Now that the dust has settled from the Week 1 and every NFL team has a regular season game under the belts, the business of the season can truly begin.
I understand the special part of opening weekend for many fans, but at the same point, I believe that too much emphasis is put upon what happens the first time a team put on pads for the regular season.
A win suddenly gives credence to expectations, unrealistic or otherwise, that a team might be Super Bowl caliber while a loss sends fans scrambling the deck chairs for any salvation. Granted, nobody wants to be in a 0 and 2 hole, but in Week 2, we have an intriguing match-up between two teams that put forth impressive efforts in Week 1 wins.
The Denver Broncos, and more specifically, Peyton Manning, answered a ton of questions on Sunday night when they used an impressive second half to beat Pittsburgh 31 to 19.
The Broncos adopted a no-huddle approach to their offense and took advantage of their zone blocking scheme to open up room for their weapons to operate while their opportunistic defense took advantage of a Ben Roethlisberger mistake to score an interception return.
The Atlanta Falcons used an aerial assault in the second half against Kansas City, using three turnovers by the Chiefs to break open a surprisingly close game as they won 40 to 24 as the Chiefs showed impressive resolve.
Atlanta now gets to host the Broncos on a Monday night game between two teams that pundits are already pointing to as potential playoff sides. Granted, there were plenty of things to like from both sides, but at the same point, there’s still a ton of football left to be played.
Going into the Week 2 matchup between the Broncos and Falcons, here are three bold predictions for the Monday affair:
1. The Denver defense will figure prominently into the result and continue their good form. In watching Denver battle Pittsburgh, I had been wondering if the Broncos defense had the personnel to provide effective resistance against the elite offenses of the NFL, especially with linebacker D.J. Williams being suspended for his offseason conduct.
Denver saw Wesley Woodyard step up with a 12 tackle effort that included a sack and two tackles for loss, while Von Miller added two sacks and four tackles for loss.
The Broncos had two areas of struggle defensively in the first 30 minutes as Pittsburgh successfully completed numerous third down and long conversions while the Broncos were having issues getting any penetration into the Pittsburgh backfield.
The second half saw a change in fortune as the Steelers wilted under increased pressure that even contributed a defensive touchdown as Tracy Porter broke inside and secured a 43 yard interception return for a touchdown. The defenders seemed inspired and primed for a good season, and although Atlanta’s offense is pretty impressive, I expect the Broncos defense to be up for the task when needed. They might not stop teams regularly, but they make plays when required.2. Michael Turner will rebound from his disappointment in Week 1. Turner is one of the most gifted backs in the NFL, blending the power of an every-down back with the best hands of a competent receiver, giving the Falcons a very dangerous weapon to use.
Kansas City made it a priority to stop the run, limiting Turner to just 32 yards on 11 carries and no touchdowns, although the approach allowed Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and his receiver core to run amok in the second half in putting up 20 points on four drives.
Atlanta’s new offense appears to be willing to air the ball out when given the chance, but they need a viable running threat to balance their game plan, and so Turner will be counted upon to contribute.
I expect a much better effort and statistics as a result, with Turner getting at least 75 yards rushing on the day.
3. Jacob Tamme will continue his progression as the next great TE for the Broncos. The Broncos have a stable of great weapons for Manning to throw to on the outside, from Eric Decker to Demaryius Thomas to Matt Willis, but the player that was most impressive for me in week 1 was tight end Jacob Tamme.
Tamme had some experience playing with Manning in Indianapolis for the past four seasons before coming to Denver, but he’s also managed to hold off Joel Dreessen and Julius Thomas to get the majority of reps with the first team with his blocking and pass catching ability.
With teams scrambling to cover the receivers, a tight end that can stretch the middle of the field is paramount, and I expect Tamme to continue that trend against the Falcons with at least 75 yards receiving and one touchdown.
Prediction: I expect a higher scoring affair between both clubs, but Denver will pull it off late with a 38 to 34 victory with a late touchdown to seal the deal.