Two teams that are using no-huddle offenses extensively this year meet in what should be a highly entertaining Monday Night Football game this week when Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos visit Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome.
Both offenses functioned well last week as the Falcons beat the Chiefs 40-24 on the road and the Broncos topped the Steelers 31-19 at home. The Falcons are currently -3 (-120) favorites at home with the total for this game set understandably high at 51.
1. Why Denver will cover the spread: Oddly, after building up the quarterbacks and the hurry-up offenses in our introduction, the Broncos will cover this spread if they can run the ball effectively. Remember that Atlanta permitted an unacceptable 152 rushing yards on 33 carries in the win over the Chiefs, and the Broncos did manage to rush for 94 yards vs. the stout Pittsburgh run defense with Willis McGahee rushing for 64 of them on 16 carries. If you recall, Manning has one of the best play-actions in football so having an effective running game makes him that much more dangerous.
2. Why Atlanta will cover the spread: The Falcons will cover this spread if their newfound quick-strike offense can open up a double-digit lead going into the fourth quarter. Accomplishing that would render Manning’s play-actions pointless and would force Denver to throw on every down, and let’s face it, we are not sure that the Atlanta defense can be trusted in a one-possession game after surrendering 393 total yards to the Chiefs with Matt Cassel at quarterback. Also, with no disrespect toward Matt Ryan intended, nobody wants to be involved in a close game with Peyton Manning late. Another key to an Atlanta cover will be John Abraham’s and the rest of the defensive line’s ability to put some pressure on Manning. The Falcons put good pressure on Cassel last week despite recording only three sacks, as he was able to scramble out of some tough situations. Obviously, Manning lacks that kind of mobility.
3. Total Talk: Yes 51 is a high total, but yes we still like the ‘over’. The Broncos will probably be able to make a few more defensive stops and they will probably have better balance offensively with the better running game, and while those are the primary reasons why we are picking Denver to pull the outright upset, we still expect each team to score its share of points. Manning may be able to get whatever he wants when he throws the ball, as he still has the quick release to beat the pass rush and the Atlanta secondary is not very good now that it just lost cornerback Brent Grimes for the season. Meanwhile the Falcons figure to pass the ball a lot as running back Michael Turner’s days look to be numbered, and back-up Jacquizz Rodgers is a better receiver out of the backfield.
4. Betting Trends for the game: The ‘over’ is 5-0 the last five times that the Broncos have played on artificial turf, and those games were with lesser quarterbacks than Manning, while the ‘over’ is also 4-0 the last four times Atlanta gained over 250 passing yards the previous game.
Denver 30 – Atlanta 27