MNF: Broncos vs Falcons
The Denver Broncos (1-0) trot over to the Georgia Dome on Monday night to face the Atlanta Falcons (1-0). Both teams started the season with wins last week as Denver defeated Pittsburgh 31-19 and Atlanta took down Kansas City 40-24. As I said in my write-up last week, Monday Night Football is the prime time for NFL teams. It’s a chance to show off to the entire league what you’re made of, but historically, the Falcons haven’t been very successful. They are 9-24 in their MNF showings, second worst in league history (Houston Texans have lowest winning percentage but have only played on Monday 4 times). With Denver QB Peyton Manning owning an 11-3 record on Monday night games, the Falcons will need some luck if they want to come out on top.
Fun Fact: The last time these two teams met (November 16, 2008), Denver won 24-20.
All the attention was on Peyton last week, and we’ll see much of the same in Week 2. His 253 passing yards and 129.2 rating against Pittsburgh was dominant, especially looking at the limited amount of offensive possession the Broncos had. Fortunate for Denver fans and fantasy owners, it looks like his neck injuries and surgeries are all things of the past. In Week 1, he had three different drives of 80+ yards, and just like we’ve gotten accustomed to, Manning moved the ball efficiently (completed 73.1% of his passes). His chemistry with WR Demaryius Thomas was on-point as well, connecting for a deep TD. Thomas finished with 5 catches, 110 yards, and a TD.
Since Atlanta gave up 241 passing yards in Week 1, I expect Brandon Decker to improve upon his Week 1 performance. He caught 5 passes for 54 yards, and will be targeted just as much as he was last week (7 times).
My pre-season concerns for Manning are still around unfortunately. I don’t know how he’ll deal with a strong pass-rush and getting beat up on certain plays. Denver puts a whole lot of burden on Manning’s shoulders, and I’m not so sure he’ll be able to sustain this level of excellence all year. Either way, that’s an issue to tackle down the road and it won’t be something to discuss further for this week’s game. In four career games against Atlanta, Manning has thrown for 1,046 yards with 13 touchdowns, and four interceptions (118.5 passer rating).
Atlanta allowed 152 yards rushing last week so look for RB Willis McGahee and RB Knowshon Moreno to rack up more yards than they did versus Pittsburgh. There’s no doubt that a matchup with Atlanta is a much more favorable situation for RBs.
QB Matt Ryan will lead the Falcons’ aerial attack as he looks to match or even improve upon his Week 1 performance vs Kansas City. Against the Chiefs, Ryan completed 74% of his passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns. I was not impressed with the pass rush he faced, and fortunately for Atlanta, he was sacked only once. This week will be much tougher as he faces a solid Denver front seven. Just as AccuScore projects a good performance by Manning (296 yards, 2+ TD), we see similar data for Ryan (287 yards, 2 TD). How Ryan handles the previously mentioned Denver front seven will tell us everything we need to know about the final score.
By the way, in this type of offense, we can start expecting 300-yard games from Ryan more consistently … right?
A big reason the Steelers lost last week was because they didn’t establish a run game early against the Broncos. For Atlanta in Week 1, Michael Turner had 11 carries for 32 yards and Jacquizz Rodgers had seven carries for 22 yards and two catches for 13. Overall nothing special, but Rodgers’ 77-yard kickoff return in the first quarter was pretty nice though. With that said, let’s remember that the Falcons want to pass. In last week’s game, they called about twice as many passing plays as running plays in the first half (when the game was competitive). WR Julio Jones had a tremendous game last week as he finished with 108 yards receiving and 2 TDs. Denver allowed 209 passing yards last week, so look for Matty Ice to target Jones plenty of times on Monday. Assuming Atlanta gets the Matt Ryan from last week, things should be okay; the issue is that the Denver defense and offense is better than what Atlanta saw last week.
Injury Reminder: The loss of CB Brent Grimes (Achilles) hurts even more this early in the season. QB Peyton Manning will be sure to take advantage of this now-weak point in the defense.
I’m excited to see WR Roddy White go up against LCB Champ Bailey. Denver will have their hands full with White, Jones, and TE Tony Gonzalez. Bailey can contain practically anyone in the league, but with White coming off a week where he caught 6/8 passes, look out. He’ll get plenty of space too with the defense most likely focusing in on Julio Jones.
AccuScore’s simulations project a close win for Atlanta 52.7% of the time, average score being 28-27. The line has settled at three (ATL -3) with the total at 51. The winner will be decided by which offense can outlast the other, and the expectation of a competitive game should prove to be true. History doesn’t often lie, and numbers never lie. Manning has a good track record on MNF, and Atlanta doesn’t: Broncos win 30-24.
Originally written for AccuScore