The Broncos come into this week's game at 5-4 and looking to stay at the top in the AFC West. While the Chargers are in striking distance of the division title, the Broncos still control their own destiny. Even if A.J. Smith wants to steal players away from the Broncos. The Broncos are 2-2 in road games. Also, teams on the west coast and in the mountain time zone are winless against east coast teams who are playing at the 1:00 ET game.(I credit Guru for that stat)
The Falcons come into this game at 6-3 and 2nd in the NFC South. Led by one of the best rushing attacks in the league, Michael Turner and Jerious Norwood have been carrying this team to an unremarkable turn around for last season. Matt Ryan is not playing like rookie. He as only 5 INTs and is 12th in the league in passer rating with an 89.9 QB rating. The Falcons are undeated at home this season so obviously this is going be a tough match-up for the Broncos.
Now lets take a look at the breakdown of the game and who I think has the Advantage.
Quarterback: Jay Cutler is commanding one of the best passing attacks in the league this year with the help of Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, and Tony Scheffler, of course. I think Jay will be able to find the open man in an average Flacons secondary that in 21st in the NFL against the pass. Matt Ryan, on the other hand, is not playing like a rookie at all this season as I mentioned before. He could have success agaist another average pass defense.
Advantage: Denver. I think Mike Shannahan and Jay Cutler will air it out this Sunday considering the Broncos are down to their 8th sting RB, it seems. The Falcons won't be able to get away with an average passing defense this week.
Runningback: It looks like Peyton Hillis will start on Sunday. Selvin Young has not practiced this whole week and listed as doubtful. Tatum Bell could get a few carries, he has been out of football for a few months. Who knows if this guy knows how to somewhat hold on to the ball anymore. Now the Falcons. What a pick-up Miachael Turner has been for this organization! 3rd in the league with 890 rushing yards. He has been the bulk of the Faclons offense. Jerious Norwood is a nice change of pace back to help out the running game, also.
Advantage: Falcons. A below average running defense is going to do the Broncos no favor this week. It is hard for me to think about the Broncos stopping these two backs. I just don't see it happening.
Recieving: Don't think I have to say much about the Broncos recievers. Marshall and Royal have been huge for the Broncos, along with Scheffler, Stokely, and Hillis. Even Daniel Graham has made some plays this year. Roddy White has been a stud, so far, stacking up 53 catchs to go along with 6 TDs. Michael Jenkins is solid and Jerious Norwood is a recieving threat out of the backfield.
Advantage: Broncos. They just have too many weapons. This Falcons D isn't going to be able to just triple cover Marshall with all of the starting offense ready to play Sunday. (Except RB. But that has seemed to differ each week.)
O-Line: Both of these team have very solid offensive linemen. Both teams are in the top 10 for total yards and both are doing a great job protecting their QBs. The Broncos have only given 7 sacks with the Falcons at 13. Rookie tackle Sam Baker is out do to injury, so that could hinder the offense.
Advantage: Toss up! The Broncos have one of the best pass protecting lines out there, but the Falcons have been able to run the ball like crazy.
Defense: The Broncos have been having a hard year on defense. The offense has put them in bad situations part of the time and has all 3 starting linebackers out. Oh yeah, and Champ, of course. The D-Line has been doing a little bit better lately, but seems they can not get to the QB. That has led to problems with the pass defense. The run defense has been a little below average, also.
The Falcons defense has been playing OK ,too. John Abraham has been a monster racking up 11 sacks! Keith Brooking is still a solid player, but he is getting to the end of his career. The run defense has been average in both against the run and the pass. But this Broncos offense can destroy a secondary any week.
Advantage: Falcons. With Denver having 4 RBs on IR, the Falcons will have to primarily focus on getting pressure on Jay Cutler. The Broncos will have to focus on stopping those Atlanta RBs, who have been dynamite this year.
Special Teams: Eddie Royal has been a beast at returning kickoffs. But Jerious Norwood can also break the big play off kickoffs.
Advantage: Denver. I don't see how I can pick against this guy. He's my choice for Rookie of the Year.
My Prediction: Broncos 30-24. Jay Cutler will be able to rally the troops to get a win in the Georgia Dome. The defense will play good enough too get the ball to the offense to score some points. That means Broncos win! Go Broncos!!!