Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan throws a pass against the Miami Dolphins during the first half of an NFL preseason football game in Orlando, Fla., Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
— Here are 5 things to mull over before today’s 4:05 p.m. kickoff between the surprising Atlanta Falcons (3-1) and the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos (4-0) at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium.
LEAD STORY: Everyone is catching on for the Falcons
1. THE X-FACTOR: Falcons All-Pro wide receiver Julio Jones, who is coming off his 12-catch,
October 2, 2016 Atlanta: Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones hauls in a Matt Ryan pass in front of Carolina Panthers cornerback Daryl Worley in the Georgia Dome Sunday October 2, 2016. Jones set a franchise record with 12 receptions and 300 yards and 1 touchdown. The performance was the 6th-highest receiving yardage game in NFL history. BRANT SANDERLIN/BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM
300-yard receiving performance, will be the X-Factor against the Broncos and their secondary, which takes pride in creating a “no-fly zone.” After torching the Panthers’ inexperienced cornerbacks, the Falcons anticipate Jones will see man-to-man coverage from All-Pro cornerback Aqib Talib. “It’s the ultimate challenge,” Denver coach Gary Kubiak said.
2. Lynch to start at QB for Broncos : Second-year quarterback Trevor Siemian injured his left shoulder last week. Rookie Paxton Lynch came on to play in relief last week against Tampa Bay. The Falcons spent most of the week preparing for both quarterbacks, but Lynch will start.Here’s the scouting book on Lynch.
3. RADIO AND TELEVISION: Fox will have the game with Chris Meyers, John Lynch and Pam Oliver announcing. Wes Durham, Dave Archer and John Michaels will call the game for 92.9 The Game with the Countdown to Kickoff show being handled by Ryan Cameron and Mike Conti starting at 2 p.m.
4. NFL OFFICIAL CREW: McAulay Crew — R: Terry McAulay (77). FJ: Rick Patterson (15). U: Undrey Wash (96). SJ: Jonah Monroe (120). HL: Jerry Bergman (91) BJ: Rich Martinez (39) LJ: Tom Stephan (68). RO: Earnie Frantz. McAulay has been an NFL official since 1998 and he’s worked three Super Bowls.
5. SERIES RECORD: This will be the 14th regular-season meeting. The Broncos lead the series 8-5. The Falcons won the last meeting, 27-21, on Sept. 17, 2012. The Falcons also won the last meeting in Denver, 41-28, on Oct. 31, 2004. The Broncos defeated the Falcons, 34-19, in Atlanta’s only Super Bowl appearance, Super Bowl XXXIII, on Jan. 31, 1999.
The AJC’s D. Orlando Ledbetter and Noah Coslov talk about the Falcons two-week trip out west, the impact of losing LB Sean Weatherspoon and how to attack Denver’s vaunted defense on Sunday.
GAME FOUR: Falcons 48, Panthers 33
5 things we learned from the Falcons’ 48-33 win over the Panthers
Tweetcap: Falcons 48, Panthers 33
Old pro Freeney shows new trick with Falcons
Falcons’ rookie Neal holds on vs. Olsen
What Julio Jones had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers
What Dan Quinn had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers
What Matt Ryan had to say after the 48-33 win over the Panthers
Alford battled; Collins to return
Early view in NFC South isn’t what most expected; Falcons on top
GAME THREE: Falcons 45, Saints 32
5 things we learned from the Falcons’ 45-32 win over the Saints
Falcons, Saints protest with unity circle before game
REPORT CARD: Falcons earned high marks for drubbing Saints
What Dan Quinn had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints
What Matt Ryan had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints
What the Falcons had to say after the 45-32 win over the Saints
Keanu Neal makes strong debut for Falcons
Falcons’ Deion Jones runs for glory, not survival, in return home
AJC POWER RANKINGS: Falcons best in NFC South?
GAME TWO: Falcons 35, Raiders 28
5 things we learned from the Falcons’ win over the Raiders
Trufant’s heads-up play saves the day
Tight ends help to power offense
Weatherspoon plays strong in first start since 2013
Matthews, Schraeder held Mack sack-less
JEFF SCHULTZ: Falcons put on offensive show and win
What Matt Ryan had to say after beating the Raiders
What Dan Quinn had to say after the win over the Raiders
GAME ONE: Buccaneers 31, Falcons 24
5 things we learned from the Falcons’ loss to the Bucs
No sacks for new-look Falcons pass rush
Julio Jones not worried about his ankle injury
Falcons have a case of the “no-huddle” blues
REPORT CARD: Falcons can’t ‘gift’ opponents 17 points
FILM REVIEW: Beasley missing in action
AJC’S NFL POWER RANKINGS: Where are the Falcons?
Hageman charged is domestic violence case