The Atlanta Falcons had a psychological barrier to overcome last season. They had blown a huge lead in the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots, and lost their offensive coordinator to boot. We can't sit here and tell you that they were able to reach the same level of achievement in the 2017 campaign, but they did manage to get to the playoffs and win a road game in Los Angeles, before running out of luck against the eventual champion Eagles. 

Although they didn't get close to a playoff spot, the New York Jets overachieved last year, if you really wanted to put things into perspective. They had gotten rid of some of their veteran talent and were looking at a season with a journeyman quarterback. There were actually members of the New York press who wondered if they would win a game. Well, they did a lot better than that, winning five games and being eligible in several others. The quarterback situation was still something that had to be addressed, and they did that in the draft and with a free agent signing, not to mention holding onto that journeyman signal-caller who had a surprisingly good season. 


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These teams will get together for the pre-season opener on Friday night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. 

TV: 7:30 PM ET, NFL Network. LINE: Jets -2.5.  O/U: 34.5

ABOUT THE FALCONS: Interestingly enough, this is a team that scored 540 points in its Super Bowl season, and saw that figure dip all the way down to 353 last year. If you listen to some critics, they'll say it had an awful lot to do with Steve Sarkisian taking the offensive coordinator position from Kyle Shanahan, who became the head coach in San Francisco. Matt Ryan did not have the same kind of season, as he had just 20 touchdown passes and twelve interceptions. They lost wide receivers Andre Roberts and Taylor Gabriel but did spend a first-round draft pick on Calvin Ridley, in their continuing quest to find a worthy complement to Julio Jones. The backup quarterbacks, who will play a prominent role here, are veteran Matt Schaub (who was once the MVP of the Pro Bowl), Garrett Grayson and Kurt Benkert, the latter an undrafted free agent out of Virginia who may get a lot of second-half playing time. Head coach Dan Quinn takes great pride in the progress his defense has made, and he'll be looking to get something out of rookie Deadrin Senat, a third-round pick out of South Florida, as he tries to replace departed defensive tackle Dontari Poe. Linebacker Foye Oluokun, a sixth-round pick out of Yale, is also getting a long look playing at all the LB positions. The Falcons (10-6 SU, 7-9 ATS last year) are +150 to win the very competitive NFC South and priced at +1350 to win the Super Bowl. 



ABOUT THE JETS: The guy who is under the microscope is, of course, Sam Darnold, who was taken with the third pick in the draft. His time in camp has been limited, however, as he was late on coming together with management on his rookie contract. Josh McCown is the guy who is #1 on the depth chart, after 67% and a ratio of 18 TD's to just nine interceptions, but another guy drawing interest is Teddy Bridgewater, who has missed the better part of the last two seasons with a knee injury. Don't forget that he was a Pro Bowl QB for Minnesota prior to getting hurt. He feels as if he can compete for the starting spot. The secondary allowed just 59% completions to opposition quarterbacks, and safety Jamal Adams is a coming star. Trumaine Johnson is the new vet, having signed a big free agent contract in the off-season. The Jets' third-round draft pick, Nathan Shepherd, a defensive lineman who played Division II ball at Fort Hays State, is the only rookie who is #1 on the depth chart. Within a period of three days, linebacker Dylan Donahue, a fifth-round pick last season, has entered two guilty pleas to DUI charges, one of which took place in Montana and the other in the Lincoln Tunnel, and he is no doubt going to be suspended by the NFL. To what degree, we are not certain yet.  The Jets (5-11 SU, 8-6-2 ATS in 2017) are the longshot in the AFC East, priced at +1150 to win the division. And they are 125-1to win Super Bowl 53. 

EXTRA POINTS 

1. Matt Bryant, all of 43 years of age, will not play for the Falcons, so David Marvin, who was with national runner-up Georgia last season, will get a chance to handle the kicking duties. 

2. Andre Roberts, who caught one pass for the Falcons last year, has moved to the Jets as a free agent, and it looks as if he will handle punt and/or kick return duties, as he did with Atlanta. 

3. Atlanta's Dan Quinn has not been a winner in the pre-season as an NFL head coach, with a 5-7 straight-up and 4-8 ATS record. New York's Todd Bowles has been a little better, with 6-6 SU and 8-4 ATS marks. 

PREDICTION: Jets 21, Falcons 13