The Denver Broncos hold a 9-4 advantage over the Atlanta Falcons all time, and that includes the Broncos’ Super Bowl win 1998. The last time these two teams met was on Nov. 16, 2008. Both teams are coming off of big week one wins. The Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-19 in Denver while the Falcons beat the Kansas City Chiefs 40-24 at Arrowhead. This is the second week in a row that the Broncos will face a playoff team from last year. The Falcons went 10-6 in 2011 and lost to the New York Giants in the wildcard round of the playoffs. Game time is set for 6:30 p.m. MST on ESPN.
Broncos: Let’s see if the Broncos open things up by going no-huddle right of the bat. It produced four scoring drives in week one after a scoreless, huddle-up offense in the first quarter. The Broncos are hoping the Falcons bring on the full blitz. Peyton Manning was extremely successful last week against the Steelers blitz going 9-for-11 when the Steelers rushed five or more players. This Broncos’ offense is going up against a secondary that is missing starting cornerback Brent Grimes so expect a big day for the team’s tight ends/slot receivers. The Falcons gave up 152 yards to the Kansas City Chiefs last week, so expect a more productive game for the Broncos’ ground game.
Falcons: The Falcons are very similar to the Broncos offensively. Quarterback Matt Ryan has been running the no-huddle since his rookie year in 2008, and he’s got one of the best receiving tandems in the league in Julio Jones and Roddy White. Jones is in his second year and it appears that he’s really benefited from a full off season’s work load. He went off in week one for 6 receptions for 108 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Falcons’ offense scored on their first 8 possessions in week one and put up 40 points. Running back Michael Turner was the third best back in the league in 2011, but he had just 32 yards on 11 carries in week one. Look for him to be more involved in this offense as they seek better balance.
Broncos: The Broncos are a much better defensive team than the Chiefs, who were missing four starters on defense, so don’t expect the Falcons to put up 40 points again. The pass rush threat should help slow down Jones and White. The focus for the Broncos’ defense this week will be finishing the tackle and improving on third down. The Steelers went a staggering 11-for-19 on third down after the Broncos limited them to just 2.5 yards per play on first down. The battle in the secondary will be the most intriguing one of the game.
Falcons: The Georgia Dome is a very difficult place to play for opposing offenses, but the Broncos revved up the sound system at practice this week to simulate the loud environment. The Falcons bring a great pass rush with John Abraham leading the way. That allows the Falcons to show a lot of different looks, and like the Steelers, they like to bring a heavy pass rush. The Falcons ended last season 6th in rush defense and 20th in pass defense. They gave up 393 yards to the Chiefs in week one.
Broncos: This is expected to be a close game, so special teams will play a very important role. Punter Britton Colquitt will need to force the Falcons’ offense to work a full field when the Broncos punt. Settling for field goals in the red zone won’t cut it here. Touchdowns are needed to win in this building.
Falcons: Field goal kicker Matt Bryant is perfect on the seasons thus far. He made 4 field goals in week one with his longest being from 41 yards, and he was 4-for-4 on point after attempts. Punter Matt Bosher only punted once last week, a 52-yarder, but he also handled kickoff duties.
Broncos: The Broncos and Falcons coaching staff is so connected through history that this matchup is especially fun on the sidelines. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio hired Falcons’ head coach Mike Smith to be the Jacksonville Jaguars’ defensive coordinator in 2004. Del Rio hired Dirk Koetter to be his offensive coordinator in 2007. When Del Rio left the Jaguars, Smith hired Koetter to be the Falcons’ offensive coordinator. Needless to say, Del Rio has his fingerprints all over the Falcons’ offensive script.
Falcons: Likewise, Smith and Koetter understand Del Rio’s defense very well. It appears that they spent some time prepping their defense to play the Broncos in week one against the Chiefs. There, they only went into their base defense on 11 plays, and mostly went with a sub-package of two linebackers and three cornerbacks.
Look for a high scoring chess match out of this Monday Night matchup.
Prediction: Broncos – 34 Falcons – 27.