Week 2, vs. Denver
Traveling back to Atlanta to take on another AFC West team, the Falcons will play their first home game of 2012 against the Denver Broncos. Last season they were all about Tebow-mania in the Mile High City, but this year it's Manning-mania, or something like that.
Peyton Manning takes over a team that miraculously pulled off a postseason upset against the Steelers this past season, and somehow managed to keep winning in the regular season despite having a quarterback who enjoyed throwing the ball 10 yards short of every receiver.
Just like the Chiefs game, there are a lot of question marks surrounding Week 2. Let's take a closer look at this Monday night matchup.
All-time series record:
Overview: third worst in the NFL and dead last in run blocking. But they led the league in rushing, you say? Don't be fooled by the impressive numbers on the ground.
Denver completely changed its offensive scheme when Tebow took over at QB. Instead of hoping the O-line would get better, the Broncos utilized the option to its full potential, forcing defenses to make decisions and catching undisciplined teams off guard. The same guys will be attempting to protect Manning this time around, so are we really supposed to believe they'll suddenly be great in this area? Peyton will make adjustments at the line and know how to get the ball out of there quickly, but there are still going to be issues, especially with the transition to the new offense.
As far as the receiving corps goes, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas both finished in the bottom 20 in worst drop rate. Now to be fair, they did have Tebow throwing to them, so it wasn't like they were handling perfectly placed passes every time. Still, they're both young guys with plenty of potential, but a lot of work to do, even more so with the injury history they each have. Denver also signed Andre Caldwell and Brandon Stokley, two guys that shouldn't scare anyone really.
On defense the Broncos finished 20th in total yards allowed and an awful 24th in points allowed per game. The organization brought in Porter, Adams and Florence to bolster the secondary and hopefully add to the incredibly low nine interceptions total the team had last season.
Matchup to watch for: Falcons ground game vs. Denver's B-gap defense
One of the best defenders against the run last season was Brodrick Bunkley. He graded as one of the best linemen at stopping opposing ground games, but that still didn't matter when it came to the B-gap. According to PFF (yes, I go to them for the majority of my stats) Denver was among the worst teams at stopping rushers through the B-gap. Bunkley was kept out of these areas while playing near center, and he isn't even around anymore to worry about. Here's a diagram for those of you who don't know what I'm referring to:
The Falcons loved running the ball up the middle when Mike Mularkey was calling the shots. We don't know the specifics of Koetter's game plan, but we have been promised more passing. However, if he can hone in on punishing the Broncos in this area, Atlanta should been running for miles and miles (or yards, either one).
Prediction: I'm not one of the people who believe the Broncos are instantly five wins better with Manning running the show. Here are my reasons: he's 36 years old, coming off multiple surgeries, in a completely new environment, and he didn't play at all last season. On top of all that, he will be playing in just his second game of the season on the road at the Dome.
Denver will get better as the season progresses, and could have a good chance of winning the AFC West if Manning holds up. Keep in mind, though, that they'll only be a game into 2012 when they come to town. The Falcons will be playing in their home opener with a group of guys that are extremely familiar with each other. I'll take Atlanta in this one, and I feel confident about it. We could be in store for a shootout on MNF.
How do you feel about Week 2?