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2020 vision: Looking ahead to Denver's Week 9 matchup vs. the Atlanta Falcons

View photos from several of the Broncos' wins over the Falcons throughout franchise history, including Super Bowl XXXIII.

The Broncos' regular-season opener isn't for another few months, but over the next few weeks, will take an early look at each game on the Broncos' 2020 schedule. We don't know how injuries could impact each contest, but we'll present the pressing storylines, matchups, questions and more.

It's never too early to start talking football.

We continue with Denver's Week 9 game against the Atlanta Falcons.

Storylines to monitor:

The Broncos return to the field after their Week 8 bye for the first of two consecutive road games. In this Week 9 contest, the Broncos will head to Atlanta to face a Falcons team that won six of its final eight games in 2019 after a 1-7 start to the year. Atlanta, which has missed the playoffs each of the last two years since nearly winning Super Bowl LI at the end of the 2016 season, dealt with a slew of injuries in 2019. Still, with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones on offense, the Falcons will pose a difficult test for the Broncos' defense.

This game — which was long expected to be held in London — is also now a chance for several Broncos players to return to their home state. Bradley Chubb, Kareem Jackson, A.J. Bouye and Alexander Johnson are among the players who will get to show off in Atlanta. Under the NFL's current scheduling formula, the Broncos aren't slated to return to Atlanta until 2028, so this is a rare opportunity.

It's also a chance for the Broncos' 2020 first-round pick, Jerry Jeudy, to prove himself against another pair of Alabama products in Jones and Calvin Ridley. As a rookie, Ridley posted 64 catches for 821 yards and 10 touchdowns. If Jeudy can approach those totals, the Broncos would be thrilled.

Player to watch:

WR Julio Jones

The Broncos' secondary will get one of its toughest tests of the season against Jones and Ridley, as Jones is arguably the league's best receiver. The 10th-year pro caught 99 passes for 1,394 yards and six touchdowns last season, and he's earned seven Pro Bowl nods during his career. Just twice in his career has Jones failed to break the 1,000-yard mark, and he's averaged more than 100 receiving yards per game in five different seasons. Jones has the unique athleticism to beat cornerbacks down the field, high point the ball and use his physicality to rack up yards after the catch. He could be A.J. Bouye's toughest assignment of the year.

The question mark:

Can the Broncos use their bye week to their advantage?

The Broncos face a difficult road test against the Falcons, but they'll have the advantage of an extra few days of rest. Denver's bye week comes in Week 8, and the Broncos' performance last season after the bye suggests they could get a boost. The Broncos traveled to Minnesota last season after the bye week, and they jumped out to a 20-0 halftime lead over the eventual playoff team. The Broncos faded late, but they showed explosiveness in the first half that they'd lacked in previous weeks.

The Falcons are a borderline playoff team, but it's possible the Broncos' added rest could help them earn a win in Atlanta. One note: The Falcons will also be well rested; they play on "Thursday Night Football" in Week 8 and will have 10 days rest.

The last meeting:

The Broncos haven't faced the Falcons since 2016, the year in which Atlanta would eventually go on to the Super Bowl. Denver was 4-0 when they welcomed Atlanta for a Week 5 matchup, but the Falcons earned a 23-16 win to hand the Broncos their first loss of the year — and their first since December of 2015.

Julio Jones caught just two passes for 29 yards, but the Falcons hurt the Broncos in other ways. Running back Tevin Coleman caught four passes for 132 yards and added 31 rushing yards. Devonta Freeman, meanwhile, ran for 88 yards and caught three passes for 35 yards.

Denver's offense struggled at times as Paxton Lynch made his first career start. Vic Beasley recorded 3.5 sacks, as the Falcons sacked Lynch six times and picked him off once.

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