It is finally here, Broncos Country - real football that counts.
And we get to start it off on Monday Night Football against a division rival. How awesome is that?
It’s awesome, trust me.
So awesome, in fact, that it deserves Samuel L. Jackson’s “Broncos-Raiders Monday Night Football” monologue from 2003 - arguably one of the greatest NFL intros of all time:
Do you like to really hate someone?
I mean, really hate - with a passion, a fury, a vengeance?
These guys do - the Raiders and Broncos.
They can’t stand each other. Like good hates evil.
As if that isn’t enough to get you super excited about the Week 1 game, we’ve got Ultimate Fan Guide back to get you pumped. And in honor of the first game of the season, a new coach and a prime time viewing, we’ve got two fans here to help - a rookie and a veteran, of course.
Thanks to Denver_guy for joining in the fun and to kingbronco58 (who I got to meet two years ago at the Broncos-Raiders game in Denver!) for being an Ultimate Fan a third time - you guys rock!
Now let’s talk about how the Broncos are going to be 1-0 by Tuesday morning.
Week 1: Broncos at Raiders on Monday Night Football
MHR - Before we get into the Raiders specifically, what is your overall “mood” about this team heading into a new season?
Denver_guy: My overall mood is “wait and see.” Admittedly this is the least excited I’ve been for the start of the season, but that could be due to it being 100 degrees in September, and it just doesn’t feel like football season yet.
kingbronco58: I am cautiously optimistic. Vic Fangio was the only head coaching candidate to even get me a bit excited this offseason, and I am excited to see how he does in his first game. There have been a lot of moving pieces on the offensive side of the ball, headlined by Rich Scangerello and Joe Flacco. I think overall the team has improved from last year.
MHR - Coach Fangio called Josh Jacobs a “slasher” of a back, a guy who can cut it back or ram it in there and who is hard to tackle in the open field. Which Broncos defenders are going to need to be most alert at stopping him? And does our ILB situation concern you given their running back’s strengths?
kingbronco58: Derek Wolfe, Shelby Harris, and Adam Gotsis need to do a good job defending their gaps. Chubb and Miller need to be sure to not only focus on rushing the passer but also defending the run. With Antonio Brown out of Oakland, the raiders gameplan should be expected to be very one dimensional. The injuries at MLB are a huge concern due to its importance in defending the run. I would not be surprised to see the Safeties sneak into the box throughout the game to help out on the run defense.
MHR - Joe Flacco has had only a few snaps in the preseason games, and he’s only had a few of his top weapons to work with during those games. What do you expect to see from Flacco this game? What do you hope to see?
Denver_guy: I expect to see an efficient offense that is capable of scoring a few touchdowns. I hope to see Denver score at least 10 points on their first two drives.
MHR - The Broncos’ tight end situation is still fluid, but presumably Noah Fant and Jeff Heuerman will be ready to go. How much do you expect Flacco to rely on his favorite position even though neither player has been in the line up all that much the past few weeks?
kingbronco58: I expect Flacco to continue his trend of targeting the TE position heavily. I don’t think we see a monster game from either Heuerman or Fant on Monday night, but I think they get 10-15 targets combined. I expect Troy Fumagalli to get some looks as well he looked good throughout the preseason.
MHR - Emmanuel Sanders looked like absolute money in his few plays during preseason. What do you expect from him Monday night, and what do you expect all season? Will he continue to be our third- and fourth-down savior?
Denver_guy: I thought Sanders looked to be favoring his foot and I’m concerned that he could over compensate and injure his other leg. That said, I expect him to take coverage away from Sutton and free up some big plays. I’d prefer they throw him the ball on first and second so not to need to get to third and fourth. On the season I expect 800-plus yards and 7 or more touchdowns from No. 10.
MHR - What kind of role are you anticipating for Phillip Lindsay this season? He ended up being the bell cow last year due to Freeman’s ankle injury, but Scangarello is likely to rely on both more evenly. Given his love of pass-catching running backs, who will take the lead?
kingbronco58: I have been a huge believer in Phillip Lindsay since he was CU’s only weapon. I think Lindsay has the advantage, if Scangarello truly prefers having a pass-catching back. He has pretty solid hands, and if he has any open space, anything can happen with the ball in his hands. I think the running-back-by-committee approach will be heavily featured especially early in the season until one is able to separate from the pack.
MHR - On defense, Von Miller and Bradley Chubb seem unstoppable. But Kolton Miller and Trent Brown are a formidable pair to go up against. How often do you anticipate either Von or Chubb getting to the QB in this game?
Denver_guy: Depends on the coverage. If Denver plays soft zone like last season, then Carr completes 20 passes for 150 yards and no sacks or turnovers. If they make Carr hold the ball with press or cover 2, then I expect Chubb to eat Kolton’s lunch. The Raiders know Brown can’t block Von for more than two seconds, so I expect him to have a lot of help.
MHR - The Broncos’ secondary does not have to contend with Antonio Brown (yet) but will it have enough to worry about with Tyrell Williams (plus Jacobs and Waller)?
kingbronco58: Unfortunately we no longer get to see a great wide receiver try to take on a great cornerback. But I think Harris matches up very well with Tyrell Williams. And hopefully Fangio is able to adjust his game plan to focus on Josh Jacobs and Darren Waller as well.
MHR - With all the focus on Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and Chris Harris Jr., one guy who gets overlooked but had an outstanding preseason is Shelby Harris. He’ll be playing his former team that cut him...how much of an impact do you expect from him?
