As this season winds down, the Broncos are about to win their first ACW West championship title since 2005 with a record at 8-5. The Broncos have been on a crazy roller-coaster so ar this year. 5 Rbs on IR and not to mention another 23 injuries. Jay Cutler seems to have found his niche again, and the defense has improved greatly. This week the Broncos take on a very good Carolina Panthers team that is 10-3.
The Panthers are having a great season in 2008. They are leading the NFC South by 1 game after defeating Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football. Steve Smith has come back from his early suspension to have another stellar year. This game could be different though with the return of Champ Bailey.
Can the Broncos keep the steak of winning road games alive? Then lets check out the ADVANTAGE!
Quarterback: Jay Cutler won his second straight Air Award last week playing the Chiefs. I think Cutler could have great success against the Panthers’ secondary this week. If Jeff Garcia can torch those guys, just think about what a great QB with weapons like Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Tony Scheffler, Daniel Graham, and Brandon Stokely (maybe) can do.
Jake Delhomme hasn’t had the best statistical year. But I don’t think you can complain too much when the team has been winning games. He has a great deep threat in Steve Smith, and savvy veteran in Mushin Muhammad. Delhomme has the ability to go deep anytime he wants with Smith. He could expose the Denver secondary with his blazing speed. That could be a huge part of the passing attack that Denver could have trouble stopping.
Advantage: Broncos. Jay Cutler is going to have to throw a lot more with Hillis gone. Maybe Boyd and Bell step up, but I want to see it before I change my mind.
Runningback: As all of us know, Peyton Hillis in out for the year with a hamstring injury. That leaves Denver with Tatum Bell, PJ Pope, and Cory Boyd. Maybe Boyd can step up. His highlights impressed me, but I still wan to see it translate to the NFL. Carolina in about average against the run, which gives Carolina the edge, in my opinion.
DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have been studs this year. They both just carved up the Bucs on Monday rushing for over 300 yards. The Broncos look to have DJ Williams back, which could help the rush defense, but this is one of the best rushing teams in the NFL.
Advantage: Carolina. Both of these RBs could be starters in the NFL.
Receivers: Jay Cutler has weapons from every direction, as all of us know. Brandon Marshall is getting the ball again, and Eddie Royal is definitely not playing like a rookie. The tight ends stretch the field, so Cutler will be able to find the open man on the passing plays. The receivers could dominate because they are the most talented group of receivers in the NFL. This passing defense is ranked high, but they let Jeff Garcia’s company light them up.
Delhomme has a passing attack that can expose a secondary. Smith and Muhammad can get open, as all of us know, but Dante Rosario can be a threat at the TE position. Champ Bailey could return, but I highly doubt it. Even if Champ doesn’t play, I think the secondary of the Broncos can get the job done.
Advantage: Broncos. How can you not pick against them? As I said, they are the best in the league.
Offensive Line: The whole offensive line is having a year to remember. They are the best pass protecting line in the league, and run-block well, too. The Panthers are in the top 10 in sacks, but this line should be able to handle the load like they have in the past.
The Panthers have given up 10 sacks, but they haven’t been passing the ball like crazy like the Broncos have. The Broncos have been able to get pressure the last few weeks. I think Denver ca do that again this week.
Advantage: Broncos. Best in the league. Period.
D-Line: Elvis Dumervil and Jarvis Moss have really impressed me the last couple games with the pass rush. Marcus Thomas and D-Rob have been stuffing the run, and closing gaps well. This will be a true test to see if they can close those hole against some pretty good RBs.
Julius Peppers is one of the best pass rushers in the game today. Clady has done well against his competition all year, so I am going to make a bold prediction. PEPPERS WILL BE A NON-FACTOR SUNDAY. And with that happening I think this d-line could struggle a whole lot Sunday. This Broncos o-line, I think, is going to dominate
Advantage: Broncos. This d-line is still improving, but I think they prove that they can be one the best d-lines against the run this game.
Linebacker: DJ Williams is set to return Sunday which makes me wonder what will happen to Wesley Woodyard? The linebackers have gotten fundamental and have been playing very well against the run. Mario Haggan is questionable, which really scares me. Maybe Webster can actually stay in his gap. But I believe this linebacking group can step up and stop the run.
Thomas Davis has had a great year this season. He is coming up on 100 tackles on the year, He has a nose for the ball. But Beason has been even better! He has 112 tackles and 3 picks! I wish that guy was the Broncos MLB. It will be tough to run on these guys. All of the Panthers’ LBs are studs!
Advantage: Panthers. There LBs have been one of the best in the league. They should have success against the Broncos’ running attack, sadly.
Secondary: Josh Bell and Dre Bly have really stepped up their game since Champ Bailey has been sidelined. And I expect Champ to sit again, Sunday. Josh Barrett played very well matching up against Tony Gonzalez. He is another rookie stepping up! Now Carolina hasn’t exactly passed the ball like crazy, but I think if they can keep Steve Smith controlled, they will win the game.
After getting punched in the face, Ken Lucas is having a very good year. He has 11 deflected tackles and has 2 picks. He is turning into one of the best in the league, in my opinion. Chris gamble is having a pretty decent year, too, with 2 picks and taking one to the house. Godfrey and Harris are the safeties, but I don’t think Cutler should have a problem attacking the 14th best pass defenses.
Advantage: Broncos: even without Champ, I think the Broncos can take on Steve Smith.
Returning: Eddie Royal is a game changer. We all know that.
Mark Jones has the ability to take it back but he ain’t nothing like Eddie Royal.
Advantage: Eddie Royal with cheese please.
Kicker/Punter: Prater perfect from 50+. I don’t think there is much more to ask. The accuracy will come. Brett Kern is one of best punters out there. And the best rookie punter out there.
John Kasay has made 21/22 FGs. The only one missed was over 50 yards. Jason baker averages over 45 yards a punter and has booted a 63-yarder. I don’t think you could ask for much more.
Advantage: Toss up. The punters are both good and the kickers area t different points in their careers, but get the job done.
I think the Broncos get the win and clinch the AFC West!