By Marc Mandell


“Ryan and Julio down by the school yard. I say Ryan and Julio down by the school yard.”

If you have been on NFL Network, listened to any talk shows or have visited the motherships’ website, ESPN, you would have seen that Matt Ryan and Julio Jones basically played school yard ball against the Carolina Panthers last Sunday. Julio couldn’t be stopped, or even yielded. It was like he was out there against Helen Keller and Ray Charles all day. Think Carolina regrets letting Josh Norman go to Washington yet? Ill bet, yes. This duo plus a stout running game is what’s coming to 5280 this week for a matchup with our Denver Broncos.

These are the three that come into to town to do battle with the best defense in the NFL. So I went back and looked at some of the game film from Sunday’s NFC south clash. The 503 passing yards that Ryan had were mostly on deep passes that were more than 25 yards down the field. Julio had 300 yards of that. Yeah it set records. But that kind of performance doesn’t really happen that often. Hence the records. And those yards came against a second year CB and a rookie CB. Julio is a top 2 or 3 receiver to me which isn’t doing the young defensive backs of Carolina any favors.

I saw a lot of wide open looks for Matty Ice last week. Holes that won’t be there on Sunday. And while were on it, is Matt Ryan not the biggest tease in football? He goes off for a trillion yards over a 3 or 4 game stretch and then, collapse. He does struggle with windows sometimes but he is still a top 10 talent right? Anyway, the Falcons are averaging 38.5 points a game and are completing 45% of their 3rd down try’s. 10th in the league in that category. The Broncos are 15th in the NFL with 3rd down conversions coming at 41%. The other stat that tells me how this team is doing is turnovers. Or lack there of in this case. Matt has only thrown 2 picks and they’ve only lost 2 fumbles this year.

They play the same kind of offensive scheme that Denver does. Remember it’s Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Same tree as his father Mike and the Broncos current coach, Gary Kubiak. The Falcons can run, they can throw and they can score. On the surface this is one of the best offenses in the NFL through the first 4 weeks of the 2016 season.

But. They haven’t played Denver yet. Aside from one outlier, Andy Dalton with 206 yards, the Broncos haven’t allowed a QB over 200 yards this year. Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, and Jamis Winston. Going back to last year this list includes Cam Newton again and Tom Brady. Not a weak list of QB’s. Denver has the front 4 to rush quarterbacks into bad choices, the Linebackers to smack down the running backs and the secondary to stifle the likes of AJ Green, Kelvin Benjamin, Mike Evans and TY Hilton. Add in the fact that the Broncos have only allowed an average of 16 points a game, is your heart starting to calm down a little bit? Denver can play Julio straight up. Aqib Talib, who……..might be facing discipline given the Dallas PD’s report on the gun shot wound, can play Jones one on one. Chris Harris has the speed and physicality to hang with Sanu and our safety’s are top notch as well.

Here I’ll make it even better. Last year the Panthers led the league in average points a game at 31.2. Nearly the same as Atlanta so far this year. How about interceptions? Matty Ice is on pace to throw 10 picks this year. The same as the Panthers last year. And then the Super Bowl happened. Still warms my heart SB50.

Here is some more to put your ticker at rest. The Falcons have not been nearly as good on the other side of the ball. Allowing the same amount of points a game as they are putting up on offense and giving up nearly 420 yards on defense. It’s either going to be a shoot out, or, its going to take a punch in the mouth from a quality defense to quiet the Falcons high flying offense, giving their opponent a real chance to beat them. I’m taking the latter on this one. Before we get to prediction time, here’s a quick look so far at the injuries.

Siemian will be a game time decision this week but I think he will end up playing, even if its not for the whole game. I do worry that he will re aggravate the shoulder and have to be pulled again. Here is the list of injuries as of Friday morning.

ATLANTA FALCONS at DENVER BRONCOS — FALCONS: DNP: P Matt Bosher (right hamstring), LB De’Vondre Campbell (ankle), DE Dwight Freeney (not injury related), LB Deion Jones (ankle), LB Paul Worrilow (groin). LIMITED: K Matt Bryant (right hamstring), G Chris Chester (knee), WR Justin Hardy (shoulder), WR Mohamed Sanu (shoulder), TE Jacob Tamme (hip). FULL: DE Brooks Reed (shoulder). BRONCOS: DNP: QB Trevor Siemian (left shoulder), LB DeMarcus Ware (forearm), CB Kayvon Webster (hamstring). LIMITED: TE Virgil Green (calf), S Shiloh Keo (knee), T Donald Stephenson (calf), WR Demaryius Thomas (hip). FULL: C James Ferentz (knee), WR Bennie Fowler (elbow), S Justin Simmons (hand), LB Dekoda Watson (elbow), DE Billy Winn (back).

If I hear about any updates I will tweet them out as I get them. So be sure to follow @mandell_w.

Now on to the prediction. What do you think the score will be? Here is my prediction, from before the season started. And I stand by this:

ATL 16 @ DEN 24 When Atlanta comes to the Mile High City, I feel that both teams will be coming off of a win and both teams will be feeling good. The Falcons play the Panthers at home the week before, and the Broncos are returning home from their road trip in Tampa Bay. Atlanta still has Matty Ice, and even though they lost Roddy White, Julio Jones is a top 5 wide receiver, the run game isn’t the worst in the league, and the defense has a real head coach in Dan Quinn. The Broncos win this game because of turnovers. Bradley Roby will pop Devonta Freeman and the ball will come free, allowing Brandon Marshall to do the ole swoop n scoop and run it 40 yards for the touchdown to win the game.

Thoughts? Thanks as always for reading. I really do appreciate it.