Here’s a Closer Look at the Atlanta at Cleveland Preseason Week 2 Free Pick, Lines & TV Info
When: Thursday, Aug. 18, 8 PM ET
Where: FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland
TV: Check local listings
Opening NFL Lines: Browns -2.5 (37)
Why Bet on Atlanta?The Falcons opened the preseason with a 23-17 win over Washington — the former team of new Browns starting QB Robert Griffin III. Atlanta starting QB Matt Ryan struggled in his two series. New backup Matt Schaub was great, passing for 179 yards and leading three scoring drives. After Ryan was 0 for 4, Schaub moved the offense by finding Aldrick Robinson for long passes of 47 and 68 yards. Falcons rookie J.D. McKissic returned a kickoff 101 yards for a touchdown to open the second half.
Falcons coach Dan Quinn said veteran pass-rusher Dwight Freeney, who signed a one-year deal two weeks ago, is expected to play at Cleveland. He was in street clothes for the preseason opener. The Falcons need a boost with their pass rush after finishing with a league-low 19 sacks last season. They are counting on second-year player Vic Beasley to bring pressure from the left side while making the transition from defensive end to Sam linebacker. Beasley was active against the Redskins but didn’t get a sack. He was held several times and once got his hand up to cause an incompletion.
The team’s depth chart for Thursday night’s preseason game includes Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu as the starting receivers. Robinson and Justin Hardy are the top backups. Eric Weems, whose chances are greatly helped by his experience as a return specialist, rookie Devin Fuller, Nick Williams, J.D. McKissic, Jordan Leslie, Corey Washington and David Glidden also are competing for spots. Robinson signed with Atlanta on March 15, two weeks after the team released veteran Roddy White.
Why Bet on Cleveland?The Browns lost their preseason opener 17-11 in Green Bay. Griffin, the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner who signed with the Browns after being dumped by the Redskins in March, went 4 of 8 for 67 yards with an interception. A promising first drive into the red zone fizzled as defensive back Micah Hyde made a lunging interception of Griffin’s pass near the goal line. Coach Hue Jackson said quarterback Robert Griffin III did some good things for a guy who hadn’t played in a year, but he lamented Griffin not taking better care of the ball. Jackson said the 49-yard completion to Terrelle Pryor to start the night was something to build on, and he added that Griffin stood in the pocket when the protection was not ideal.
The Browns played without two veteran starters on defense: cornerback Joe Haden and lineman John Hughes III. On Monday, Browns receiver Josh Gordon was activated and was at practice. Gordon did not take part in any team drills and participated only in the initial individual work, catching passes without defenders. After practice, Jackson said Gordon will not play against Atlanta, though. Gordon faces a four-game suspension at the start of the 2016 regular season, but the NFL is allowing him to participate in team activities during the ban.
Gordon’s confidence, which blossomed after a 2013 Pro Bowl season in which he amassed 1,646 yards and nine touchdowns, hasn’t wavered. Physically, Gordon said he’s as strong and fast as he’s ever been and he remains confident in his abilities, stressing “I know what I can do.”
It’s not clear if Browns No. 1 pick Corey Coleman, also a receiver, will play this week. He missed the Packers game with a hamstring injury but was back at practice on Monday so that’s a good sign.