NFL preseason 2013 odds: Lines for Thursday's games

Jeff Gross

Football is back for another slate of games starting on Thursday with four contests kicking off the action.

The NFL had a solid first week of games, highlighted by the fact nobody important was seriously injured. Nothing is more of a bummer than a star going down for the duration in an exhibition game.

Most teams only played their starters for a series or at most a quarter. This week, the first teams will undoubtedly get stretched out some with the main men probably playing at minimum into the second quarter. On Thursday, eight teams will move one step closer to the real games. Here's the complete list of matchups, odds and lines via Oddsshark.

Atlanta (+3.5) at Baltimore, 7:30 p.m.

This is a game with two teams looking at the season through different lenses. On one hand, Atlanta is desperate to make the Super Bowl for the second time in franchise history after losing in the NFC Championship Game to the San Francisco 49ers. With Matt Ryan having got a massive 5-year, $103.75 million extension, the time is now for Ryan to make the leap into the elite with a ring.

The Ravens are coming off a championship and trying to replace multiple stars in Ed Reed, Paul Kruger, Bernard Pollard, Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe and Anquan Boldin. One storyline in this game for Baltimore is the tight end position. With Dennis Pitta out for the season and Ed Dickson on the shelf with a torn hamstring, newly-acquired Dallas Clark will have an opportunity to prove he still has gas in the tank.

Detroit (E) at Cleveland, 7:30 p.m.

The Lions are coming off a win against the New York Jets in which the fifth overall pick, Ziggy Ansah, looked like a stud. How much does it matter in a preseason game? Well, it's not the same as showing up in September, but it's better than looking bad. Ansah has freakish athleticism, and it was shown on his interception of Mark Sanchez. The offense will be good with Calvin Johnson and Matthew Stafford, but can the defense hold up long term?

Without a doubt, Cleveland needs to hope quarterback Brandon Weeden and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner make beautiful music. In Week 1, Weeden went 10-of-13 for 112 yards and a touchdown, giving the Browns a positive sign. Turner isn't a good head coach but has proven to be an excellent coordinator with two Super Bowl rings from his days with the Dallas Cowboys.

San Diego (-4.5) at Chicago, 8 p.m.

In a battle of two teams with brand new head coaches, the Chargers and Bears are each looking for their first wins of the 2013 campaign. San Diego is trying to rebound off a few disastrous seasons from Philip Rivers, who playing behind a faulty offensive line has thrown 35 interceptions and committed 20 fumbles in that span. Coach Mike McCoy believes he can turn Rivers around and is building that foundation now.

The Bears are hoping for a similar renaissance from their offense with the signing this offseason of Jermon Bushrod and draft pick Kyle Long. The duo will play a major part in protecting Jay Cutler, who is entering the last season of his contract. The Vanderbilt product has only led Chicago to the playoffs once in his four years at the helm.

Carolina (+2.5) at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

For the Panthers, this is a pivotal season. Will Carolina have quarterback Cam Newton and coach Ron Rivera leading the way deep into the future or do changes need to be made? Newton will likely be given 2014 regardless, but he would be under major pressure if this year falls short of expectation. Rivera came to the Panthers as a defensive guru but the unit has faltered. Last season, Carolina ranked 18th in points per game allowed.

Speaking of points allowed, new head man Chip Kelly needs to shore up his defense. The New England Patriots absolutely steamrolled the Eagles last week, rushing for 248 yards and a cool eight yards per carry. Philadelphia will be equally attentive to the quarterback battle, with Michael Vick and Nick Foles fighting for the starting spot. Vick looked better in Week 1, completing 4-of-5 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown compared to Foles' 5-of-6 for 43 yards.

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