Only The Truth
Week 2 - DEN @ ATL
This game features one of the best home teams over the last 4 seasons (Atlanta) against a completely new Denver team with Peyton Manning as the quarterback. Both teams have good passing games, so the difference on offense will be which team has the most success running the football.
While many are focusing on the offensive side of the ball in this game, it will be the defense that win the game for either Denver or Atlanta.
Here is a chart for this Monday Night Football Match-up
Denver's Offense vs. Atlanta's Defense
|Denver Off||NFL Rk||Atlanta Def||NFL Rk||Adv|
|Yards Per Touchdown||97.4||10th||114.6||11th||Denver|
|Play Per Touchdown||16.04||10th||20.13||16th||Denver|
|Yards Per Attempt||7.59||7th||6.53||20th||Denver|
|Off Points / Gm||24.0||13th(t)||24.0||18th(t)||Denver|
Denver's Defense vs. Atlanta's Offense
|Denver Def||NFL Rk||Atlanta Off||NFL Rk||Adv|
|Yards Per Touchdown||104.6||19th||65.8||1st||Atlanta|
|Play Per Touchdown||26.16||12th||9.63||1st||Atlanta|
|Yards Per Attempt||4.53||4th||9.06||3rd||Atlanta|
|Off Points / Gm||19.0||14th||40.0||2nd(t)||Atlanta|
It should come as no surprise after week one that these teams will depend on their offenses to put pressure on the other team. Both of them have a huge advantage against the other team's defense. However, as I stated above, it may come down to which defense can force the opposing offense into making a mistake.
If we were to look at this game at face value, Atlanta's edge on offense appears greater than Denver's edge on offense. They have a greater margin of success in QB Rating, Yards Per Touchdown, Plays Per Touchdown and Points Per Game.
This is where the intangibles must be taken into account. Since there has only been one game, the first opponent makes all the difference. Atlanta played a Kansas City team with 3 or 4 starters out, including their top ranked passer rusher, Tamba Hali. Atlanta certainly had a great game, but it was met with only some resistance.
The same could also be said about Denver, they were playing a Pittsburgh defense without Ryan Clark (FS) and James Harrison (OLB). Both teams were playing an opponent that was much less than full-strength. The tie-breaker here goes to Pittsburgh because of coaching, scheme and overall talent. Denver did face a tougher opponent, defensively, than Atlanta.
Atlanta also went against a Matt Cassel-led offense. Jamaal Charles still ran for 87 yards on 16 attempts (5.4 YPC). The Chiefs were simply behind in the second half and had to catch up. Meanwhile, Denver went up against a much better quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, and held him to the 4th lowest YPA total in week one.
There is no doubt Denver played a tougher opponent week one, however, Denver was at home while Atlanta was on the road. The roles reverse in this head-to-head match-up, and that could make all the difference. Atlanta did what they were supposed to - defeat a banged up team soundly. Denver did what they had to do as well, get Manning comfortable playing with his new offense in a live game situation. While it took almost an entire half for Denver to wake up offensively, they found their groove late in the second quarter and scored on three straight 80-yard drives.
Keys to the Game
The one advantage Denver has on defense over Atlanta's very good offense is in Negative Plays. Denver ranked first in the NFL with a combined 23 sacks, TFL and QB hits. While Atlanta did rank 6th offensively in fewest negative plays allowed, it will be up to Denver's pass rush to get to Matt Ryan.
For Atlanta's defense, it will be to force Denver into long third downs. Denver ranked 5th in the NFL in week one, coverting 55.56 percent of their third and fourth downs. Peyton Manning and Denver's wide receivers can score in an instant, making it paramount for Atlanta to keep Denver off the field like Pittsburgh did for almost the entire third quarter.
Most Likely Outcome
With only one game to use as data, Denver appears to be the better team. This game won't be on a neutral field, so the edge certainly goes to a very good Atlanta team. While the home teams only won 9 out of the 16 games in week one, the edge goes to Atlanta, who rarely loses at home.
A score of 27-24, 28-27 or 30-27 is a realistic expectation.