“Monday Night Football” heads to Georgia this week, but the public isn’t going to be focused on the Falcons despite their strong start to the season in a 40-24 win at Kansas City. It’s all about one man here, the one man who the betting public loves more than all others — Denver QB Peyton Manning.
Manning was the focus of all of the attention heading into Week 1, and that attention has intensified now that he won a boring-but-relatively-easy game against the Steelers on Sunday night. Manning will draw the bulk of the attention and the public betting money until he shows a hint of mortality. For now, though, the decision that needs to be made in this game is simple — are you with Manning or against him?
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Broncos at Falcons Betting Storylines
Since everyone is talking about Manning we might as well start there. To put it simply, he was good. He led three different drives of at least 80 yards, and in typical Manning fashion he was very good at moving the ball while eating the clock. He also threw a very nice deep TD pass to Demaryius Thomas that showed chemistry that is already strong and will only improve with time. He looked mostly comfortable, he connected well with his tight ends, and the huddle was hanging on his every word.
It wasn’t all positive, though. Some of his passes didn’t come out as crisp as they should have, he looked extremely frustrated when the team lost a fumble, and we still don’t know how he is going to handle getting beaten up because Pittsburgh’s pass rush wasn’t particularly sharp. I had concerns heading into the season about Manning — not his effectiveness, but his durability. Those concerns are still there, and given the massive reliance the team has on him, I will need to be confident that his fragility is factored into every line.
Thomas is going to be a key player to watch in this one. In the opener Atlanta suffered a big blow when their best cornerback, Brent Grimes, went down for the season with an Achilles injury. Grimes was the best downfield defender the Falcons had, so Manning will be looking for ways to exploit his absence, and Thomas is the best tool he has.
Atlanta was very strong in their passing game last week in a tough environment in Kansas City. Matt Ryan completed 74 percent of his passes for 299 yards and three touchdowns, and he was in control throughout. There are, though, a couple of reasons to be concerned. First, Ryan didn’t face much of a pass rush. Kansas City couldn’t get much going, and Ryan was sacked only once. He’s sure to feel more pressure against a very good Denver front seven. His ability to handle that will be a significant factor here.
More significantly, the running game has long been an asset for this offense, but in the opener the Falcons couldn’t move the ball at all. Michael Turner managed only 32 carries in 11 tries, and Jacquizz Rodgers added only 22 more yards in seven tries. Pittsburgh never established the run last week, and it was a big part of their downfall against the Broncos. If the Falcons can’t get that part of their offense firing then they could have issues — especially because they are facing an offense should be better than what they saw last week.
Broncos at Falcons NFL Odds and Betting Trends
The line opened at three in most places, with 3.5 on offer in some spots. It has mostly settled at three for now, though. The Broncos are pulling in a majority of the bets. However, it’s not massively lopsided, so there isn’t going to be major pressure to move the line significantly. The total opened at 49, but given the public enthusiasm for both offenses it’s no surprise that it has climbed to 51 — with signs that it could climb higher.
Atlanta has struggled against strong opponents lately — they are just 0-5 ATS in their last five against teams with a winning record. They are 4-0 ATS, though, in their last four games as favorites. Denver has gone over in their last four games as underdogs, but that trend — and any other for Denver — means little since the Manning era is only one game old.
Monday Night Football Predictions: Broncos at Falcons NFL Picks
I don’t like this game very much. To clarify, as a fan I look forward to seeing how it turns out because it should be a fun one. From a betting perspective, though, I don’t like it.
I would lean towards Denver, but Atlanta is at home and is obviously talented — with room to improve from their opener — so I’m not particularly confident. To me this is one of those cases where the line is solid and it’s a good idea to look elsewhere — unless you just want to have a rooting interest when you watch the game.
The total is more interesting. The public is going to assume that the fireworks both offenses displayed in their opener can show up again, so I would sit back and let the total climb as high as it will before I take the under.
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