The Atlanta Falcons were very close to the Super Bowl in 2012 and want to take it all the way this year, while the Cincinnati Bengals are a young up and coming team which is looking to overtake their NFC North rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens.
Here are three things you should be watching for when they kick off at 8pm EST.
1) With the injury to Michael Johnson this week, Lamar Holmes will be the guy to watch on the Falcons offensive line. Holmes is a very big, very athletic tackle who will be pushed hard by the Bengals’ defensive ends, especially Robert Geathers. Holmes lacks much experience and he’s going to have his hands full Thursday night. He has to perform though—the Falcons don’t have much depth at the position.
2) Julio Jones is out, as is A.J. Green so you’ll get a good look at the depth behind both. So you’ll have plenty of time to watch rookie tight end Tyler Eifert. The Bengals have been incredibly pleased with his work in camp and with no standout option at wide receiver next to Green, Eifert could see a lot of work this season.
3) One battle to watch will be whether or not veteran running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis can hold off rookie Giovani Bernard. The Bengals were happy with Green-Ellis after signing him last season, but he’s not a dynamic and game changing runner. Bernard is and the Bengals may be inclined to go with the younger back if he can show something in preseason games.
Andrew Garda is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. He is also a member of the fantasy football staff at Footballguys.com and an NFL writer at Bleacher Report. You can follow him at @andrew_garda on Twitter.