The Vic Fangio era begins on Thursday when the Denver Broncos play the Atlanta Falcons in the 2019 NFL Hall of Fame Game. Kickoff is at 8 p.m. ET from Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio. Denver hired Fangio, a longtime defensive coordinator who spent the past four seasons with the Bears, to replace Vance Joseph, who went 11-21 in two seasons as the Broncos’ head coach. Atlanta has high expectations in Dan Quinn’s fifth season, with the Falcons looking to return to the playoffs for the third time in fourth years. Bookmakers list Denver as a 2.5-point favorite in the latest Broncos vs. Falcons odds, with the over-under for total points set at 34. Before you make any Broncos vs. Falcons picks or 2019 Hall of Fame Game predictions, see what renowned NFL expert Mike Tierney has to say.

An acclaimed sportswriter whose work appears in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, Tierney has reported from seven Super Bowls. Now a SportsLine expert, Tierney was all over the Patriots in the 2019 Super Bowl, enabling him to finish the season with a sparkling 63-46 record against the spread. Anyone who has followed him is way, way up.

Now, with the 2019 Hall of Fame Game fast approaching, Tierney has evaluated Falcons vs. Broncos from every angle and locked in his pointspread pick. He’s only sharing it over at SportsLine.

Tierney knows the Broncos will start quarterback Kevin Hogan, who leads rookie Drew Lock in the battle to back up starter Joe Flacco. A Stanford product, Hogan excelled in the 2018 preseason as a member of the Redskins, hitting 43-of-67 passes (64.2 percent) for 462 yards and five touchdowns against two interceptions. Hogan played in eight regular season games with the Browns in 2016-17, starting one, so look for him to deliver a strong, poised performance.

Most starters on both teams will sit out, but you can bet the Broncos are eager to begin the Fangio era with a win after the team’s two-year funk. This is a proud organization eager to get back to its standard of excellence. In contrast, Atlanta is 4-12 in the preseason under Quinn.

But just because the Broncos appear to have the motivational edge doesn’t mean they’ll cover nearly a field goal against the more talented Falcons.

Quinn knows what he has in a passing game led by Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Austin Hooper. Ryan will sit out on Thursday, just like Flacco, but Quinn is brimming with anticipation to see his explosive group of running backs perform. Devonta Freeman looks like his old self after a groin injury doomed his 2018 season. Behind him, the Falcons want to get a long look at Ito Smith (four touchdowns last season), dynamic rookie Qadree Ollison, Kenjon Barner, and training camp standout Brian Hill. “That’s a lot of weapons at running back,” Quinn told reporters.

The Falcons drafted two offensive linemen in the first round — guard Chris Lindstrom and tackle Kaleb McGary — and they’ll get extended snaps. Atlanta wants to re-establish its running game after averaging just 98.3 yards last season, which ranked 27th, so look for the Falcons to pound the ball behind their upgraded O-line.

We can tell you Tierney is leaning under, but he’s isolated a critical X-factor that has him going big on one side of the spread. He’s only sharing what it is, and who to back, at SportsLine.

Who wins the 2019 Hall of Fame Game? And which critical X-factor makes one side of the spread hit hard? Visit SportsLine now to see Mike Tierney’s strong Falcons vs. Broncos pick, all from the acclaimed expert who went 63-46 on NFL picks against the spread last season, and find out. 

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