Two teams hoping to see much cleaner play on both sides of the ball square off in Week 2 of the 2018 NFL preseason as the Atlanta Falcons host the Kansas City Chiefs at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Friday (Aug. 17, 7:00 PM ET).
Unless you’re a bettor with money on the game, the outcome in preseason games is meaningless. Teams are just hoping to see their stars show flashes without getting hurt, while rookies and newcomers learn the playbook and earn roster spots.
But we’re bettors, so the outcome matters, and there is a definite trend emerging with the Falcons.
After getting shutout 17-0 by the Jets in Week 1, Atlanta has now lost five straight preseason games. You have to go all the way back to Sep. 1, 2016, for their last win, a 17-15 victory over Jacksonville.
Matt Ryan played one series and was 1/1 for a whopping -2 yards. (That’s still a 79.2 QB rating, if you’re scoring at home.)
The Falcon secondary was lit up in the first half of Week 1. All told, rookie Sam Darnold, Teddy Bridgewater, and Josh McCown went a combined 21/27 for 178 yards and two touchdowns in the game. The lone bright spot was second-year safety Damontae Kazee, who is convinced he can be even better.
— Matt Tabeek (@MatthewTabeek) August 13, 2018
The Atlanta run defense was stout, as a whole (75 yards, 2.3 YPC), and now faces a KC team that only compiled 73 yards on the ground in Week 1 at a subpar 3.2 YPC clip.
The KC secondary, which was decimated in the offseason, didn’t look good in Week 1, either, further fueling concerns that parting ways with Marcus Peters, Phillip Gaines, and Kenneth Acker may not have been the wisest decision. In a 17-10 Texans win, Houston’s QBs went 16/25 for 157 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions, good enough for a 108.3 QB rating.
Andy Reid’s run defense didn’t pick up the slack, surrendering 115 yards on just 25 carries (4.6 YPC).
The good news for Chiefs backers is that the first-team offense is going to play the entire first half, according to Reid.
#Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes and the first-team offense will play the first half against the Falcons on Friday night, per Andy Reid.
— BJ Kissel (@ChiefsReporter) August 14, 2018
Second-year QB (and first-year starter) Patrick Mahomes played two series against Houston, going 5/7 for 33 yards, no touchdowns, and no picks. Backup Chad Henne saw more action and recorded 91 yards, one TD, and one INT on 8/14 passing. Chase Litton and Matt McGloin also saw action, and while neither turned the ball over, neither found the end zone either.
During the regular season, both of these offenses will be powered by elite running backs in the form of Devonta Freeman and Kareem Hunt. But don’t expect any big-name RBs to play a prominent role in this one. Getting to the regular season healthy is all the coaching staffs want to see from their bell-cows.
That will mean substantial touches for players like Malik Williams, Ito Smith, and Justin Crawford on the Atlanta side, and three running backs named “Williams” on the Kansas City side — Damien Williams, Darrel Williams, and Kerwynn Williams — though Damien is questionable with a shoulder injury after leading the Chiefs in rushing in Week 1 with 20 yards on five carries.
The biggest injury concern for the Falcons is kicker Matt Bryant (undisclosed injury). He sat out Week 1 and is questionable for Week 2, which is a huge concern for anyone looking to bet on the Falcons as his replacement, David Marvin, missed his lone attempt from just 40 yards against the Jets. He has the leg to be an NFL kicker (see video below) but may not have the accuracy.
Harrison Butker was 1/1 on field goals (32 yards) and 1/1 on extra points for Kansas City last week.
When it comes to wagering, the combination of (1) Atlanta’s long preseason losing streak, (2) the likely absence of Bryant, and (3) the fact that KC’s first-team offense is going to play a lot more of the game than Atlanta’s leads to KC being the value bet.