Game Preview: Denver @ Tennessee

OPENING STATEMENT

After winning the first game of the 2011 regular season in spite of numerous injuries before and during the game, Denver looks to build off of last week's game against Cincinnati when they travel to Tennessee to play the 1-1 Titans.

Denver has had some success against Tennessee, including last season's win on their home field. They will try to limit CJ just like last season, where he totaled 53 yards on 19 carries, with a long run of 8 yards. Even though Denver allowed a special teams touchdown, Tennessee failed to score a single offensive point in the second half.

2011 REGULAR SEASON

With injuries still lingering for Dumervil and Bailey, look for Robert Ayers, Jason Hunter and Jonathan Wilhite to step up and fill the void. Their success, or failure, will go a long way in determining the outcome of this game. Other players of note are DJ Williams (Questionable for the game) or Wesley Woodyard, rookie OLB Von Miller and rookie FS Rahim Moore.

Denver

Denver bounced back from the season opener against Oakland with a solid performance in rush defense. The key for Denver is to duplicate that against a struggling, but very dangerous, running back in Chris Johnson.

Against the pass, Denver has really struggled to put pressure on the quarterback outside of blitzes. They have also given up some untimely big plays. In order for Denver to succeed against the pass, they will need more than just pressure. The secondary needs to play better individual man-coverage as well as playing as a unit.

They will attempt to get their first interception on the year against a quarterback that has only 2 interceptions on 76 attempts.

They will try to rush more effectively than last season, where Orton was the leading rusher. So far, Denver is averaging only 3.4 yards per carry. It appears, so far, that Denver's best chance for offensive balance is to stick with the running game, even if they only have a few runs for more than 5 yards. McGahee, Ball and Moreno (if healthy), will need to take the pressure off of Orton. Against Cincinnati, Orton only threw 25 passes.

 

Tennessee

Last week, Tennessee played a great game in all phases and pulled the "upset" with a win over the favored Baltimore Ravens. Even though running back Chris Johnson ran for only 53 yards on 24 carries (CJ has a total of 77 yards and 0 TDs for the season), Matt Hasselbeck threw for 348 yards, with 1 touchdown and an interception.

Their defense held Flacco to 197 yards on 15 for 32 passes, and intercepted him twice. They also sacked him 3 times. Last season, Tennessee sacked Orton 6 times, where McDaniels eventually stopped calling running plays because they struggled to gain more than a yard per rush. Currently, Tennessee is allowing 3.3 yards per carry.

Look for them to try to take advantage of Denver's young offense line and Orton's lack of mobility. While Baltimore has struggled to create a solid and consistent pass rush, they still have a very good and physical front-seven, featuring Lewis, Ngata and Suggs. Tennessee's offensive line performed extremely well, allowing 0 sacks and only 2 quarterback hits.

 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN

 

TEAM DENVER TENNESSEE
OFFENSE * * * * * *
Total Pts/Gm 22.0 20.0
Off Points 18.5 20.0
Touchdowns 4 4
Rush YPG 84.5 58.5
Pass YPG 229.5 303.5
YPT 118.8 126.7
3rd/4th Dwn Conv 44.0 43.3
Sacks All 7 2
QB Rating 57.3 83.2

 

*YPT (Yards Per Touchdown) - measures how many yards a team has to travel, on average, to score 7 points.

*QB Rating - a rating that I created to measure the ability of the entire offense to pass the ball effectively and efficiently. I do not place blame or include clutchness, but simply measure production. This stat includes accuracy, touchdown and turnover percentage by the QB, yards per attempt (YPA) and sack percentage.

NOTES

  • After two games, neither team has had much success on offense. Denver's total points scored is aided by a great return by Decker in week one.
  • Denver holds a slight edge in offensive efficiency, measured by the YPT stat. Tennesee averages 48 more yards of offense, but only 1.5 more points per game on offense.
  • If Denver can contain CJ, expect them to be much more balanced in yards and plays than Tennessee.
  • Denver and Tennessee have been very good on third downs, but Denver holds a slight edge. This is the one area Denver really struggled last season. They will need to keep third downs as manageable as possible.
  • Denver is on pace (I know, it has only been two games) to allow over 50 sacks. If they are going to sustain long drives and score more than 2 touchdowns per game, they will need to protect Orton much better. Orton also needs to recognize the blitz more quickly and hit the hot receiver. On defense, if they have any chance at stopping the Titans, they need a lot more QB hits and sacks than Baltimore registered. This will be one of the key match ups for the game.
  • To conclude the offensive preview, we finish with the QB Rating. Kyle Orton and Denver's offense has not been very good. There have been too many sacks, turnovers and incomplete passes. Regardless of who is to blame, everyone needs to step up. On the other hand, Hasselbeck has performed very efficiently. If there is a margin of -26 points in this game in QB Rating, Denver will lose by double-digits.

