They couldn't have picked a better matchup for Monday Night Football than the tilt between the Atlanta Falcons and Denver Broncos.
Both teams were incredibly impressive in Week 1. Peyton Manning's regular-season return was a huge success and led the Broncos to a big win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, while Matt Ryan and the new high-octane passing attack of the Falcons were clicking in a blowout win over the Kansas City Chiefs.
On paper, this MNF game looks like it could be one heck of a shootout. Then again, nobody plays on paper. Let's take a closer look at this premier Week 2 contest.
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
When: Monday, September 17 at 8:30 p.m. ET
Watch: ESPN, WatchESPN
Spread: Falcons (-3), according to Bet Online
Lay the points with the Falcons at home. This should be a tight game between evenly matched teams, but when it comes right down to it, I think the Falcons are simply a bit better. Oh, and they've been 20-5 at home in the past three years.
Over/Under: 51, according to Bet Online
This game has shootout written all over it. Then again, every game I've thought that about this year has turned out to be anything but a shootout.
Yes, the Broncos scored 31 last week and the Falcons put up 40; but the Broncos played a Pittsburgh Steelers team without James Harrison and Ryan Clark, while the Falcons will face a bigger test from the Denver defense than they saw from the Kansas City Chiefs.
Take the under. I know it sounds crazy, but something is telling me this won't be the shootout we all expect.
Broncos Injuries (via ESPN)
WR Demaryius Thomas, Shoulder, Probable
CB Chris Harris, Ankle, Questionable
DE Ty Warren, Triceps, Out (Injured Reserved)
Falcons Injuries (via ESPN)
WR Roddy White, Groin, Questionable
CB Brent Grimes, Achilles Tendon, Out for Season
Broncos Fantasy Impact
I don't really know what to think about the running back situation yet in Denver, so I would probably avoid it altogether. And I'd avoid both defenses in a potential shootout.
But that Peyton Manning guy is pretty good, so I'd start him, Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and Jacob Tamme.
Falcons Fantasy Impact
You'll want to start the usual suspects in this one. Roll with Matt Ryan, Roddy White, Julio Jones, Tony Gonzalez and Michael Turner, who I think will have a big bounce-back week on Monday night.
Keys to Broncos Win
Tracy Porter and Champ Bailey need to step up in a big way. The two cornerbacks will be matched with White and Jones, one of the best wide receiver pairings in the NFL. If Porter and Bailey can blanket the Falcons wideouts all day long and prevent the deep play, Atlanta will become a far tamer offense.
On offense, Manning needs to take advantage of the Falcons corners. With Brent Grimes out for the season, Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson slide into the starting roles. While each are talented, Samuel often takes too many chances, and Robinson suffers from bouts of poor discipline.
If Manning can exploit the pair, the Broncos should be able to throw the ball successfully and score some quick points on big plays.
Keys to Falcons Win
With Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, the Broncos can really get to the quarterback. So the key for this Falcons offense will be establishing the run early, controlling possession and avoiding long third-down conversions. The Falcons may be a more open offense than in the past, but we know they can play ball-control football when the time calls for it.
And with the Broncos likely to run the no-huddle, the Falcons should be able to dominate time of possession if the defense can get a few early stops.
Defensively, shutting down the run will be key. If you can make the Broncos one dimensional and keep Manning throwing the ball around, the Falcons can turn up the blitz and get after No. 18. The no-huddle may be tough to deal with, but it gets a bit easier to handle if you know the pass is coming each time.
Manning was incredibly impressive in Week 1, and the Broncos play solid defense. They're going to severely test the Falcons in this one, even though Atlanta is tough to beat at the Georgia Dome and Matt Ryan—at least for one week—looked ready to take the jump to the elite status we seem to throw around willy-nilly these days.
The Falcons get the win, 27-23.
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