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Ultimate Fan Guide - Broncos will win this with a battle in the trenches

It is Season 2 of the Ultimate Fan Guide, and we've got a treat for this first one. Welcome spworldtour to MHR and enjoy his insightful prediction that includes strong play from the young guys and a big, fat W for the Broncos (well, at least a 'W'... and that's all one can really ask for in this league, right?)

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the first regular season version of Ultimate Fan Guide! And for a treat, this first UFG of the 2015-16 season is being handled by a rookie. But don't let the fact that he just joined MHR or that he hails from Washington, D.C., fool you into thinking he doesn't know what he's saying because you would be way off.

Spworldtour knows his Broncos as well as his beer, so grab a Fat Tire and join us as we preview what is no doubt going to be an exciting first Denver Broncos game of the regular season (but, shhhhh, don't make a big deal about it because spworldtour is a little superstitious about that!)

Denver v. Baltimore

MHR - There are a lot of interesting storylines as we start off the regular season - new head coach, new coordinators, a 3-4 defense, a ZBS (or ZBS hybrid) offense, an old(er) Peyton Manning, an o-line with a rookie but two Pro Bowlers...Which of these is going to be the most interesting to watch throughout the season? And which gives you the most concern?

spworldtour - I think the ZBS hybrid offense will be the most interesting to watch this season. Peyton is famous for his ability to read a defense and make the right change. His relationship with Kubiak will be tested as he changes the play. That said, we're featuring a run hybrid offense. So can Peyton call the right hole when he's under center?

Most concern? O-Line. Everyone has been talking all pre-season about the rookies. So we went out and got another Pro-Bowler. But the group is new, with little practice in the scheme. It's going to take time for the O-line to gel, and if Peyton gets hurt too badly while that happens, our Super Bowl chance goes out the window. (Yes, I know we have Brock, and I'm excited about him, but he's not yet Super Bowl-caliber)

MHR - Although we all know that preseason records don't matter, what did you learn from the preseason games that has you excited or worried (or both) about the 2015-16 Broncos?

This will be a trench battle. Dumerville and Suggs are a great rushing tandem, so Peyton will have to keep his passes shorter. I expect a lot of 3rd-and-3s in this game.   -spworldtour

spworldtour - Preseason showed us a few things. Offensively they were mostly disappointments. Weak communication in the new scheme, missed timings and missed blocks. Defensively we saw a dominant pass rush and corners. This means EVERYONE is going to be running on us. If teams can establish the early run game, we'll have to reduce our ability to blitz while we pull the linebackers in to stop the runs. This puts more pressure and Chris Harris and Aqib Talib to play man. If this happens often enough, the corners will get burned and that's 7.

MHR - The last time the Broncos and Ravens met, Peyton Manning and Co. sought revenge against the team that had kicked them out of the playoffs, scoring 7 touchdowns on the way to a 49-27 beatdown. Do you expect that same kind of offensive massacre or a tougher battle in the trenches?

spworldtour - This will be a trench battle. Peyton has to keep his passes shorter. Elvis Dumerville and Terrelle Suggs are a GREAT (if aging) rushing tandem, and passes will have to be short and fast to prevent the sack. (In particular with the question marks on our O-line)  Then we talk about our run game. We have good RBs, but again, until the O-line is in sync, creating a hole will be more difficult, limiting our runs to three yards. I'd expect to see a lot of 3rd-and-3s in this game.

MHR - Owen Daniels was had the third-highest number of receiving yards last year as a Ravens tight end. Now that he's on the Broncos - and working with Peyton Manning - what kind of offensive production do you think we'll see from him?

spworldtour - I'd say Daniels is the wild card in this game. I think his ability to catch the short, over-the-middle pass is what keeps Suggs and Dumerville off of Peyton. Every time a linebacker has to line up against Daniels, that leaves us with a 3- or 4-man rush, which I think our O-line can pick up.