 

TEAM DENVER TENNESSEE
DEFENSE * * * * * *
Total Pts/Gm All 22.5 14.5
Off Points All 22.5 14.5
Touchdowns All 4 2
Rush YPG All 131 104
Pass YPG All 204.5 172
YPT 104.4 133.2
3rd/4th Dwn Conv 22.22 42.86
Sacks 3 5
Def QB Rating 100.15 41.37

 

*YPT (Yards Per Touchdown) - measures how many yards a team has to travel, on average, to score 7 points.

*QB Rating - a rating that I created to measure the ability of the entire offense to pass the ball effectively and efficiently. I do not place blame or include clutchness, but simply measure production. This stat includes accuracy, touchdown and turnover percentage by the QB, yards per attempt (YPA) and sack percentage.

NOTES

  • Denver has performed much better on defense than last season, where they averaged around 28 PPG allowed. Still, Tennessee is allowing over a touchdown less and playing solid against the run and pass.
  • There are three things Denver cannot, under any circumstance, allow in this game. The first is allow CJ to have a game like Darren McFadden has had had against Denver. I fully expect Denver to put forth a good day and they may even contain him to 60-80 yards on the ground. They also need to limit his impact in the receiving game as well.
  • Tennessee holds a huge edge in defensive efficiency, measured as always by the YPT stat. Opponents have to travel 33% further to score a touchdown against Tennessee than against Denver.
  • Denver holds a huge edge in third down defense. Tennessee has had trouble forcing opposing offenses off the field. Denver did a great job against Cincinnati, and this was the main reason why they were able to pull out the win.
  • As mentioned above, Denver is going to need Hunter, Ayers and Miller to put tons of pressure on Hasselbeck. Right now, they are on pace to record 24 sacks for the season, far from what many envisioned at the beginning of the season. Even if they fail to sack Hasselbeck, they need to generate as many hits and hurries as possible to disrupt the flow of Tennessee's offense.
  • Finally, the QB Rating shows it all. Denver has struggled to put the pressure on Campbell or Dalton the last two games. On the other hand, Tennessee made Flacco look very bad last week. If Orton struggles, Denver's defense will need to ensure Hasselbeck struggles as well if this game is going to be close.

 

TEAM DENVER TENNESSEE
KEY STATS * * * * * *
Net QBR -42.89 +41.79
Net Points -0.5 +5.5
Net YPT -14.4 +6.5
Net 3rd/4th Dwn Conv +21.78 +0.47
TO Diff -4 +2

 

*Net Quarterback Rating (QBR) - Offensive QBR - Defensive QBR.

*Net Points - Total points scored - Total points allowed.

*Net YPT - Defensive YPT - Offensive YPT. The goal is to make the opponent work more for a touchdown.

*Net 3rd/4th Dwn Conv - Offensive conversion rate - Defensive conversion rate.

NOTES

  • Teams that win the QB battle win games over 80 percent of the time. Denver will need a strong performance from Kyle Orton.
  • The only edge Denver holds is in defensive third and fourth down conversion. If Denver can win the time of possession battle and keep CJ and Hasselbeck off of the field, their defense will be able to play well late into the fourth quarter, even if they are missing some of their key players.

SUMMARY

With so little data to use with only two games completed in the 2011 season, it is hard to know how good or bad any teams are. This is the first week of the season where teams begin to develop an identity.

If Denver is going to win this game, they will need the entire offense to pay more efficiently by limiting penalties, turnovers and sustaining more drives that exceed 6 or 7 plays. On defense, they need to create more negative plays. While they have eliminated a lot of big plays (only 8 plays of 20+ yards and 2 plays of 40+ yards), they are going to need an improved pass rush to tilt this game in their favor.

As much as I would like to predict a win, the reality is Denver is facing a team on the road that is playing much better than them. If Denver plays the way they have in the first two games, they will lose by a touchdown, if not more.

However, Denver has shown they can play very well at times. Until McFadden's 47 yard run that led to the winning touchdown, Denver had held them scoreless in the second half. Also, while the Campbell and Dalton have played relatively mistake-free against Denver, they have no been dominant in any way. They will face a much better quarterback in Matt Hasselbeck, and will need to be on their A-game.

VERDICT

If Tennessee is able to get pressure on Orton and avoid the penalties they had last year, they will win by a score near 23-16, since neither offensive has been productive.

Conversely, if Denver is able to negate Tennessee's front-seven and keep the offense balanced, then expect a hard-fought defensive battle that may even come down to the last drive. If Denver is able to limit CJ, then a score of 23-20 is very likely, with Denver on the positive end this time. Again, these are simply projections based on what has happened so far.

Hope you all get to watch the game. Go Broncos!

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