Denver_guy: I have been leery about Shelby holding up against the run because he’s not the biggest guy, but if he can disrupt the run and put pressure on Carr, then Denver’s defense will score more points than the Raiders’ offense. Shelby can ball but can he ball for 40-50 snaps? That’s one of the things I’m excited to find out.
MHR - The defense has looked good all preseason, and there is a lot of anticipation over “Vic Fangio’s D” making its season debut. What are you most excited about and what has you worried?
kingbronco58: I am most excited to see two big things. First how does the defense disguise coverages and blitzes? During the Joseph era, the defense was extremely predictable and never forced an offense to adjust. Second I am looking to see the different places Chubb and Miller line up. Fangio lined Mack up at different positions in different situations last season. I think Chubb and Miller could be looking to break some records if they can get into favorable pass-rushing situations. I am most worried about our MLB core and our ability to cover tight ends. Tight ends have torched us over the last few years. I will certainly be watching to see what Fangio does to prevent Darren Waller from running over us. The MLB has been depleted by injuries, and may be a cause of concern on Monday night.
MHR - Special teams has been a problem for a long time really and didn’t seem to get much better in preseason. How confident are you in Dionte Spencer and Devontae Booker as the primary returners back there?
Denver_guy: There are so many moving parts it’s hard to say. If the offense can score, then I just want the return team to not fumble. If they can’t score, I hope the new guy can bring the juice Denver was supposed to get a couple drafts ago. How will they do? Like I always say, hope is not a strategy….
MHR - How important to the team (and possibly fans) is it that the Broncos win this first game...especially since it’s Fangio’s debut and is against an AFC rival?
kingbronco58: It is extremely important that Fangio picks up a win in his debut. A win sets the tone for the rest of the season and shows that Fangio is helping the team head in the right direction. Getting a win, and a tone-setting win will also help the fan base gain more confidence in the direction the franchise is taking. But more importantly, how awesome would it be to humiliate the Raiders in their last opening game in Oakland?
MHR - What is your all-time favorite game between the Raiders and Broncos?
Denver_guy: Chris Harris Jr. picking off Carr for the score. The game was boring and the pass was to CHJ, but it was my birthday and it went from unhappy to fantastic in one odd play.
kingbronco58: I would have to say my all-time favorite matchup against the Raiders was watching the brawl between Aqib Talib and Michael Crabtree. It was an entertaining game, and definitely added more intrigue as the game went on.
Predictions - Denver_guy
Stats for Joe Flacco? 25 of 35, 270 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 int.
Stats for each Broncos RB? Freeman 70 yards, 1 rushing score; Lindsay 75 yards rushing, 35 receiving and 1 receiving score.
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? Sanders 80; Sutton 90/1; Hamilton 65; Fant 60.
Longest FG for McManus? 47
Number of sacks to Flacco? 0
Number of sacks to Derek Carr? 5
Broncos player with the most tackles? Simmons, 9 combined.
Who gets the most sacks? Chubb 2.5
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 2ints/ 2 ff/1 fr
How many penalties will the refs get wrong? 0 refs don’t get them wrong.
Final Score? Denver 24-20, Flacco to Sutton with 2 minutes to go.
Predictions - kingbronco58
Stats for Joe Flacco? 19/27 273 yards 2 TDs
Stats for each Broncos RB? Lindsay 17 carries 96 yards 1 TD. Freeman 13 carries 57 yards
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? Sutton 4 catches 75 yards. Sanders 7 catches 104 yards 1 TD. Fant 3 catches 24 yards 1 TD
Longest FG for McManus? 47 yards
Number of sacks to Flacco? 2
Number of sacks to Derek Carr? 4
Broncos player with the most tackles? Justin Simmons
Who gets the most sacks? Chubb
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 1/1/0
How many penalties will the refs get wrong? 6
Final Score? 24-20, Denver wins its last regular season game in Oakland
The Favorites - Denver_guy
Favorite Broncos game EVER? Super bowl 50
Team(s) you hate to lose to the most? Any
Team you love to beat? Patriots
Favorite game this season? Browns
Toughest game (left) on the schedule? All
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Chubb
Favorite Broncos player of all time? Von Miller
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Hollins
Superstitions on game day? Don’t wear jersey
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? As bad as phil Simms is, Dan fouts
Favorite sports cliche? “That’s why they play the game.”
The Favorites - kingbronco58
Favorite Broncos game EVER? 2012 Chargers game where the Broncos overcame the 24 point deficit.
Team(s) you hate to lose to the most? Patriots and Raiders
Team you love to beat? Patriots, and Chefs
Favorite game this season? This one, attending the final game the Broncos play in Oakland
Toughest game (left) on the schedule? Chiefs
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Von Miller
Favorite Broncos player of all time? Peyton Manning, Von Miller
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Dalton Risner
Superstitions on game day? Sitting on the same spot on the couch, moving around if things aren’t going well
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Chris “Now here’s a guy” Collinsworth
Favorite sports cliche? “Do your job.”
How did you become a Broncos’ fan?
Denver_guy: I was born and raised in Denver, but I grew up a 49ers fan. The first football game I watched was the 49ers v. Bengals second Super Bowl and my family was cheering for the Niners - and it stuck. When I was about 24, I said to myself, “You’re from Denver, cheer for Denver.” Ever since then I have.
kingbroncos58: The first Broncos game I ever watched was the 2005 AFC championship loss to the Steelers. I fell in love with the game of football, and the Denver Broncos during the McDaniels era.