Denver Broncos at Atlanta Falcons: Von Miller vs. John Abraham Is the Key Clash

James DudkoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 16:  John Abraham #55 of the Atlanta Falcons against the Cincinnati Bengals at Georgia Dome on August 16, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The duel between Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan will hog the headlines when the Denver Broncos take on the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night. However, the head-to-head battle between Von Miller and John Abraham will ultimately decide the game.

This youth vs. experience duel between pass-rush masters is one of the most intriguing matchups of Week 2. Both players are the chief source of big plays for their respective defense.

Miller dominated pass-protection schemes as a rookie in 2011. He notched 11.5 sacks and forced two fumbles, earning instant Pro Bowl recognition.

In Week 1, the 23-year-old picked up where he left off last season. Miller overwhelmed the Pittsburgh Steelers offense, sacking Ben Roethlisberger twice.

Miller has become the most important player on the Broncos defense, thanks to his flexibility. Versatile enough to operate as a rush 4-3 linebacker and also move down to defensive end, Miller increases the pass-rush potential of Denver's base defense and nickel packages.

Ryan presents a stationary target in the pocket. That means no matter where Miller is rushed from, he should be able to pressure the pocket and harass the Falcons passer into key mistakes.

If Atlanta's defense hopes to do the same to Manning, it will have to rely on Abraham to do the damage. The veteran rush end is the most technically adept pass-rusher in the league.

From a mechanics standpoint, Abraham knows no equal. He relies on a cerebral approach to set up and defeat blockers. That's not to say the 34-year-old has lost the physical attributes that still allow him to dominate, however.

Against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1, Abraham recorded a crucial strip-sack that allowed the Falcons to the put the game away. On the play, Abraham rushed from a standing position and showed that he has lost none of his takeoff quickness and first-step explosiveness.

It will be fascinating to see how the 13-year pro varies his rush against Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady. Abraham regularly utilizes intelligent hands technique and will probably use his full repertoire of swim and rip moves to get to Manning.

More than a decade separates Abraham and Miller in age, but the two are united by their proficiency at getting to quarterbacks and creating big plays for a defense. Whichever man dominates on Monday Night will determine the outcome of one of the marquee games of Week 2.