NFL football returns to Thursday nights tonight as week one of the one-game old preseason kicks into high gear with multiple games on tap. In the first televised game on ESPN for this new season, two expected postseason teams, the Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons, face off to begin the process of narrowing down their rosters. With the game being played in Atlanta and the Falcons’ experience and depth, the Bengals will have their hands full trying to pull off an upset victory.
Last season the Bengals made it into the NFL Playoffs as a wildcard team and fell to the Houston Texans by a score of 13-19. The Texans dominated much of that game with Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton struggled to find any offensive rhythm against a suffocating defense.
The Bengals will be coming into tonight’s match looking for offensive consistency and aside from Dalton, a lot of pressure will be put on the shoulders of rookie running back Giovani Bernard. He’s a multi-tool back who can bust long runs and catch balls with the best of them. Expect him to get several touches during the game and hopefully an opportunity to show what he’s capable of.
The Matt Ryan-led Falcons enter another season full of promise and nightmares from a Playoff exit the season before. They just can’t seem to get over the hump and win the big game when they need to. Impressive regular season records don’t mean much when they don’t translate into postseason success.
Most eyes on the Falcons tonight will be pointed at their rookie defensive backs, Robert Alford and Desmond Trufant. Both top draft picks are competing for a starting spot and should receive some extended playing time that will determine whether their fate on opening weekend is on the field or on the bench.
Tonight’s NFL Thursday Night preseason football game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Atlanta Falcons kicks off at 8/7c in high definition (HD) on ESPN. Those of you with cable or satellite subscriptions that include ESPN can watch a free live online streaming version of the game here on ESPN 3 via a mobile phone, iPad, laptop or other web enabled device. Atlanta has the home field advantage and more depth on paper so I’ll predict a 20-13 victory for the black birds in their first game.