Week 3 sees us travelling to Detroit for a prime time Sunday night match up with the Lions. This is no break for our team in my eyes. This isn't a gimme. We are going up against a team on the ropes who are going to come out swinging.
There are some very interesting match ups in this game that are going to test out team in ways that neither Kansas City nor Baltimore have been able to do. Let's dig in and break it down No Bull style.
Broncos Offense vs Detroit Defense
In the trenches
Until our line proves otherwise, I'm not confident with any match up we have in the trenches on this side of the ball. Our line has yet to show that they can open up decent lanes for our RBs. They also can't pass block well enough unless Manning is in shotgun so that he can shave a second or so off the play to make them not have to block as long.
Look out in this game for Ezekiel Ansah. He's a young, talented defensive end for the Lions that has been causing havoc in 2015. He's a match up problem for our tackles and plays the run well also with an impressive 5 TFL so far this season.
The running game
The one guy I like in this game is Ronnie Hillman for the Broncos. He's shown for two weeks running that he's on the field a better back than C.J. Anderson. Neither of them look impressive to be fair, but Hillman has a gear that Anderson doesn't and has a great chance to make an impact against Detroit based off of his speed alone.
That very well may not work out though as we've yet to see this offensive run game click with any consistency. How long will we play Kubiak's run based offense this week before we bail to Manning's offense? Is this the week that the line starts winning some battles?
The passing game
Hopefully this area of our offense will show some more success than what we've seen so far. Detroit has a great corner in Darius Slay to watch out for, but that shouldn't be a problem for Manning to avoid...he's never really attacked bad match ups in the past and I doubt we'll need to test Slay very often.
The key here is going to be the accuracy down field. Can Manning hit on some longer passes early on to make the defense back off? If either the run game starts to click (unlikely) or the down field passing starts working, I think our offense will make Broncos Country very happy. Either facet working opens up a lot of opportunity.
I like both Jordon Norwood and Emmanuel Sanders on turf in this game to get open deep. Also, with the additional speed from this, hopefully it will allow them to catch up to Manning's overthrow problem.
Broncos Defense vs Offense
In the trenches
Here's a much happier outlook for the men in orange and blue. I'd take our front 7 over almost any line in the NFL and Detroit isn't a team I'm even remotely worried about slowing down our attacking front. Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware, and Malik Jackson have great match ups here and Detroit can't double them all.
The one caution I'll provide here is that we're going to see an opponent who has more talent at tackle than our previous match ups. Both KC and Baltimore lack some talent at tackle. I still don't think they'll be successful at shutting down both of our edge rushers, but they may make our outside rush look a little slower than what we've seen to date.
The running game
The big worry here that I have is Ameer Abdullah. He's a home-run type of back who can really exploit our style of defense. We saw KC especially blow open some very large runs against us because of over pursuit especially by our edge defenders. If we do this against Abdullah, he will take it to the house.
Outside of the home run ability Detroit has with their rookie, I think they'll have a little success running (which could be said of all of our opponents to date honestly). Our defense is not built to stop the run. We attack. We cause big plays and because of that take a certain level of risk. We'll have ups and downs in the run game and hopefully enough ups to see our defense in some good situations (3rd and long).
The passing game
Even with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, I like our defense here as well mainly because of our pass rushers. I can see Detroit getting some plays here and there, but I like Aqib Talib on Johnson and I like Chris Harris, Jr. on Tate.
The key here is going to be what we get from our safeties. So far, we've seen our safeties hold up mostly well. T.J. Ward scares me so far in man coverage (same as last year), though David Bruton (his back up) has impressed me. Darian Stewart has also impressed, but I still don't think our team has been tested deep much and Detroit will have the motivation and talent to do so.
I don't see a decided advantage for either team here. Both Detroit and Denver have good kickers. Also I see a push for our returners as I think both Golden Tate and Emmanuel Sanders pose a threat in the return game, but both teams have solid coverage units.
I'm not going to say I'm really scared about the Detroit Lions this week, but I can see this game going sideways. They have big play ability on offense that could really expose some weaknesses of our style of defense. If that happens and the offense doesn't click early we could be in for a long day.
I think it is far more likely that we'll see a closer game much like what we've seen from our team so far this year. Our offensive line play is so shaky that I don't see us running up a big lead on Detroit. I think it will come down to the end of the game and we'll have enough to get it done.
Meaningless prediction: Denver 27, Detroit 19