Atlanta RB Steven Jackson
The defending NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons finally got the playoff monkey off their back last year before being bounced from the postseason in the NFC Championship by San Francisco.
Atlanta is looking to make a return to the playoffs in 2013 and do even more damage with Matt Ryan under center, but first the team will have to move past the Tennessee Titans in Week 3 preseason action.
The Titans only won six games a year ago but present more of a threat than given credit for thanks to some sneaky additions this offseason, especially along the offensive line as it looks to pave the way for Chris Johnson.
Week 3 of the preseason is when teams typically play starters the most as a "dress rehearsal," so expect this game to be a strong reflection of the fortunes for both teams in 2013.
Here is a full breakdown of Saturday's action between the two squads.
Where: LP Field, Nashville, Tn.
When: Saturday, Aug. 24, at 8 p.m. ET
Live Streaming: Preseason Live
Listen: Online at NFL Audio Pass
Betting Lines (via Covers)
Over/Under: 42.5 pts.
Spread: Tennessee (-3)
Given the nature of the Falcons' high-flying passing attack thanks to Ryan and receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White, taking the over here is smart. Add in the propensity for big runs from Tennessee's very own CJ2K, and the over is the only way to go.
Preseason or not, the Falcons passing attack is going to be in top shape against a shaky Titans defense. Bet accordingly.
Injury Report (via ESPN.com)
No injuries to report
Akeem Ayers, LB: Questionable (ankle)
Kendall Wright, WR: Questionable (knee)
Delanie Walker, TE: Probable (knee)
Colin McCarthy, LB: Questionable (hamstring)
Kevin Walter, WR: Out (back)
Falcons Player to Watch: Steven Jackson, Running back
It may look strange, but Steven Jackson is wearing a new uniform for the first time in nine seasons, as illustrated by the Falcons' official Twitter account:
It has also been eight seasons since Jackson has not rushed for at least 1,000 yards on the ground, meaning his rookie year was the lone blemish on his outstanding career to date.
So far this preseason Jackson has carried the ball 13 times for a total of 50 yards, which is a preview of the nice things to come for Atlanta from its lead back.
Given the attention defenses must give an aerial assault including Ryan, Jones, White and tight end Tony Gonzalez, Jackson should see some of the biggest running lanes of his career. Expect that when he handles the majority of the load against Tennessee.
Titans Players to Watch: Chance Warmack and Kevin Levitre, Offensive Guards
The Titans entered the offseason serious about upgrading the woeful offensive line from 2012 that allowed star running back Chris Johnson to only rush for just over 1,200 yards—a far cry from his 2009 output of 2,006 rushing yards.
Tennessee first used free agency to bring former Buffalo guard Andy Levitre to town. The left guard ranked as Pro Football Focus' No. 10 overall guard in the NFL last season (subscription required).
The Titans then moved to the draft and made Alabama right guard Chance Warmack—a man who specializes in paving the way on the ground—the No. 10 overall pick in the draft.
The results have already shown on the field. Johnson has carried the ball just nine times through two games and has racked up 90 yards and a score.
Watch the trenches to see what the 2013 Titans are going to be about. Johnson could have another 2,000-yard campaign in his sights.
Prediction: Falcons 27, Titans 20
Both teams seemed poised to do big things in 2013 with the improvements that have been made. As good as the ground game is starting to look once again in Tennessee, it is hard to bet against Matt Ryan.
Ryan is going to get his. Add in the presence of a new running back able to take the pressure off the passing game and the Titans are going to have some serious problems finding answers.
The Titans keep it close for one half before Ryan and Co. pull away.
Follow B/R's Chris Roling on Twitter for more news and analysis @Chris_Roling