DENVER -- The Broncos v. Falcons is a delicious matchup with preposterous numbers.
In a league where ratings have nosedived 11 percent, this is must-see TV. The Falcons have run laps around around the competition, averaging 31 points per game. The Broncos allow 16 points, and own a league-best 17 sacks.
Did I mention Paxton Lynch is making his first start? He's attempting to become the fourth rookie to win his first start, joining John Elway, Gary Kubiak and Craig Penrose. Let's examine my Take 5 keys to the game.
1) Let Lynch loose, um, within reason
The Broncos, more than last season, have shown a willingness to take what the defense provides regardless of the quarterback. Trevor Siemian, sidelined with a sprained left shoulder and inactive as Austin Davis serves as the backup, threw five passes to start the opener. When Lynch entered last week, he attempted 24 passes in 32 minutes. The Broncos must take advantage of the Falcons' porous pass defense. They struggle to cover, and they have produced just four sacks. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas can win their matchups. Lynch must take chances while taking care of the ball, a skill he showed last week. This experience is vital. There's no guarantee Siemian will start Thursday in a short week. To give him time off until the Houston game on Oct. 24 has merit.
2) Contain Julio Jones
The contrast remains remarkable, if not telling. Atlanta's Julio Jones totaled 300 yards receiving last week. The previous game he netted one catch. He can be neutralized not unlike Cincinnati's A.J. Green. So if Jones catches seven passes for 80 yards, the Broncos can live with that. There's been a lot of conversation about Aqib Talib guarding him. He will, but not the entire time. The Broncos don't follow receivers. They will play some matchup zone, and third corner Bradley Roby will end up on Jones his share. Keep an eye on that matchup.
3) Run CJ, run
Nothing takes pressure off an inexperienced quarterback like a solid ground game. The Broncos averaged 141 yards the first two weeks. They have averaged half that the past two games. The changes on the line have impacted results. But the Broncos need to be more physical. There's no excuse even with right tackle Donald Stephenson and tight end Virgil Green out for a third consecutive game. The Falcons rank 27th in yardage allowed per play. Stephenson and Green both told Denver7 last week they expect to be available for the Chargers game.
4) Take the first punch and rally
Part of Matt Ryan's resurgence can be traced to his newfound mobility. He's using bootlegs more, improving his accuracy. Behind Ryan, the Falcons have scored 31 first-quarter points, second most in football. They struggle late, but they have grown accustomed to playing with a lead. The Broncos have allowed 175 yards on opening drives and 17 points. They quickly settle down. The key is to keep Atlanta within reach. The Broncos own the fourth quarter, outscoring opponents 52-13.
5) Hit the QB
A lot of quarterbacks look comfortable until they face the Broncos. They have hit the quarterback 41 times. It creates ghosts. Shadows. Voices in the head. When the signal-caller gets timid, it becomes an exercise in futility. Matt Ryan will be no different even with the weapons surrounding him.
Trevor Siemian, Justin Simmons, Kayvon Webster, Connor McGovern, Donald Stephenson, Virgil Green and DeMarcus Ware. Ware hopes to practice this week, with an eye on playing against the Texans on Oct. 24.
Want Broncos news? Denver7 Broncos insider Troy E. Renck is your source. He talks to the players, covers the games and reports scoops on Denver7 and the Denver7 app. He is a CU grad who has covered pro sports in Colorado since 1996, including 14 years at The Denver Post. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and TheDenverChannel.com’s Broncos page. Troy welcomes most of your emails at Troy.Renck@kmgh.com.