Peyton Manning, Broncos At Falcons Monday Night Football

By: Michael Robinson | Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning will have their second primetime appearance in a row, this one on the road at the new-look Atlanta Falcons on Monday Night Football.

The Don Best Pro Odds screen has Atlanta as 3-point favorites with a total of 51. The latter is up two points from the open with each team going ‘over’ the total in Week 1.

ESPN will have the normal Monday night crew in the Georgia Dome for the 8:30 p.m. (ET) kickoff.

Denver had a great start to the Manning era last Sunday night versus Pittsburgh, winning 31-19 as 2½-point home favorites. An interception return for a touchdown from free agent addition Tracy Porter put the game away late.

Manning showed no signs of rust after missing last season with a neck injury, going 19-of-26 for 253 yards, two TDs and no picks (129.2 rating).  He has a very good target in receiver Demaryius Thomas and the two tight ends also play a big role. The running game provides enough of a threat with Willis McGahee the main guy.

The 36-year-old Manning runs the hurry-up offense to perfection, keeping defenses on its toes, but the downside can be in time of possession (35-25 minute disadvantage last game). That can really wear down the Broncos ‘D.’

The defense also needs to prove it can perform outside of Mile High. The last two games on the road a year ago were disastrous losses to Buffalo (40-14) and New England (45-10). The latter was in the divisional playoff round.

Atlanta opened with an impressive 40-24 win at Kansas City as 1-point favorites, but didn’t come away unscathed. Starting cornerback Brent Grimes was lost for the season with an Achilles injury. The team still has two big name corners in Asante Samuel and Dunta Robinson, but the loss of its very good cover guy will hurt, especially in nickel packages.

Falcons’ defensive coordinator Mike Nolan saw Matt Cassel go 10-of-12 for 123 yards in the first half last week. However, he dialed up more pressure in the second half, getting three turnovers to break the game open.

Atlanta needs to get pressure with it base ‘D’ as the blitz is dangerous against Manning given how quickly he gets rid of the ball. Look for him to go after Christopher Owens on passing downs, the ‘next man up’ with the Grimes injury.

The offense should be fine this week and all season for that matter. New offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter likes to attack vertically and quarterback Matt Ryan has great outside weapons in Julio Jones (108 yards, two TDs) and Roddy White (87 yards). Former bell cow running back Michael Turner had just 11 carries (32 yards) in this now pass-first offense.

Koetter would be smart to divert the game plan this week and feature Turner more. The Broncos are thin at defensive tackle with Ty Warren (tricep) gone for the year, and running the ball will help control the clock and keep Manning on the sidelines.

This is a big game for the Falcons who’ve had a lot of recent playoff failures and trouble against good squads in general (0-5 ATS in their last five against teams with winning records). They’re also 1-5 ATS in their last six on MNF.

This would be a great time to make a big statement in front of the national audience.

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