Posted Tue Sep 15th by Ian Henson
Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels is new at this, not at scouting necessarily, but at being a head coach… He need not be worried, we’re here to help! Instead of covering the entire NFL, what we at The Denver Bronco Talk Blog are doing is covering the NFL that you should care about. Every week, we’ll take a peek ahead and break down all of the opponents the Denver Broncos face this season, giving them full weekly coverage from the first Sunday until the Broncos play them. As fans you will be able to focus on which player/team did what from week-to-week. Heck, you might even look better than McDaniels when the Broncos face off against a team that you’ve been scouting for the last eight weeks.
Week 2 Cleveland Browns
The preseason secrecy over who will be starting at quarterback is over and Brady Quinn is in. Remember that the Browns were rumored to be one of the teams that Denver was interested in trading Jay Cutler to this past off-season. One reason apparently was because Josh McDaniels was interested in coaching Quinn, but for whatever reason this rumor never came to fruition. Now, inevitably whenever a quarterback struggles in Denver this season there will be calls for the Broncos to trade for Derek Anderson.
Quinn did not look incredible against the Minnesota Vikings, in fact he at some points was reminiscent of Cutler when Cutler wasn’t at his best (Sunday Night Football anyone?). He played better than the stat line would indicate; there was a debatable Braylon Edwards shoe string catch that could have gone either way. Defensively the Browns gave 180-yards to Adrian Peterson (and three touchdowns), they were tough on Brett Favre though, shutting him down most of the first half.
When you look down the schedule that Denver will face this season there are the obvious and not so obvious things that teams have in common- here’s a non-obvious one… Special teams: in Cleveland, in San Diego and in Philadelphia, they all have an ability to light up the score board and Joshua Cribbs is doing nothing short of running at Devin Hester’s crown. Cribbs is overshadowed by Hester, but Cribbs may still be deserving of a spot on the top ten return men of all time list. Cribbs had a return for a touchdown against the Vikings (his seventh in his career).
The Browns running game was not impressive, Jamal Lewis had eleven carries for 57-yards, though that is a 5.2 avg. While there is indication that Denver has improved on run defense, look for Lewis to have a big game. One because it will be tough for the Browns to pass on the Broncos and two, just because Lewis has lost a step, he’s not out a career just yet. Expect the new found Broncos pass rush to give Quinn a field day, a giant headache and a couple of sacks. Look for Andre Goodman to continue to look like more of an all star than Champ Bailey and for Bailey to quietly work his way towards another pro bowl.
Week 3 @ Oakland Raiders
Wow! Woooooow. The Raiders looked downright, flat-out, scary at times. There’s only so many top ten picks you can accumulate in drafts, only so many just over the hill, top free agents you can over pay before your team starts to do decently. Oakland beat the daylights out of the San Diego Chargers defensively. Offensively JaMarcus Russell was near terrible, but they ran the ball well with the one-two punch of Darren McFadden/Michael Bush, despite a stellar Chargers run defense.
The Oakland defense managed to take not one, but two San Diego starting offensive linemen out and then just continued to beat down the rest of the team- bully style. Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly and Greg Ellis are no joke, neither is the Raiders secondary, Nnmadi Asomugha is ready to surpass Bailey as the best corner in the NFL any moment (if you don’t already think that he has, you know you trade for him on Madden, shut up). The whole Raiders defense just looked like roided out gang bangers and I’m sure Oakland would be proud that I said that.
I don’t know where we attack, San Diego couldn’t run, where I see the weakness in Oakland’s defense is in the short passes (something we’ll be very used to seeing by week three). We’ve got four to five seconds tops to get the ball off on offense. Defensively, I think if the Broncos can cover (not pressure) the Raiders receivers, Russell will shoot himself in the foot and Denver’s veteran talent at safety and corner will be able to pick off Russell early and often. Have to figure a way to keep him from scrambling out of the pocket and for first downs.