MHR - Obviously the balance of pass versus run was a big topic in the offseason and the preseason. What are you expecting scheme-wise from Kubiak and Manning this weekend?

spworldtour - Given that it's Kubiak's play calling, with Peyton's on the spot changes, I'm going to predict the first game will be 60/40 pass vs run. Why? Because I think Peyton will default to keeping the play in his hands when he's changing a play at the line. By mid-season, I think he and Kubiak will have a better feel for one another, and we'll get closer to the 50/50 split Kubiak is looking for, but until that has a chance to come together, I think Peyton will default to a passing audible rather than a running one.

MHR - How do you think a young offensive line with a brand new player (Evan Mathis) is going to perform against that traditionally tough Ravens defense?

spworldtour - Mediocre. We're too new, with little chemistry. The Ravens have one of the best front seven in the game and will look to dominate the line of scrimmage from the first play. Suggs and Dumerville will bring the heat on any third-and-long plays, forcing Manning to rely on the wide receivers to break a tackle and pick up the last three yards.

MHR - What offensive stat would you like to see be awesome for the Broncos in this game - and why is that one the most important?

spworldtour - C.J. Anderson with 4.5 yards/carry because it will force defenses to put another man in the box. When the "talking heads" talk about the Broncos, it's all about Manning and his age and that he can't feel his fingers. I don't care about that. They matter, and come the end of the season it may well be the difference between a ring or not. However, for this game, age is not the factor. It's shoring up our main offensive weakness and forcing the opposing defense to have to deal with an offense with two threats rather than one.

MHR - Which player do you expect to stand out from the Broncos offense this Sunday?

spworldtour - Sanders. He's got the best match-ups. The Ravens have a rough front seven, but their cornerbacks and safeties are weak. I'd expect to see the five-and-out routes to put serious hurt on the Ravens.

MHR - All offseason, players have been raving about the Wade Phillips' 3-4 defense, and   we saw some dominance in the preseason with 20 sacks. What is your prediction for this defense throughout the season once real games start?

spworldtour - I'm expecting great things from our pass rush. I'd anticipate 10-15 sacks on both Dumerville 2.0 (er, I mean DeMarcus Ware) and Von Miller. Shane Ray and Malik Jackson will each be in the 8-10 range by the end of the year. The big question mark is, can we stop a REAL run game?  Say what you will about Pot Roast, but he could handle a double team on the rush. We don't really have that any more. That will force the inside backers to pick up a lot of the load on rushes.

MHR - The Ravens discovered a diamond in the rough last year with running back Justin Forsett. Do you think the Broncos defense can hold him, and what is the key to doing that?

spworldtour - Forsett is good. He'll have 100+ yards this game. To get him under that would take Harris and Talib winning man-to-man matchups. If Broncos win the first 10 man-to-man match-ups that will force Baltimore to rely on Forsett, and then we can put 7 in the box.

Bruton is simply not a Ward. This is where Forsett will be running all day.   -spworldtour

MHR - T.J. Ward is suspended one game and Derek Wolfe four. How big of an impact will their losses be in this game against the Ravens? Will Bruton be a solid stand-in for Ward?

spworldtour - Nope. Bruton is simply not a Ward. As stated earlier, this is where Forsett will be running all day long.

MHR - Many have said if there is a weakness on this defense to exploit, it would be hitting the middle and attacking Sly Williams and Darius Kilgo. Do you agree this is the weakest spot on the D? And does that mean it's a weakness?

spworldtour - Yes, this is clearly the weakest part of our D. Is it a weakness? Yes. You can't substitute a rookie for Pot Roast and expect it to be perfect on the first game. That said, it's not a flawed defense, just a weakness that will require some double-teaming to stuff the middle.

MHR - What stellar defensive stat for the Broncos are you hoping (planning) to see?

spworldtour - Ware 1 sack, Ray 1 sack, Miller 1 sack, Jackson 1 sack, CHJ 2 INTs and Talib 1 INT.

This is what is going to win our games. We have the pass rush; we have the cornerbacks, but our turnover ratio is marginal. This is the year - and in particular this game - is where we need to turn that around. If Joe Flacco gets rattled, this game is over. If he starts worrying that every time he drops back to pass he's going to get hit or throw an INT, he'll freeze up. It's always been his weakness. He'll get erratic, and we want to exploit that.

