In week 2 of the 2012 season, the Atlanta Falcons will play host to the Peyton Manning led Denver Broncos. I am not going to focus quite as much on the fact that Manning will the the Broncos QB, but it is a fact that cannot be ignored.
Yet again, it will be up to the Falcons running attack to set the tone for this game. The Broncos don’t have many good pieces to play the run, and the Falcons must exploit it. We will be at home, which will allow us free reign to use a lot of no-huddle offense without many repercussions. Pounding the ball down their throats will be the order of the day, as they have a terrific pass-rushing tandem in Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. Two of the easiest ways to slow down a pass rush are through using the run-game, and throwing screen passes. Keeping the pass rush honest to play the run will keep pressure off Ryan and the passing attack, and the new commitment to the screen game is essential for keeping the defensive ends/outside linebackers honest. Keeping them honest will allow the Falcons to score readily, especially since they are at home. Champ Bailey is the only part of the defense that still worries me, but he is getting up there in years and can be beaten. He can still play passes extremely well, and is a dangerous defensive back.
Offensively, the Broncos have some strengths, and number one with a bullet is Peyton Manning. He is one of the top quarterbacks of all time, and there is no doubt that he will be in total command of the offense even by week 2. What makes this team suspect is Mannings’ supporting cast. Their offensive line was a strength, but it looked rough last season when they had a quarterback who didn’t stay in the pocket much. I think the truth is somewhere in the middle. They are strong, but they can certainly be had. Getting pressure on Manning has to happen in key situations. He will not allow the rush to get to him every play. The Falcons must pick and choose the right situations for when to blitz.
One thing that Manning does do is at times throw interceptions in bundles. He is a great player who wins a lot of games and routinely posts lots of touchdowns with few interceptions, but he will have some stinkers for games. I think this could be one of those games for Manning. The Falcons bolstered their secondary with the trade for Asante Samuel, and the Falcons defense will likely be able to get a couple turnovers off Manning.
I think this game could end up being a barn-burner through the first half, but turnovers will allow the Falcons to pull away in the second half. I predict the halftime score will be tied at 21, and the final will be 34-24 Falcons. Manning will put up points, but the Falcons rarely lose in the Georgia Dome, and then certainly won’t allow Denver to win this early in the season.