For Week 4 of the preseason, you have to be an astute NFL handicapper or somebody who really loves the professional game and follows the betting odds like a hawk, because this is not easy.
At this point coaches know who all but four to six players who will be on their opening day rosters and utilize this time to identify specific positions for backups and who will do what on special teams.
We have all heard again and again the preseason is meaningless and in the big picture that is often true, but if you are making wagering the first few weeks of the season, you can often look back at several teams and point to situations that occurred in the first three contests.
Here is what to look for Thursday in Atlanta for NFL picks.
Before the preseason began, wrote a fact-based article that supported Baltimore's John Harbaugh was 18-6 ATS in NFLX action and his teams played with more urgency than others up and down the roster, which was part of their culture.
This has not been the case the past two weeks for the Ravens, blasted by Philadelphia 40-17 and walloped by a rudderless Washington team at home 31-13. Baltimore has been sloppy with the football, with seven turnovers and a -5 turnover margin which has to frustrate Harbaugh and the other coaches.
The defense has been torched for 412 yards a game, not good against the run or the pass.
With less than 10 days before the opener at New England, Joe Flacco does not know for certain who will be his No.2 and No.3 pass catchers. With first-round pick Breshad Perriman unlikely to be ready, Kamar Aiken is the expected starter, with Marlon Brown at No.3, with Steve Smith the main guy.
The bright side for Baltimore is they led 13-0 when both they and the Redskins were using their starters.
For this contest, Matt Schaub and Bryn Renner will be the quarterbacks under center for the Ravens and will look to move the ball using a very basic game plan that will feature all of Baltimore's most basic plays.
Like the others birds in this matchup, the Falcons have not done a good job protecting the pigskin, averaging two turnovers a game. Atlanta has lost their previous two contests also, but were more competitive, losing 30-22 to the Jets and 13-9 as six-point road underdogs.
Whether by design or otherwise, Matt Ryan only attempted seven passes against the Dolphins before being yanked in favor of backup T.J. Yates. As has been the norm the past few years, the Falcons offensive line was overpowered by a more physical front like the Dolphins possess and typically this is what Baltimore has shown in the past.
First-year head coach Dan Quinn has been trying to address this and the defensive line play, but a general weakness like the Falcons have had the last few years doesn't not go away with one draft.
Yates figures to see the majority of the play and be the second-stringer behind Ryan with Sean Renfro still battling.
Odds & What to Look For
The NFL odds at Heritage opened with Atlanta at -2 and 39.5 and within 30 minutes Monday morning they were down to -1.
With this many backups playing, not easy to get a solid read on either team, thus you have to fall back on the talent of the teams and Baltimore has a deeper roster and should be able to shut down Atlanta's running game which is averaging 50 yards a contest at 1.9 yards per carry.
Though not an overwhelming endorsement, the Ravens are 8-1 ATS on the road off a double digit spread setback and should be able to handle the Falcons unless they do not bother to show up emotionally, looking ahead to Patriots opening night match as 3.5-point underdogs presently at most sportsbooks.
NFL Free Pick: Ravens +1