Broncos vs. Falcons Odds & Picks: Back Denver To Win On The Road Sunday
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images. Pictured: Drew Lock
Broncos vs. Falcons Odds
The Falcons have won two out of three games since replacing Dan Quinn with interim head coach Raheem Morris. The Broncos, meanwhile, have won three of their last four games (including two on the road).
Which team should you back in this evenly matched battle in Atlanta? Let’s take a look.
Starting cornerback A.J. Bouye has already been ruled out after suffering a concussion in Denver’s 31-30 comeback victory over the Chargers. Meanwhile, running back Phillip Lindsay (foot) and cornerback Bryce Callahan (ankle) are both listed as questionable. The Broncos are hoping that wide receiver Tim Patrick (hamstring) will be available after getting in two limited practices in the buildup to this game.
The Broncos will need the full offensive starting roster in a potential shootout at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and that starts with Lindsay — their rushing attack is much more efficient when he’s healthy. Before leaving last week’s game, Lindsay tallied 83 rushing yards on just six attempts. This followed consecutive games of 79 yards against Kansas City and 101 yards in an 18-12 win at New England.
While Lindsay has been the more efficient rusher, Melvin Gordon continues to standout in the passing game. Gordon caught six of seven targets last week, and he maintains a high weekly floor as the goal-line running back. The Broncos should prioritize targeting Gordon in the pass game against a Falcons team that has allowed the second-most receptions to opposing running backs.
Erratic quarterback Drew Lock should continue to build his connection with rookie wideout Jerry Jeudy, who saw season highs in targets (10), receiving yards (73) and total air yards (162) last week against the Chargers. Patrick’s return would solidify a big-play receiving corps that includes the speedy K.J. Hamler and Week 8 star DaeSean Hamilton (four receptions, 82 yards and one touchdown).
Denver’s biggest potential mismatch is with tight end Noah Fant. Atlanta has allowed the most fantasy points to opposing tight ends, including a league-high 50 receptions and eight touchdowns. Even backup tight end Albert Okwuegbunam should play a factor, with at least 45 receiving yards or a touchdown in Denver’s last three games.
Defensively, head coach Vic Fangio has taken a unit with limited talent and remained competitive with most teams. The Broncos rank seventh overall in Football Outsiders’ defensive DVOA, including 10th against the pass.
The Broncos have improved throughout the season in pressuring the quarterback with 3.3 sacks per game over their past three games. In their three road battles, their sack average increases to 3.7 sacks per game.
The Falcons are waiting to see if star wideout Calvin Ridley will be available after injuring his foot in last Thursday night’s win over Carolina. He did not practice all week and is listed as questionable.
On defense, Atlanta will be without defensive ends Takk McKinley (groin) and Dante Fowler (hamstring), as well as cornerback Jordan Miller (oblique).
With Bouye ruled out for Denver, All-Pro Julio Jones is in a prime blowup spot. Jones has 97 or more yards in each of his past three games with two fantasy WR1 performances. Teammate Russell Gage will need to continue his efficiency if Ridley is out. Gage’s per-game averages are 5.6 receptions on 8.3 targets in Ridley’s absence.
Tight end Hayden Hurst has 15 receptions over his past three games but faces a Broncos defense that has allowed the eighth-fewest fantasy points to the position.
Running back Todd Gurley has eight touchdowns despite just a 61.8% opportunity share, but this week he has a challenging matchup against Denver’s defensive front. The Broncos have allowed just three total touchdowns to opposing running backs and the fifth-fewest fantasy points. Their defense presents a challenge to the Falcons at every turn.
The same cannot be said for the Falcons pass defense, which ranks 29th in DVOA. Although their run defense has been stingy (3.7 yards per carry), they have really struggled to limit running back receptions.
I’m backing the team and head coach I trust more, both of which reside in Denver at +4. The Falcons are limited on both sides of the ball and Fangio has shown the ability to scheme up defensive pressure, especially on the road.
It is still worth noting (even though it was under Dan Quinn), that Atlanta has been a terrible home favorite against the spread over the past six seasons.
After winning at New England, and coming off a thrilling comeback against a tough Chargers defense, the Broncos have a chance to win this game outright. The Falcons have seen a slight overall improvement since Quinn was fired, but not enough to lay the four points against a hot and well-coached Broncos team.
I’m taking Denver +4, and would back this line down to +3.5, covering the field goal loss.
PICK: Broncos +4