The Falcons brutal schedule continues this Sunday when they travel to Denver to take on the Broncos, who field one of the best defenses in the NFL right now. It’s a defense that features the best pass rusher in the game in Von Miller, along with a secondary that is loaded with talent. This is arguably the best defense in the league and at 4-0, this will not be an easy game. Here’s how the teams match up.
In the Trenches
The Falcons may have one of the best offensive lines in football right now. Alex Mack has been playing at an All-Pro level, both as a pass protector and a run blocker. Andy Levitre has quietly put in a very strong season as well. Chris Chester is probably the lone liability on the line, though he hasn’t been a complete disaster. Jake Matthews started off rough but has really settled in while Ryan Schraeder is one of the top right tackles in the league. It’s a very strong line that excels in run blocking and has been good at pass blocking.
The Broncos have Von Miller, which is almost enough in itself. With DeMarcus Ware injured, Shane Ray will be on the opposite side of him and has been steadily improving this year, with a 3 sack performance against the Bengals in week 3. Jared Crick in the middle has seen better seasons while Derek Wolfe shouldn’t be ignored. Sylvester Williams is in on early downs, and is a capable nose tackle but won’t be mistaken for Vince Wilfork anytime soon.
This is one heck of a match up. This Broncos defense can get to the QB and that’s a real concern for the Falcons. While the offensive line has played very well so far, this will easily be the hardest test yet. Schraeder and Matthews will need to step up in a major way to win this battle, and even then, you can still expect Von Miller to do his damage. Were it not for the good seasons that Mack and Levitre are having, this would go to the Broncos. As it is, it’s too close to call.
The Skill Positions
In case you hadn’t noticed, Julio Jones is good. Very good. Three hundred yards in a single game good. He’s also healthy, which bodes well for the team going forward. Mohamed Sanu has been a bit of a let down after having a big first game for the Falcons, but he has shown the ability to catch in traffic. Jacob Tamme is having a great season and is really the second receiving option in this offense right now. Additionally, guys like Taylor Gabriel and Aldrick Robinson are finding significant roles in this offense and could be a big factor on Sunday.
The Falcons will also feature one of the best running back duos in the league. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman are a formidable 1-2 punch. Both are capable of breaking off big runs and are highly effective in the passing game as well. All of these players are anchored by QB Matt Ryan, who is arguably playing the best football of his entire career right now.
The Broncos feature two capable linebackers in Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis. Marshall is very good in both run stopping and coverage. Davis is not as good in coverage, but is an effective run stopper and is often used to blitz the QB.
Once you get to the secondary, though, the Broncos truly shine. They have the best cornerback duo in the league with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. Bradley Roby as their nickel corner is very good as well, allowing this defense to play lots of man-to-man coverage. Safety Darian Stewart is a good coverage safety while T.J. Ward is more of a traditional box safety who struggles in coverage at times.
Yet again, this is one heck of a match-up. Talib has done a good job on Julio in the past, and Chris Harris Jr. is one of the best corners in the league. There’s not really a weak cog in this Broncos secondary, unlike the Panthers unit that the Falcons just torched. If the Falcons are going to have success passing the ball, it will likely be to our tight ends and running backs, who give us our best match-up options. As good as Julio is, until Sanu can demonstrate he’s a true WR2, this dominant Denver secondary has to get the nod.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best match-ups for the NFL weekend. The Falcons will not face a defense this good until the following week in Seattle (oh god). That said, the Falcons offense is no longer just about Julio. The team is getting contributions from all over, with Ryan connecting with 8 or more different receivers in every game thus far. The offensive line is playing very well, and our running backs could present some match-up issues for the Broncos.
That said, this game is in Denver and this is a defense that carried the entire team to a Super Bowl victory. Atlanta matches up very well - probably better than any other team will - but Denver is just too loaded defensively.