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Hall of Fame Game Preview — Lock May Be the Key For Broncos vs. Falcons

Let’s face it – there isn’t going to be a lot of drama in Thursday night’s Hall of Fame Game. There usually isn’t in these kinds of affairs. But there is nonetheless a quarterback situation with one of the teams that mildly intrigues. So some folks will watch the game between the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons with a certain degree of interest.

The kickoff takes place at 8 PM ET at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio, and there’s some historical significance in that this is being trumpeted as the 100th year of the NFL’s existence.

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Okay, so what is intriguing here? Well, the Broncos are hoping to get some encouraging signs from the kid they hope will be a long-term solution at quarterback. Drew Lock was drafted in the second round out of Missouri, has raw talent, and is going to be duking it out with Kevin Hogan (who starts Thursday’s game) for the backup QB job.

In the meantime, the Broncos have former Super Bowl hero Joe Flacco in their attempt to improve upon last year’s 6-10 record. Whether he’s a good fit or not, we don’t know yet, and we won’t necessarily get any clues in Canton, because he’s not playing.

What’s kind of strange about Denver’s QB situation is that Flacco is basically a drop-back passer without mobility, while Lock uses his athletic ability to move around and make plays, and Brett Rypien, the UFA (undrafted free agent) who should also see some action, is best in the short passing game. As for Hogan, he has the look of a journeyman. He has played in eight NFL games, making one start for the Cleveland Browns.

In the Hall of Fame Game betting odds, Denver is the favorite, presumably because they have some competition for roster spots and that backup position:

Denver Broncos -2.5 (-110)
Atlanta Falcons +2.5 (+100)

Over 34.5 points (-107)
Under 34.5 points (-103)

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Denver’s new head coach, Vic Fangio, is very curious to see how Lock will operate under fire. He has stated, in so many words, that he is a little raw – something about being a thrower right now, rather than a pitcher (most of you understand that baseball analogy), and new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello admits that he is throwing Lock into the fire, against the kind of defensive scheme that nobody has practiced against. You don’t really hear about how Lock has really “taken command” of the offense the way you hear about some other rookie QB’s.

Scangarello, by the way, was an interesting hire for the o.c. job. Once an intern in Atlanta, he has only been a coordinator in small college stops like UC Davis, Millsaps, Northern Arizona and Wagner, but in his position of quarterbacks coach in San Francisco, he was largely responsible for helping Jimmy Garropolo hit the ground running in 2017 when he stepped into the 49ers’ lineup.

Everyone in camp with the Broncos (+1200 to win the AFC West at BetAnySports) has been raving about tight end Noah Fant, the 6-4, 250-pounder who was drafted in the first round out of Iowa. So you’ll see him prominently, because the rest of the receiver corps might be a little thin right now.

Atlanta head coach Dan Quinn is bound and determined to improve on the Falcons’ defensive numbers from last season, as they were ranked 28th overall. Admittedly they were ravaged by injuries, particularly in the secondary, and they’ll be healthier (getting back linebacker Deion Jones as well). But Quinn is taking matters into his own hands, as he’ll be making the defensive calls.

Quinn hired Dirk Koetter (fired from the head job in Tampa Bay) to increase the tempo in the offense. Koetter has been known to like getting the ball down the field, which Matt Ryan (35 TD’s, 7 INT’s last year) should like. And tight ends also come alive on his watch, which should be good news for Austin Hooper. Mike Mularkey is also the new tight ends coach, which is nice for Atlanta, which is priced at +300 to win the NFC South).

Still, you’re likely to see a heavy dose of Kirk Benkert at quarterback, and he’s still learning. Things get very unpredictable, obviously, when the third and fourth guys on the depth chart get into the game. And we expect that Denver’s quarterbacks, especially Lock, won’t find smooth sailing. Keeping in mind that the last seven Hall of Fame Games have averaged just a shade over 30 points, we would make a recommendation on the UNDER here.

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