Just another game?
Usually NFL players and coaches downplay the impact of a regular season game, reminding everyone it's just one week in the 16-game season. And while there's still plenty of that going around, it's nice to hear some players are taking a heightened interest this week.
"You don’t forget what happened and also, you set the standard by playing against the Super Bowl [champions]," defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "Obviously we still have a bad taste in our mouths from the Super Bowl, but it’s a new season and we want to get back to that point and obviously win it. But playing against the team that won the Super Bowl and actually having a chance at a rematch really will show how far we came as a team and if we improved or not."
Said quarterback Peyton Manning, "I think naturally you're motivated anytime you play a team that beat you last year. Being motivated, or being mad doesn't mean anything if you don't go out there and execute and do your job."
The Broncos will start 13 new starters compared to last February (not counting position changes), an indication of how much this team has changed in that time. Denver's Week 3 matchup will help tell us if those changes were for the better.
QB Russell Wilson. I had an interesting debate with Twitter the other day - yes, all of Twitter, when I claimed that Russell Wilson will be the best QB the Broncos have faced so far in 2014. Immediately Twitter replied to me about my seemingly inane oversight of Andrew Luck (and don't pretend you didn't too, I know you did). But it wasn't an oversight. I think Wilson is a better QB right now than Andrew Luck.
Andrew Luck passer ratings: 76.5 (2012), 87.0 (2013), 85.5 (2014) Russell Wilson passer ratings: 100.0 (2012), 101.2 (2013), 114.7 (2014)— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) September 16, 2014
Stats don't tell the whole story. Luck runs a different system than Wilson. The Seahawks have done a terrific job maximizing his role as "game manager" (which is a term I think undermines Wilson's value, severely). I recognize all of those things. But Wilson is dangerous and a weapon for the Seahawks himself. He can hit the deep ball and beat you with his legs and doesn't make mistakes. That's a terrible, terrific combination. And he's off to a fine start in 2014 with no interceptions and passer ratings in the 110's.
CB Richard Sherman. Was Sherman "exposed" last Sunday? He didn't play terribly. He just didn't have his usual shutdown game. And he didn't talk to the media about it afterward, which garnered more attention to his performance than it otherwise would have gotten. He allowed five catches for 64 yards; to compare, both Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. have allowed fewer yards so far in 2014. So it wasn't his best game, and Keenan Allen certainly juked him out of his shorts, but we're not piling on. Simply pointing out: hey, maybe Peyton can beat this guy.
Matchup to Watch
Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril vs. Ryan Clady and Chris Clark. In the game of football, it doesn't get any better than this. Bennett and Avril are beastly, and were far too much for Clark and Orlando Franklin to handle during the Super Bowl. The Broncos will hope Clady's return will offset some of the damage, but I also wouldn't be surprised to see the Broncos continue to utilize two tight-end sets to help protect Peyton Manning against these two. Avril and Bennett have combined for 3 sacks and 14 hurries already this year, while Clady and Clark have allowed 0 sacks and 2 hurries, according to ProFootballFocus.com. This is strength vs. strength at its finest and most important.
As far as regular season games go.