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  Saturday, Jan. 30 5:25pm ET
Breaking down the Broncos and Falcons
By Sean Salisbury, special to ESPN.com

BRONCOS (16-2) VS. FALCONS (16-2)
Running game
Broncos run offense vs. Falcons run defense
Advantage: Broncos

Any team that faces Terrell Davis and the Broncos offensive line is at a disadvantage. Davis, along with Barry Sanders, has the best vision and ability to find the hole of any running back in the NFL. Great vision might be more important than having great speed. Marcus Allen was very similar. Davis plays off his blocks well and gets great downfield blocking from his receivers, Ed McCaffrey and Rod Smith. The Broncos line is in sync and has good continuity.

Although the Broncos get the edge, the Falcons are a very good tackling team and tough against the run. The linebackers -- Jessie Tuggle, Cornelius Bennett and Henri Crockett -- will have to make a lot of tackles and not allow Davis to reach the secondary. San Diego was able to slow down Davis during the regular season, but there isn't a team in the league that can shut down Davis consistently. The only way to do it is by committing eight or nine defenders around the line of scrimmage. The Falcons will swarm around Davis, but the first tackler needs to wrap him up. Arm tackles don't work against Davis, and the Falcons aren't an arm-tackling team. They hit and wrap. That's why they made it to the Super Bowl. The advantage goes to Denver, but not by much.

Falcons run offense vs. Broncos run defense
Advantage: Falcons

The Denver defense is underrated. The Broncos beat the Jets because of the way their defense flew to the ballcarrier. The linebackers -- Glenn Cadrez, John Mobley and Bill Romanowski -- might be the strength of that defense. The Broncos have the people up front who can move and are big and disciplined. Defensive coordinator Greg Robinson is very good at adjusting to the other team's offense.

Denver will have a little trouble with Jamal Anderson, but here's an advantage for the champs: Safety Steve Atwater is a great tackler. He's going to be up near the line of scrimmage. Anderson is the biggest back in the league when it comes to size, power and speed. Although Davis is the best back in the league, Anderson is like a physical machine who punishes tacklers.

Atlanta's offensive line might not be as good as Denver's unit, but Anderson is like a sixth offensive lineman when he runs the ball. He will hurt you. The Falcons' ground game gets the advantage, but I don't expect the Broncos to be out of position very often. Curtis Martin and Karim Abdul-Jabbar only mustered 14 yards each against Denver, but they're not in the same class with Anderson.

Passing game
Broncos pass offense vs. Falcons pass defense
Advantage: Broncos

Matchups are everything. Both coaches will create good matchups, and Broncos coach Mike Shanahan is one of the best. Even if Davis only carries the ball 15 times, Denver always has the threat of play-action. And the biggest play the Broncos had against the Jets was the play-action pass down the field to McCaffrey. That's what Davis does for the Broncos, giving John Elway and company an advantage in the play-action passing game.

Tight end Shannon Sharpe always presents a matchup problem for the other team, even if he catches one or two balls. His presence alone can open things up on the outside for McCaffrey and Smith, two big-time receivers. Sharpe might have a huge game and be the MVP because linebackers and safeties can't cover him. Elway didn't have a good game against the Jets, but he made big plays when he had to. He always does that. Denver has the edge because of Elway's talent and experience, and because of the threat of play-action, Sharpe over the middle, McCaffrey and Smith on the outside and fullback Howard Griffith blocking in the backfield.

Falcons pass offense vs. Broncos pass defense
Advantage: Falcons

Quarterback Chris Chandler is very accurate and has played great this year. He's been as valuable to his team as any player in the league, along with Anderson. Although Anderson didn't have a big game against the Vikings, the threat of Anderson allowed Chandler to throw for 340 yards, have a big day and make plays when it counted.

If you're Denver, what do you do? Double-cover Tony Martin and Terance Mathis outside? That will open up tight end O.J. Santiago, who made two big catches in overtime to set up the winning field goal against the Vikings. Santiago is 6-foot-7 and tough for anyone to cover. Meanwhile, Martin and Mathis are excellent and can exploit single coverage. It's a dilemma for Denver. Chandler has confidence, and I like the Falcons' offensive structure. Martin was their most important offseason acquisition. He stretches the defense as a deep threat. Denver's linebackers are strong in coverage, and the cornerbacks are underrated. But with Anderson in the backfield, Chandler can shred any defense with play-action passes.

Special teams
Advantage: Broncos

Morten Andersen might be the greatest field-goal kicker ever. Jason Elam plays on grass -- while Andersen doesn't -- and can kick long distance. Both punters are good. Dan Stryzinski gets a ton of fair catches, and Tom Rouen, coming off a game in which his confidence might have taken a beating, has a strong leg.

The return games are pretty equal. But the Broncos get a small advantage because the game is outdoors, and they've played in the wind more. Darrien Gordon might have a slight edge over Falcons rookie Tim Dwight as a return man based on experience. But how is Gordon's health? If he's healthy, the edge is tilted slightly toward Denver. If he's not, it's an even matchup.

Advantage: Even

The sign of a great head coach is not only how you turn a team around, but also what kind of assistants you hire. Mike Shanahan has Gary Kubiak and Greg Robinson as coordinators, and both will be head coaches someday. On the other side, you have Dan Reeves, who's going to his ninth Super Bowl as a player and coach. Defensive coordinator Rich Brooks has been a head coach, and will be again. Offensive coordinator Jack Burns hasn't been a head coach, but he can call plays. He's a go-for-the-gusto, attacking kind of coach. He's been to the Super Bowl before with the Redskins, but he wasn't calling plays; Joe Gibbs was. With that experience, you can't favor one coaching staff over the other.

Advantage: Broncos

Last year, I picked Denver because I thought the Broncos were better than the Packers. This year, I think the Broncos are probably a little bit better than the Falcons all around. Look for Denver to win 31-27. People laughed when I said Atlanta could beat Minnesota. The sentimental favorite will be Dan Reeves, but the overall experience factor favors Denver. If the Broncos win, I don't think it will be by much. If anyone thinks the Falcons can't win, they've haven't been watching much football this season.

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