Fearless Rick's Football Picks - 2019 Hall of Fame Game

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Hall of Fame Game, Thursday, August 1, 2019, 8:00 pm, NBC, Fawcett Stadium, Canton, OH

Denver Broncos (-2 1/2, 34) vs. Atlanta Falcons

Interestingly, this is almost the same exact line that was offered for the 2018 HOF game between the Ravens and Bears. Baltimore was a 2 1/2-point favorite; the over/under line was 33 1/2. Both the coin flip and Fearless Rick picked Baltimore to win and cover.

The Ravens did, in fact, win, 17-16, so they did not cover.

It would be simple to take that lesson and learn from it, go with the dog and except a scrappy effort from the bench-warmers who will see most of the action.

However, as we will spell out, that would be the cowardly direction.

Just like last year's contestants, neither of these teams reached the playoffs in 2018.

Denver went through a painful season in 2018. After starting out with unexpected wins over Seattle and Oakland, the Broncos lost six of their next seven and were 3-6 entering their bye week. It didn't get any better, as they won three straight but finished the season losing four in a row.

While the Denver defense was better than average, and, on occasion, downright nasty, the offense, run by Case Keenum, was somewhat pathetic. They averaged just under 14 points per game in their last four games, prompting the front office to seek change.

And change they did, importing Joe Flacco from Baltimore, where he was unceremoniously kicked to the curb by the Raven brass, since their new QB, Lamar Jackson, at least got them back into the playoffs (they lost in the first round).

So, the Broncos are going to rest their hopes this season on a discarded, aging, often erratic signal-caller. Sorry Bronco fans, but that's the best John Elway and company can do right now. There just isn't a motherlode of quality starting QBs in the league, so Joe Flacco it is.

Let's go, Joe! He may get two series, a couple of first downs and a field goal.

As for the Flacons, they're sticking with Matt Ryan, or "Matty Ice," as hes know down in Georgia, and for good reason. Ryan has experience, poise and a solid resume. He's almost at the level of the elite quarterbacks of the league, and his numbers compare pretty well with Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay.

Ryan has the ultimate security blanket in wideout Julio Jones, but neither of them will make more than cameo appearances here. Backup QB, Matt Schwab, will get planty of playing time, and he's also a somewhat proven commodity. At the very least, Schwab won't make stupid decisions that result in poor field position or turnovers.

Head coach Dan Quinn has been at the helm for Atlanta since 2015, so he knows what to expect from his players and is generally well-liked. A return to the playoffs in 2019 would endear him even more to Falcon fans.

Their 7-9 record in 2018 left the Falcons just short of the playoffs. They were 4-4 after a 38-14 romp at Washington in week nine, but then came five straight losses, to Cleveland, Dallas, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Green Bay - all quality squads - before closing out with three consecutive wins over patsies Arizona, Carolina, and Tampa Bay.

Atlanta's offense was among the league's best, but the defense was sporadic. Expect Quinn to make changes, starting with this game. He's a good evaluator of talent, and the Falcons drafted four cornerbacks and a safety along with a slew of running backs and wide receivers. There's quite a gang of hungry rookies who will get their opportunites against the Broncos.

This one looks like a blowout. Atlanta lost all four of their preseason games, but that's not likely to happen again. Quinn will want to develop a winning attitude among his troops, so this game may be about evaluating some young players, but there will be extra emphasis on winning.

On this, both Fearless Rick and the coin agree.

Coin Flip: Atlanta

Prediction: Falcons 27 Broncos 13


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