Often times recently I've noticed among myself, friends and members here, that we have expectations that may not align with reality going into a game. Take for example the Chiefs game, many members were expecting the Chiefs game at Arrowhead to be a blowout, but anyone whose looked at the fact would see that Arrowhead is considered one of the hardest places to play, even if the Chiefs suck, they fight hard at home.
Now there aren't predictions I'll be making, rather looking at expectations and seeing how they lineup with history. I'm hoping to do this weekly.
Don't Be Surprised If... The Broncos Struggle to Run the Ball
Obviously with Willis McGahee out the Broncos run game is expected to be in flux, and with Knowshon Moreno had a very good game last week against the Chiefs, I feel expectations may be too high, and Moreno will get burnt by the fans. When we look at this game, we'd be foolish to EXPECT a great game by any of our running back, and here's why.
The Tampa Bay Bucs are the #1 ranked run defense in terms of yards allowed per game. Now Broncos Mike made a good point that they rank so high because teams just throw against them, and that's partly true, but look at this. They are also the #1 ranked rush defense in terms of efficiency, allowing a league best 3.4 yards per rush.
They've also shut down much better running backs like DeMarco Murray (38 yards, 2.1 YPC), Jamaal Charles (40 yards, 3.3 YPC), Darren McFadden (17 yards, 2.4 YPC), Michael Turner (17 yards, 1.3 YPC). This is a good run defense, there is no doubt about it.
Don't Be Surprised If... The Broncos Lose the Turnover Battle
This hurts to hear, and despite sporting a top 5 offense and defense, the Broncos have issues with turnovers. Let's keep it simple, the Broncos have had at least one turnover in EVERY SINGLE GAME this season. They've had two or more turnovers in six of the 11 games. They range from Manning throwing three interceptions or to McGahee and Demaryious Thomas fumbling all game long.
The same holds true for the defense. The Broncos defense only has two games with two or more turnovers created and two games without turnovers, one was against a horrible Oakland team. Now I've touched on this topic before, and it doesn't make the defense bad, it doesn't, but the Buccaneers have the better defense in terms of creating turnovers.
Josh Freeman is the 7th ranked quarterback in interception percentage and doesn't turn the ball over, despite being inaccurate, similar to Donovan McNabb. The same holds true for the rest of the offense, their team is ranked 6th in total turnovers with only 11 on the season. The Bucs have also had five games with no turnovers.
... And Still Win the Game
While it is true the Broncos are likely to lose the turnover battle, because of how the team is built, losing the turnover battle isn't a death sentence for the Broncos. While it is true the Broncos have only won the turnover battle four times, they have a record of 2-2 in those games. That means that while the Broncos tend to lose that battle, they still win anyways.
In the games where the Broncos tied or lost the turnover battle they are 6-1. In the end, while it is nice to win the turnover battle (and in most cases it decides game) the Broncos don't rely on turnovers to win.
Don't Be Surprised If... Josh Freeman Attacks the Linebackers With His Legs
The Broncos have been able to contain mobile quarterbacks this season, shutting down Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton, but Freeman may test that. Because of the balance the Bucs have on offense, and being able to run such a good offense, this may present issues.
The Bucs are one of the best deep passing teams in the NFL, and because of that don't expect much safety help along the line. Fox and Del Rio will know they need to keep safety help to try and contain Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Along with Dallas Clark and Tiquan Underwood, expect DJ Williams and Wesley Woodyard to be occupied in man or zone coverage. Since Von Miller rarely spends time in the middle, either as a pass rusher or as a containment for the edge, and he's too valuable to spend as a spy for the QB. With the linebackers and safeties occupied with the dynamic passing game, or containing Doug Martin and LeGarrrette Blount, that makes way for a deadly mobile quarterback.
Now let's be clear, Freeman is no Newton, but last season he had four rushing touchdowns and 238 rushing yards. And unless the Broncos are smart enough to keep a spy in, the Bucs would be smart to use Freeman's size (6'6" and 240 pounds) and speed when the pocket breaks to run it. Oh and keep in mind the Broncos pressure is almost exclusively outside based, the Broncos defense tends to leave a huge opening in the middle of the pocket.
As I said, these aren't locks, rather when we look at the history these are the conclusions we can draw. Reasonable expectations are important, that way we won't as easily be surprised, either for good or bad. The Broncos can win this game, but it may not be the way some fans think.