back in Silver and Black
Friday night marks the return of Jon Gruden to the sidelines of the Oakland Raiders after returning as head coach this summer. Gruden loves the little guy and is planning to give his third and fourth-string guys plenty of opportunity to prove themselves in the preseason. Oakland is a 3-point favorite hosting the Detroit Lions Friday.
That means the starters will more than likely sit this game out Friday, leaving plenty of position battles to be settled. One of the tightest fights is for backup quarterback, between Connor Cook and E.J. Manuel. Cook had a great week of joint practice versus the Lions and is listed ahead of Manuel on the depth chart, meaning he will likely start and see the bulk of first half snaps.
Lions’ share of work
The Detroit Lions are also debuting a new head coach in former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. The Lions have undergone a culture change with that championship pedigree holding the clipboard.
One of the biggest shifts in how Detroit does business is the workload being put on players in camp. According to reporters, Lions practices are running 45 minutes longer than they did last season under former head coach Jim Caldwell. That extra conditioning might be the deciding edge with teams usually not in "game shape" entering the preseason schedule.
There’s been emphasis on the line work, both offense and defense, and Detroit will look to push the Raiders around in the trenches Friday night. Patricia wants to find a better balance on offense after Detroit ran the ball just 37.04 percent of the time in 2017 – second fewest in the NFL. Bettors should brace for some hard-nosed, downhill running from the Lions Friday, keeping the clock ticking and adding value to the Under 36.5 points.