The long wait is over, and fans will finally have some NFL football to watch Thursday when the Denver Broncos take on the Atlanta Falcons in the Hall of Fame Game from Canton, Ohio. Well, it will be a game between two NFL teams, though not quite the star-studded contest that you’d expect from a regular-season game.
In fact, more than likely, none of the stars on either team will see the field for this one. The two teams get a week’s headstart on the rest of the league due to playing in a fifth preseason game, which means coaches aren’t in any hurry to get players they know they want for the regular season onto the field for a meaningless exhibition.
The moneyline for this contest has the Denver Broncos -140 and the Atlanta Falcons +120. The spread has the Broncos as 2.5-point favorites, while the over/under has been set at 34.5.
Lots Of New
The Broncos could use a fifth preseason game as they move into a new era in the franchise’s history. Vic Fangio has taken over at head coach, and he certainly has some things he wants to do differently than previous head coach Vance Joseph. With a new coach and a new system, having any extra experience can only help the Broncos going forward.
Fangio has already said that most of the Broncos’ projected starters won’t play in this game, though he has said that offensive linemen Garett Bolles, Connor McGovern, and Dalton Risner will see a little bit of action. That’s good news for rookie quarterback Drew Lock, who should see a good share of time under center in an effort to get him acclimated to the speed of the pro game. Fangio will mainly be focused on the defensive side of the ball, though, while offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello will be calling the offensive plays.
Taking No Chances
The Falcons’ problems last season dealt mostly with injuries, so coach Dan Quinn has already ruled Julio Jones out of the entire preseason and will likely not take any chances with other starters in this game. The team’s rookie class is expected to get a good look, though first-round pick Kaleb McGary won’t be a part of that. McGary, an offensive tackle, will be sidelined for a while after undergoing a cardiac ablation procedure Wednesday, likely for six to eight weeks like the last time he had the procedure.
The Falcons’ defense has a lot to prove after an off year in 2018, so no matter who steps onto the field in this one will have a chip on his shoulder. Offensively, one player to watch for is fifth-round draft pick Qadree Ollison, a running back out of Pittsburgh. Outside of starter Devonta Freeman, the running back rotation for the Falcons is unsettled, so Ollison has a chance to make an impression in this one.
Broncos Get Win
Atlanta has gone 0-8 over the last two preseasons, so it’s obvious that Quinn sees these games as more of an evaluation period than a competition. Denver, meanwhile, is likely to try to get a victory to set the tone for the Fangio era. Take the Broncos to cover the 2.5-point spread in a low-scoring contest.