Atlanta Falcons (3-1 SU, 3-1 ATS) vs. Denver Broncos (4-0 SU, 4-0 ATS)
Week 5 NFL
Date/Time: Sunday, October 9, 2016 at 4:05PM EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado
By Loot, NFL Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: ATL +6/DEN -6
Over/Under Total: 47
The Atlanta Falcons come to Mile High on Sunday to face the Denver Broncos. Both teams are in fine form after the first quarter of the season. Denver is unbeaten and Atlanta has won three straight after a week one loss. In the last three weeks, these teams are 6-0 both straight-up and ATS. On Sunday, an Atlanta offensive track meat ensued with the Falcons clubbing the defending conference champion Panthers, 48-33. Denver stayed unbeaten on the road with a 27-7 win over Tampa. They had some anxious moments with QB Trevor Siemian going down with an injured shoulder, but it looks like he will be a go for this game.
It's starting to look like you could put anyone behind center for the Broncos and it would work. Siemian has thrived in this role, a 7th round draft pick that was completely off-the-radar. And when he went down on Sunday, raw rookie Paxton Lynch came in and did a commendable job with 170 yards and a score. They've been getting a lot of help from a terrific defense that looks better than ever.
The Denver offense is not that great, but they get the most out of what they have. Siemian might not be the most aerially-inclined passer and probably could make a more consistent connection with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, both of whom hauled in TD passes on Sunday. The run-game is hit-and-miss with CJ Anderson and Devontae Booker. But they create points and the offense looks to be settling into a unit that is usually going to put up enough points to let the "D" do its thing.
The Denver defense really showed its teeth on Sunday. Tampa QB Jameis Winston is certainly mistake-prone, but he's usually pretty explosive and he could only manage 179 yards and two picks, both to Denver corner Aqib Talib. This continues a trend of opposing quarterbacks seeing their stats dip considerably when playing this defense. They've given up a scant 24 points in their last two games. Von Miller, Shane Ray, and Derek Wolfe have applied a consistent pass-rush. They've gotten 8 turnovers and are just a very impactful and stingy group. Coming off a 32-point output against the tough Rams' defense the week before, the Bucs could get absolutely nothing for the final 3.5 quarters against the Broncos defense in week four.
The Broncos are off to fast start and it has made people rethink where they stand as a defending Super Bowl champion. It was widely assumed that after climbing to the mountaintop last season that we'd see the descent in 2016. So far, they've been stubborn in that regard. The only thing that changed was the quarterback, but that wasn't such a big part of their championship season. They didn't ride a big arm to the Vince Lombardi Trophy. Sure, it seemed that they'd miss the mental acumen of Manning, but Siemian has been up to the task and if he's unable to handle the physical rigors of a full NFL season, Lynch offered a nice glimpse on Sunday.
The Denver defense may be tested this week against an Atlanta offense that looks to have hit a nice groove. After a big 45 points against the Saints in week three MNF action, the Falcons went nuts against the Panthers at home on Sunday. QB Matt Ryan put up 503 yards through the air, with Julio Jones adding 300 receiving yards to the cause. Aldrick Thomas, Jacob Tamme, and Austin Hooper caught TD passes, while Devonta Freeman ran one in. This offense looks like the real deal, even when reflecting on Atlanta's 5-0 start last season that ended up falling flat. Something about this offense looks more bankable. They're not dependent on any one thing, as the production is liable to come from anywhere. Right now, this is the top offense in the league.
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Atlanta's offensive outbursts have helped make it less visible that the defense lags far behind the offense at this point. That's somewhat surprising, considering that head coach Dan Quinn forged his rep as coordinator for the monstrous Seattle defense. They are readily exploitable through the air, having given up some huge performances this season, albeit to some teams that were playing from behind that were throwing on every down out of necessity. The lack of a pass-rush has left their secondary a bit naked. And we'll see how they do against the Denver run, especially late after 2 or 3 quarters in that altitude.
It's not clear how much it matters, but Atlanta is out of their element this week. In addition to the altitude and fact that they're facing a top defense, they're in a different conference in a road game where sometimes things don't translate as well as they do in the Georgia Dome. It's just a jarring discrepancy to go from the indoor fast track in Atlanta to the foreign outdoor mountainous cavern where the Broncos "D" awaits. At the same time, Denver isn't going to win every game this season and Atlanta could really lend some credibility to their case with a win here. It would really bolster their status. Maybe Atlanta's defense will be less-vulnerable against this particular offense. And while the Denver defense is great, can they shut down Atlanta? I think the Broncos come down to earth a bit, at least enough to allow the Falcons to cover the spread.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Atlanta Falcons plus 6 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up and betting the Falcons vs. Broncos game at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!