MHR - Which defensive player will stand out for the Broncos this weekend?

spworldtour - Shaquil Barrett, because "no one expects the Spanish Inquisition!"  But seriously, when he's on the field people will not be looking for amazing plays from him. He's going to get overlooked and that will allow him to be amazingly disruptive. You line up and you see Ware and Miller, and Flacco will point them out and make certain someone has them. But Barrett?  They'll breathe a sigh of relief, look the other way and down Flacco will go.

MHR - How important of a factor do you think Special Teams will play in this game and did it improve enough over the preseason to convince you it is ok?

spworldtour - Impact will be ... acceptable. I anticipate the difference in our special teams package will give Baltimore 7 free points. As for improvement?  None. If anything I'd say our special teams is worse this year than last year, or the year before.

MHR - Emmanuel Sanders has said he is fine catching punts on special teams. What do you think of putting the No. 2 receiver in that position?

spworldtour - Ugh. So lame. Have you seen some of the hits punt returners take?

Is that what you want Sanders to take every week? I'm clear we don't have anyone else, but it still sucks.

Predictions

Stats for Manning?

20/30, 300 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT

Number of yards rushing for Anderson?

105/1 TD

Which receiver gets the most yards?

Demaryius Thomas, 5/75/0

Emmanuel Sanders, 7/120/1

Cody Latimer, 2/20/0

C.J. Anderson, 3/40/0

Owen Daniels, 3/45/1

Number of sacks to Manning? 3

Number of sacks on Joe Flacco? 5

Which player gets the most sacks for the Broncos?

Shaquil Barrett

DT/DE/DB with the most tackles?

I'm going to go with Kenny Anunike because I like to think our rookies are going to step up (*editor's note: spworldtour chose Anunike before news that he is unlikely to play this week due to injury).

Number of penalties on the Broncos offense/defense?

11/80 yds (too many rookies, we're going to take stupid play penalties)

Number of field goals by Brandon McManus/longest?

2/3 55 yards

Final Score?

26-20 Denver (And before you ask, we're going to miss an extra point. People aren't going to be prepared for the new longer extra points, and it will cost numerous teams points this first game)

The Favorites

Favorite Broncos game EVER that you've watched? Oh, the Drive. It's trite, but I was young and impressionable and come backs are amazingly fun to watch.

*editor's note: Never be apologetic about choosing The Drive. We all love it. And we always want an excuse to watch it again:

Worst loss ever? I was small, it was Monday Night Football on Halloween night and the Broncos lost to the Raiders while I was waiting on my dad to take me out for trick-or-treating. I remember this game. It sucked. But I've looked on the Googles, and it doesn't exist. I can't find it anywhere. But there was a game. We lost to the Raiders. Oh well, children don't really remember things all that well.

Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Peyton...because I love finesse. It's cool to be the fastest, or the strongest or the toughest, but I'll take the thinker every time.

Favorite Broncos player of all time? Rod Smith or Champ Bailey. Rod Smith because he was everything you want a receiver to be. He played for the ball club. He blocked, he caught and he never made a fuss about it. Champ because he was elite, and he elevated the people around him.

Favorite thing to eat/drink while watching a game? Fat Tire. Barring that, a nice red... head. :D

Superstitions on game day?

Don't get excited about it. It's very important that I don't make a big deal about a game. No getting my friends together, no going to a sports bar. The more excited I am to watch a game, the more likely it is to go badly.

T/F - Mile High Magic is real? Sadly, false. Ever since Pat Bowlen sold the name of the stadium, the magic evaporated. (Can you tell I'm still bitter about this?)

How did you become a Broncos fan? Church of the Orange and Blue. My dad comes from a family of 12. Every family holiday (and there were a lot of them while I was growing up), we'd go out to my grandma's front yard and play touch football. Then pile inside to watch the Broncos. And honestly, who isn't going to love watching John Elway come from behind over and over again? It makes for good TV.