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Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan will lead two solid offenses on Monday Night Football.
An excellent quarterback battle will be the focus on Monday Night Football, when the Atlanta Falcons host the Denver Broncos at 8:30 p.m. EST on ESPN. Matt Ryan and Peyton Manning led their respective clubs to double-digit victories in Week 1, with the Falcons beating the Chiefs on the road and the Broncos topping the Steelers at home. Both teams have legitimate Super Bowl aspirations this season, and a 2-0 start would go a long way towards having a successful year.
When the Atlanta Falcons have the ball:
Ryan had a stellar opener in Kansas City, going 23-for-31 passing for 299 yards and three touchdowns. He also added a score on the ground. Roddy White and tight end Tony Gonzalez have been favorite targets during Ryan’s career, but second-year receiver Julio Jones led the way versus the Chiefs with six catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns. The Falcons passing game looks to be electric, but they will also need to get Michael Turner (32 yards at K.C.) and the running game going against Denver.
The Broncos defense had trouble getting off the field against Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, but holding Pittsburgh to 19 points and a late interception return touchdown made for a solid performance. Denver will need pass rushers Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil to pressure Ryan in this one, as covering all of Atlanta’s weapons can be quite the task. The Broncos limited big plays against the Steelers, and doing so once again will be critical against a fast-paced Falcons offense.
When the Denver Broncos have the ball:
Everyone around the NFL was anxious to see how Manning would look in his return from multiple neck surgeries, and the four-time MVP responded with 253 passing yards and two touchdowns. In fact, he became the third quarterback in league history to reach the 400-touchdown mark. The Broncos were especially effective when Manning went to the no-huddle attack, so look for more of the same in Atlanta.
The Falcons gave up 17 points to the Chiefs in the first half but were able to shut down Kansas City in the second stanza, with the lone score coming with five seconds to go. Atlanta will face a tougher challenge this week with Manning and company, and the Falcons offense can help the defense greatly by winning the time of possession battle and keeping No. 18 off the field. Atlanta had three takeaways and three sacks versus the Chiefs, but the defense will have to absorb a major loss with Pro Bowl cornerback Brent Grimes suffering a season-ending Achilles tendon injury.
Both defenses allowed well over 50-percent on third down conversions last week, and the unit that improves the most in that department will hold a huge advantage tonight. The Atlanta and Denver offenses will both earn plenty of yards, but the defense that can score or hold the opponent to field goals instead of touchdowns will prevail in this exciting matchup. The Falcons are 26-4 in the Georgia Dome with Matt Ryan at quarterback, so we’ll take Atlanta to win at home in a close one.
Falcons 27 Broncos 24
---By Patrick Snow (@AthlonSnowman)