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Denver Broncos vs. Atlanta Falcons: What to watch for

Ken Pomponio Avatar
October 8, 2016

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Who: Denver Broncos 4-0) vs. Atlanta Falcons (3-1)

What: NFL Week 5

When: 2:05 p.m. MDT, Sunday, Oct. 9

Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High


Announcers: Chris Myers, John Lynch

Radio: KOA (850 AM), The Fox (103.5 FM)

Odds: Broncos -4.5, O/U 46.5


  • The series edge belongs to the Broncos, who have won eight of the 13 all-time meetings – most notably, of course, a 34-19 triumph in Super Bowl XXXIII – but the Falcons have two of the last three.
  • Denver is off to a 4-0 start for the third time in the last four seasons and the ninth time in franchise history. In six of the previous eight seasons that featured 4-0 starts, the Orange & Blue wound up advancing to the Super Bowl.
  • Since a 27-21 loss to the Falcons in Week 2 of the 2012 season, the Broncos have won six straight against NFC South foes. Overall and including the Super Bowl, Denver is an NFL-best 16-4 (.800) against non-conference opponents since the start of the 2012 season.
  • The Broncos are tied with the Seahawks for the most consecutive home wins (10) against non-conference foes, with the last loss coming against the Lions (45-10) in Week 8 of the 2011 season.
  • Dating back to the Michael Vick Era in 2004, the Falcons have won 10 of their last 11 contests against AFC West foes, losing only to the visiting Broncos (24-20) in 2008.
  • Atlanta QB Matt Ryan is 1-1 vs. the Broncos with 469 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

What to Watch For

  • Paxton, Paxton, Paxton. As in Lynch, the Broncos’ first-round pick who will get his first start today after filling in admirably last week against the Bucs, completing 14-of-24 passes for 170 yards and a TD while helping expand the 14-7 lead he inherited. Lynch saw a lot of work out of the shotgun in his debut, but look for more snaps under center as that’s more conducive to the running game (see below). Of course, expect the Falcons to try and confuse the rookie with a variety of looks and blitzes, but Atlanta’s anemic pass rush works in the home team’s favor as the Falcons enter the contest with a league-low four sacks – 1.5 fewer than league-leader Von Miller.
  • Irresistible vs. immovable. Following last Sunday’s aerial outburst in which Matt Ryan bombarded the Panthers with an Atlanta-record 503 yards – 300 of them going to stud wideout Julio Jones – Kyle Shanahan’s offense is pacing the league in scoring (38 per game), total yards (478.8), yards per play (7.5), passing yards (354.3) and passing TDs (11). They’ll be facing a defense, though, which is allowing 16 points and 169.5 passing yards per game while allowing a league-low 4.3 yards per play and totaling an AFC-most 17 sacks. Look to see plenty of Aqib Talib on Jones, but the Broncos will also have to be wary of Atlanta’s two-headed rushing attack of Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, which ranks sixth in the league with 124.5 ground yards per outing. As for Ryan and Jones, though, and their chances for posting monster numbers, good luck. In 12 home games since the start of last season, including the playoffs, the Denver D only has allowed two quarterbacks (Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady) to throw for 300 yards and only one wide receiver (the Steelers’ Martavis Bryant) to top 100 receiving yards in Denver.
  • Reversing the run-game fortunes. The Denver offense can help out the ‘D’ by getting the ground game cranked up again. C.J. Anderson and the Broncos averaged 141 yards per game and 4.7 per carry in their Week 1 and 2 home games, but those averages dipped to 70.5 and 2.6, respectively, over the last two road contests. If the Broncos can get RT Donald Stephenson and TE Virgil Green back from nagging calf injuries it would certainly help matters against a banged-up Atlanta D, literally down to its third-string linebackers.
  • Spotty ATL secondary. Actually, spotty is being extremely generous as the Falcons have surrendered a league-most 13 TD passes and also rank last in allowing 317 aerial yards per game. The less-than-potent pass rush doesn’t help, and that sets up nicely for the strong-armed Lynch and certainly WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, who have combined for 29 catches, 399 yards and five TD grabs over the last two games.


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