With the bitter taste of a home defeat at the hands of the team I hate the most in all of sports still in my mouth, I realize it is damn near Saturday which means only one more day 'til Broncos football on Sunday!!! By every game day following a loss, I have always been able to get my glass of Broncos Kool-aid from half-empty to at the very least, half-full...and this week is no exception(although I was a bit worried that streak would end). Stats can be construed in any manner deemed necessary to make an area look worse or better than it actually is. So I have decided to throw stats out the window from the last game and rely on what I saw with my very own pair of Rocky Mountain Blues. And from what I saw on Monday, these are the things I will be looking for Sunday afternoon...
1. Run Defense- From my viewpoint, the Broncos achilles heal on D last year was giving up the huge 20+ yard plays more than any other team in the NFL. And on Monday that trend continued on run defense as McFadden was able to gash us a couple times. If the Broncos were able to contain the big play from happening in the run game, the D would have actually had a very respectable YPC avg against one of the best running attacks in all of football. So my main focus will be on our LB crew's ability to keep Benson and co. from being able to get through to the secondary. I expect big things from Joe Mays and Von Miller containing the run and preventing the huge play from happening.
2. Quick start- If the Broncos were able to put 7 on the board after starting from inside the OAK 20 following the Von Miller forced fumble, the entire complexion of Monday's game would have changed. Denver would have seized momentum early and had a touchdown lead which may have led to the Raiders trying to pass a bit more. I see it all the time, teams abandoning the run game far too soon because they trail by a TD on the scoreboard. Heck, we even saw it in this game...unfortunately it was our team that got away from it's run game a bit early. So I look for Denver to find a way to put a quick 7 on the board against Cincy which can go a long way in building crowd noise, forcing CIN to pass, etc.
3. Confidence Builders- Part of that quick start needs to feature Kyle Orton standing tall in the pocket and delivering darts to his receiving core. Look for Play-action passes early on with 2TE sets. The Offensive line can gain confidence early as well if Orton is afforded a strong pocket early on and comes out sharp.
4. Special Teams- I want to see this unit build on it's punt return TD from last week and fix the holes in their coverage as far as blocking guys unabated to the QB goes. I would love to see our unit get a blocked punt this week to make up for last week's one that was given up. Virgil Green was able to break through and nearly blocked one of Lechler's bombs so I will be watching for him to finish one off this week.
5. Running Game- I want to see runs designed to go toward's Franklin's side early and often. With this our play-actions can fade toward the stronger pass blocker in Ryan Clady which should allow Orton to throw comfortably.
6. Turnovers- It is easier to accumulate turnovers when you are the team that is ahead because that means usually the other team will be pressing and will often take a few more risks. With an early lead, Denver can attack Cincinatti and pressure them into making mistakes.
7. Injuries- We must find a way to get through some games healthy and what better time than to start this week!
8. Heart- I want to see our team come out with fire in their belly and take away the Bengals' will early on in this contest.
9. Redzone creativity- whether this means putting in Tim to expand the play calling or not, I want to see our best players get the opportunities in the red zone. I want to see Eric Decker targeted here and Lloyd(if able to go).
10. A win!- Let's not fool ourselves...if the Broncos start off 0-2 with both of those games being at home and one against a divisional rival and the other also an AFC opponent...we are in a HUGE hole to start the season, especially with the tough road ahead. This is a must-win game and our players, coaches, and fans need to show up and play, coach, and cheer like it is one.