Broncos vs. Falcons: The best defense and best offense in football meet on Sunday

The Denver Broncos’ defense is destroying people this year. So is the Atlanta Falcons’ offense.

Denver Broncos linebacker Shane Ray (56) reacts after scoring a touchdown after a strip sack by Von Miller during fourth quarter action against the Indianapolis Colts during the game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO, September 18, 2016.
Photo by Gabriel Christus
Denver Broncos linebacker Shane Ray (56) reacts after scoring a touchdown after a strip sack by Von Miller during fourth quarter action against the Indianapolis Colts during the game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO, September 18, 2016. Photo by Gabriel Christus
Shane Ray and Denver’s defense will get a crack at Atlanta’s top-ranked offense Sunday. (Photo by Gabriel Christus)

The Denver Broncos’ defense is destroying people this year. So is the Atlanta Falcons’ offense.

Through Week 4, the Broncos’ D ranks first in yards per play surrendered (4.3), is giving up only 16 points per game and has recorded 17 sacks. Offensively, Atlanta is racking up 7.5 yards per play and scoring 38 points per game.

Unstoppable force, meet immovable object. The best defense and offense in football will play each other Sunday, and I’m already doing the Birdman hand rub.

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Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan is enjoying the finest season of his career. He leads the league in nearly every significant passing category. He’s throwing for 354.2 yards a game, and has already tossed 11 touchdowns versus two interceptions.

Atlanta just hung 48 points on Carolina. Ryan threw for 503 yards and four touchdowns in the Falcons win. Wide receiver Julio Jones caught 12 balls for 300 yards, torching the Panthers’ secondary so bad that one of its members literally got cut from the team.

But Denver doesn’t give up a ton of yards through the air. A tremendous pass rush and secondary is limiting opponents to 169.5 passing yards a game. Opposing QBs have thrown two touchdowns and five interceptions against them.

Something’s got to give, right?

We still don’t know who will start for the Broncos at quarterback. It’s unclear if Trevor Siemian can go after separating his non-throwing shoulder. Rookie Paxton Lynch will start if Siemian is sidelined. The intrigue of that, plus the heavyweight fight between Denver’s D and Atlanta’s O, should make for a really fun game.

The Von Miller oversized glasses matchup to keep an eye on

Devonta Freeman versus the Broncos’ run defense.

It’s hard to find success against Denver’s defense if you’re only capable of passing the ball. Ask your quarterback to drop back to pass 35, 40 times, and you’re asking for bad things to happen.

Fortunately for the Falcons, they can run the ball. Freeman is second in the NFL in terms of yards per carry with 5.9. Denver is giving up 113.8 rushing yards per game, which is 22nd in the NFL.

Granted, the Broncos have surrendered a lot of those yards to mobile quarterbacks. But if you had to identify a flaw on this defense, it’s stopping the run. It’ll be important for Freeman to take pressure off Ryan if Atlanta hopes to win.

How to watch the game

When: 2:05 p.m. Sunday

Where: Mile High Stadium

TV: FOX

The line

Denver -5

The pick

Falcons 27, Broncos 20

Christian Clark

Author: Christian Clark

Christian Clark covers sports. He's worked for outlets that include the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Oklahoman, Columbia Missourian and Dave Campbell's Texas Football magazine. He likes music and Mexican food. Lots and lots of Mexican food. Got questions? Tips? You can reach him at cclark@denverite.com.