It has been a few years since the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks faced off on the gridiron, but the old AFC West rival is still alive and well — and without question, this year’s season opener presents the opportunity for the Broncos to get revenge against a team who has dealt them a duo of heartbreaks in their past two meetings.
In September of 2014, the Broncos were able to erase a twelve-point fourth quarter deficit at CenturyLink Field and send the game into overtime. Unfortunately, the team went on to lose 26-20 after Marshawn Lynched scampered for a touchdown early on in extra time. Just seven months earlier, fans were excited and perhaps overconfident at the prospect of their beloved franchise securing their third Lombardi Trophy. But the opening snap that sailed over Peyton Manning’s head was symbolic of the epic the bed-shitting the Broncos would embark upon on their way to yet another Super Bowl shellacking.
That devastating game is certainly one of the franchise’s darkest memories — and one that will forever be ingrained in the minds of Broncos Country.
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Though it’s safe to say Seahawks fans share the same ill-will toward the Broncos as we do toward them and I don’t blame them one bit. Before their last two victories, the Seahawks had lost 12 out of the past 15 meetings against Denver dating back to 1996. Doling out losses to Seattle is something Broncos Country has come to expect. In head-to-head battle, the Broncos reign supreme with a 34-21 series lead.
But that was then and this is now. While I admire the success the Pete Carroll led Seahawks have had in his tenure as head coach, there is no doubt this year’s incarnation is a far cry from superior teams fielded in the past.
The Legion of Boom is no longer. Richard Sherman is in San Francisco, Kam Chancellor retired, Byron Maxwell is on injured reserve and Earl Thomas’ status for Sunday’s game is tenuous at best after an extensive holdout. Defensive linemen Sheldon Richardson, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, all of whom gave the Broncos’ offensive line fits in Super Bowl 48 are elsewhere. K.J. Wright remains, but will be inactive for the season opener due to a knee injury. It appears that the last man standing from their vaunted Super Bowl defense is Bobby Wagner, but he can’t do everything out there.
Nevertheless, Russell Wilson is still the heart and soul of their offense and is coming off a tremendous 2017 campaign. Without question, the major key to victory will be containing him. However, with a questionable offensive line and mediocre at best line-up of skill position players around him — I’m not too concern about the Broncos’ ability to start of the season with a big win at home.
Keys to the Game
Establishing the running game, controlling the clock
It’s no secret that both Denver and Seattle would like to control the pace of the game by establishing a sound rushing attack. The Broncos have Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker and Phillip Lindsay as a trio that shows a lot of promise, but the same can be said for the young duo of Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny — who are both tough runners and hard to bring down on initial contact. Whatever team establishes themselves first on the ground will have a great chance of winning the game. Both quarterbacks thrive on play action, but in order for that to be successful, you have to move the chains with the rushing attack.
Denver’s Secondary vs. Seattle’s Receiving Corps
The Broncos’ secondary has a handful of new additions including Traimane Brock, Adam Jones and rookie Isaac Yiadom — but Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby are still the heart of the Denver secondary. Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett are the Seahawks’ top receivers, but former Denver wideout Brandon Marshall is their third receiver and shouldn’t be discounted as a threat. I’m comfortably with Harris Jr. and Roby locking down their top two options, but am concerned and interested to see how Denver combats Marshall. I believe he could be an underrated X-Factor for their offense and the defense needs to have a sound game plan that keeps him in check, even if he isn’t the same elite receiver he used to be.
Turn up the heat on Russell Wilson
It’s hard to believe this is Wilson’s seventh season in the National Football League, but it is — and it seems like each and every year he seems to get better and has no shortage of incredible plays that make your jaws drop. Inside the pocket or outside the pocket, Wilson is one of the most accurate passers in the league and doesn’t make many mistakes. If you let him run around or give him too much time, he is going to make you pay.
In order to limit his effectiveness, the Broncos’ pass rush will need to do better than they have in the last two meetings and get after him. Luckily, the team has a plethora of sack artists and an improved defensive line that should help in that regard. I expect Von Miller and Bradley Chubb to have good games, and don’t be surprised if DeMarcus Walker provides a significant boost in certain packages when he is kicked inside to get after Wilson.
Even though the Seahawks aren’t the top-tier foe the Broncos have faced in recent memory, they are still a formidable team that needs to be taken seriously. If Denver is able to keep Wilson at bay and establish a ground game offensively, I expect good things to happen. Neither are an easy task, but with the vast improvements the franchise has made on both sides of the ball, I believe they have what it takes to earn themselves a hard-fought victory in the season opener. I think Case Keenum will perform well and believe the offense will start off hot against a Seattle defense that is a shell of what it used to be.
Broncos 30, Seahawks 23.