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Falcons vs. Broncos, NFL picks and predictions 2016: Denver a heavy favorite among the experts

Matt Ryan and the Falcons face their biggest challenge yet when they take on Denver's stifling defense this week.

The Atlanta Falcons are one of the biggest surprises of the young NFL season so far, sitting at 3-1. We'll find out if they're the real deal when they face the undefeated Denver Broncos on the road in Week 5.

The Falcons had something of a statement win last week, steamrolling the Carolina Panthers, 48-33. Julio Jones set a franchise record with 300 receiving yards, while Matt Ryan threw for 503 yards and four touchdown passes. It was a thorough beatdown of last season's NFC champion and puts the Falcons in first place in the NFC South. While the defense still has its issues, Ryan is having quite the bounce-back season after a turnover-marred 2015 campaign.

However, they'll have a tough challenge trying to solve the Broncos' elite defense. Denver is 4-0 and might be even better than last year's Super Bowl-winning squad, thanks to solid quarterback play from Trevor Siemian. The 2015 seventh-round pick has 824 yards and six touchdowns to three interceptions in four starts this year, and has even started opening up the deep ball to Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.

Unfortunately, Siemian is dealing with a sprained shoulder he suffered in last week's win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He sat out practice Wednesday and his status for Sunday's game is in question. If Siemian can't go, the starting job falls to first-round rookie Paxton Lynch, who did a fine job in relief duty last week. Regardless of which quarterback is under center, Denver will continue to rely on its defense to shut down opponents and keep the game close.

To that end, the Broncos are heavy favorites among online experts this week. At ESPN, eight of the nine writers are going with Denver, while six of eight at CBS Sports are also picking Denver. Here at SB Nation, Joel Thorman is the only one going against the grain and picking Atlanta, with the remaining eight writers and the OddsShark computer taking the Broncos.

Game RVB Stephen White Thomas George Jeanna Thomas Adam Stites Tyler Tynes Louis Bien Joel Thorman Fooch OddsShark computer