Denver Broncos (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-0)
If it wasn’t for Green Bay/Chicago, this would be the game of the week. Actually, scratch that, Green Bay/Chicago was an incredibly ugly game that should have been the game of the week, but wasn’t because teams only had 3 days to prepare and played much worse than they normally do. I hate this new one game on Thursday every week thing. Thursday Night games are often awful, ugly, hard to watch games and in the case of Green Bay/Chicago, it cost us a chance to see two great teams fight for the division on normal rest.
Anyway, this game is on Monday Night Football, so both teams will be fully prepared and then some. Both teams made huge statement games in their first week back offensively, Peyton Manning by proving that even 4 neck surgeries and an address change couldn’t slow him down, completing 19 of 26 for 253 yards and 2 scores and hanging 31 on the Steelers, while Matt Ryan proved that all the hype about a potential breakout year for him in his 5th year in the league was not just hype as he completed 23 of 31 for 299 yards and 3 scores.
Neither of these teams plays very good defense either. Denver had a strong defensive performance in the opener, but they were the league’s 24th ranked scoring defense in 2011 with essentially the same group of guys. Some of that was on the offenses struggles putting a ton of pressure on the defense and Peyton Manning’s presence will help, but they also ranked 18th in the league last year in terms of points per play allowed. Unless free agent acquisition Tracy Porter can continue to be the shutdown cornerback he was in the opener, the Broncos will be an average defensive team most likely this year, and Porter’s history suggests that his performance last week was probably the best we’re going to see from him this year.
Atlanta, meanwhile, was the league’s 18th ranked scoring defense last year. They did make a significant addition this offseason, bringing in Asante Samuel from Philadelphia to shore up a weakness and that was the cornerback spot opposite Brent Grimes. However, Grimes is now done for the year with a torn Achilles, which obviously hurts them because he’s one of the top cornerbacks in the league when healthy and they had some trouble stopping a mediocre Kansas City offense in the opener even before Grimes went down. In Grimes’ place, Dunta Robinson will step into the starting lineup. He’s been one of the worst starting cornerbacks in the league over the past few years and he’s the reason why they brought in Samuel.
So we know a lot of points are going to be scored, but who wins? As enticing as it is to be able to bet on Peyton Manning as an underdog, 10-4 ATS in this situation since 2006, it’s even more enticing to bet on Matt Ryan at home where he’s 21-8 ATS in his career (25-5 SU). It’s important to remember that the Falcons’ strong offensive day last week came on the road, while the Broncos’ came at home. The Broncos have a huge home field advantage this year with the combination of the thin air and Peyton Manning’s no huddle offense; defenses are just going to get tired and Manning will be able to tear them apart late, like he did against Pittsburgh (9 of 12 for 155 yards and 2 scores). He won’t have that same advantage in Atlanta, so while I like both sides to score a lot of points, it’s a small lean on the home team in this one. This is also another opportunity to “fade” the public, something I love to do. It’s not entirely by design, but I’ve actually faded the public in every pick but 2 so far this week. I also like betting against public underdogs, which Denver is.
Public lean: Denver (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Atlanta covers)
Atlanta Falcons 34 Denver Broncos 27
Pick against spread: Atlanta -3 (-115) 1 unit