We're all pretty stoked to have real, actual football to talk about again and I'm definitely not an exception. While others have hit the game preview and a couple of injury updates (1 and 2), we've yet get some analysis going.
So here I am with an itch to blog and lots of good ideas / concerns about our tough week 1 match up.
First off, let me share with Broncos Country this: I do not like the Baltimore Ravens, but I respect the hell out of their organization. Their management and coaching I consider elite level in the NFL and that is high praise from me. They draft well, they develop players very well, they scheme to their player's strengths, and they have really good game-day coaching.
There are times where they get caught with their fly down and underoos flapping in the wind, but those times are rare. When you play the Ravens, you expect a physical football game where you better bring your "A" game, because you are going to get theirs every week. They have the kind of consistent success that I dig...the kind of success our franchise has been known for as well in the time that I've been a fan.
Broncos Offense vs Ravens Defense
In the trenches
I both love and hate that we face the Ravens in week 1. I love it because we're going to find out a lot about our offensive line in a real hurry. I hate it because we've got some serious youth on our line. We're starting a rookie in Ty Sambrailo at LT and a 2nd year player in Matt Paradis at C. These two guys are going to get pushed to the limit against some serious talent from the front 7 of Baltimore.
The Ravens seem likely to have Timmy Jernigan in as well as Brandon Williams at NT who are both very talented linemen. Chris Canty also brings it well and then you have Elvis Dumervil, Courtney Upshaw, and Terrell Suggs at OLB. That front is impressive. Look for us to lose some battles there. Look for a few sacks to be had and some TFL on our running backs.
The thing I'm looking for is how many battles can the Denver line win to make some decent plays for our side? Can we get some 5-10 yard runs on them here and there? Can we hold the line for 2.5 seconds so that Manning has a shot down the field?
The running game
We're going to learn about our running backs in this game. I think you'll see a lot of C.J. Anderson and a good amount of Ronnie Hillman as well. They are going to need to do two things:
- See the creases. There won't be big ones in all likelihood. But the RBs will need to see them and hit them fast. I like both guy's ability to do this from what I've seen in the preseason.
- Win some battles against Daryl Smith and C.J. Mosley. Either juke, jump-step, or power through the tackles from the ILB of the Ravens. Those are the guys that are going to be there. Can you win that battle?
The passing game
Here's where the damage can be done. The Ravens have some guys I like in their secondary (Jimmy Smith and Kendrick Lewis come to mind), but I don't see the kind of talent overall to slow down our passing attack. The only worry we have here is the pass rush, which is a VERY big threat.
That being said, Peyton Manning with 2.5 seconds should be able to keep moving the ball and take some shots down field. We've got Emmanuel Sanders back. We also have some guys other than DT that look ready to take on the 3rd and 4th DBs and make them look silly in Andre Caldwell and Jordan Norwood judging from what we've seen in the preseason.
I like our passing offense for 300+ yards in this game. Sure, I am a big believer in the running game Gary Kubiak loves, but to my eyes, the match-up dictates that we win this one more through the air. Peyton Manning has a history of shredding this team. There's no reason to try to fit a square peg in a round hole this week.
Broncos Defense vs Ravens Offense
In the trenches
We've been jacked about our front 7 all off season and especially though the preseason. There is a ton to be excited about. We've got Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware rested and ready for a new season. We have Malik Jackson lean, mean, and fighting for contract. We also have Sylvester Williams looking the best he ever has in this new 1 gap system that suits his skills much better than our previous 4-3 under 2 gap scheme.
Our guys outside will have a very solid challenge from Ricky Wagner and Eugene Monroe, though. Both tackles are very good players. Also on the right side, Marshal Yanda is as good as our own Louis Vasquez, if not better.
The match-up I like is Malik Jackson against Kelechi Osemele. If we get a lot of one-on-one with those two, Malik should be able to raise some havok in the backfield. If he can do that, the outsides will get better angles at Joe Flacco, and we'll get good pressure going.
I always like Von Miller as well...even against the best tackles. If they don't double-team him, I'd still worry a bunch about him if I were the Ravens.
The running game
The test for our defense is going to come from this area. Can we stop a very strong running game? The Ravens are going to test that question right off the bat for us.
Many people mistakenly think we have small ILBs in Danny Trevathan and Brandon Marshall. For 3-4 defenses in the NFL, that's hogwash though. They are both fast, physical backers who play the run very very well. The best thing I like about them in this match-up is their ability to diagnose plays. Both of them can hit the runner in the backfield when they are on point.
Justin Forsett is a powerful back who really lit it up last year. Our guys must tackle him with solid technique or he will just shed them and get big yards. Luckily we have Wade Phillips as our DC now, so tackling technique isn't a big worry for me. We even have corners who can tackle.
The passing game
I love our match ups in the passing game on the outside. I expect to see Chris Harris Jr. cover Steve Smith and show the NFL how to shut Smith down. If that gets too physical and the refs let Smith get away with OPI, we'll switch Talib to that side and let them go at it. Either way, we have a great answer to one helluva wide receiver that is a play maker for the Ravens.
The #2 WR is Kamar Aiken followed by Breshad Perriman. Neither of these guys should be a big problem. A great play call may spring them for a play here or there, but they shouldn't be able to beat our corners with any consistency.
The problem area I see for Denver here is the deep play with our new free safety Darian Stewart. One thing we didn't see in the preseason is Stewart covering the deep pass. That will not go untested against Baltimore. Flacco loves him some deep action or so I've been told. Look for them to test Stewart...especially since Flacco knows the guy inside and out. They went against each other all year last season.
I haven't seen much from our special teams that makes me think they'll be a huge impact on the game. I do like the idea of Emmanuel Sanders getting involved in the return game. He's a guy that can make things happen there. We have yet to see it in action, though.
While I didn't like what I saw from some of our return coverage units, please keep in mind that the preseason probably had a lot of guys who aren't on the team any longer on the units that broke down. We'll get a good test here as well since the Baltimore teams are very well coached on special teams.
Brandon McManus can make a big difference in this game with his leg...and I'll be holding my breath like many of you if and when we line up to kick it.
I don't think either team is going to blow out the other team. I like what we've seen from our defense. I think they can make turnovers happen and give our offense some easy shots at points. Peyton hasn't looked superb to me in the preseason, but we were obviously not running the full offense to me. I saw very little levels concepts in the preseason which is Peyton's bread and butter for instance. I like our passing game to get it done for us if the line can hold up.
Meaningless prediction: Denver 27, Baltimore 24