Despite the field goal that gave the Chargers the lead in the fourth, the Raiders probably should have been leading this game the whole time; they had a debated touchdown negated to a field goal early in the game. The Raiders went for it on fourth down and fifteen and hit a grand slam (with a 57-yard pass from Russell to Louis Murphy) just before 2:35 on the clock, Tom Cable is playing for keeps. Wasn’t enough though, veteran poise and a better coaching job ultimately beat the Raiders. Remember those four points that I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph? The Raiders nearly beat the Chargers.
Week 4 Dallas Cowboys
Anyone draft Tony Romo? Put your hand down Shanahan, we’re talking fantasy football here, just kidding. Yeah, Romo looked good. Gone is the headache of Terrell Owens, but as criticism by Emmit Smith pointed out, the Cowboys did nothing this off-season to improve their team. Short of cutting Owens. Romo looked like a superstar though, putting up 328-yards and three touchdowns, with no turnovers.
Here’s what’s intimidating, Romo averaged 22-yards per pass and the shortest amount of yards he threw a touchdown for? 40. Roy Williams finally looked like he deserved what he was traded for and Patrick Crayton continued to display his likeness to well, Roy Williams. A noteworthy stat is that Marion Barber was held to just 76-yards on the ground and the Dallas defense made a forgotten Byron Leftwich look like he should never have been forgotten at all (276-yards, 25 of 41, one td.), Dallas also gave up nearly 200-yards on the ground to Tampa Bay.
Week 5 New England Patriots
Scouting the Monday night game against the Buffalo Bills, the only thing that kept running through my head was- thank science we don’t have to play the Bills. We do unfortunately have to play the Patriots, with Tom Brady. Have to be fair, they didn’t look infallible, they looked vulnerable and I couldn’t tell exactly whether the absence of McDaniels was affecting them. Even Wes Welker looked bad at certain points, what became abundantly clear was that the offenses in Denver and New England are nearly identical.
However, the Patriots are running their offense the way that this offense should be run, which brought an interesting point into my head regarding Brandon Marshall that I’ll get into later in the week. The Bills had the Patriots playing from behind a lot though, punishing Brady after every throw (and he had 53 of them, completing 39 for 378-yards and two touchdowns).
An interesting note to look at is Trent Edwards stat line (who is comparable at this point to Kyle Orton), he had 15 of 25 for 212-yards and two touchdowns (and no, Owens, who had two catches; wasn’t the reason). The Patriots do have time to figure out where their defensive veteran leadership is going to come from before they face the Broncos (which will be a huge game media wise).
Week 6 @ San Diego Chargers
Watching their game against the Raiders, I can tell I’ll still have no problem hating Phillip Rivers, despite the absence of Cutler on the Broncos. They were pounded by the Raiders defensive line and it got to Rivers, the pursuit was relentless and the hits came extra hard. The Chargers weren’t really in the game defensively until late in the fourth quarter, it’s just that the Raiders couldn’t get out of their own way. Even late in the fourth quarter though the Chargers defense blew coverage and gave up a huge touchdown that nearly cost them the game.
LaDainian Tomlinson didn’t do himself any favors by still proclaiming himself to be the greatest running back in the NFL, as he went with the rock 13 times for 55-yards and managed a touchdown from the goal-line. Darren Sproles didn’t look great either splitting time at running back, but the Chargers benefited immensely from Sproles returns that gave them great field position. If the Broncos can figure a way not to give up yardage on kickoff returns and punt returns, they may stand a better chance than some thought in the beginning of the season.
Week 8 Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens had trouble handling the Kansas City Chiefs and that’s no lie (despite the final score). The Chiefs sans Matt Cassel, plus Brodie Croyle gave the Ravens a run for their money. Most notably in this game is that sophomore Joe Flacco put the ball up (in a run first Ravens offense) 43 times, completing 26, for 307-yards and three touchdowns. Single-handedly re-surging Derrick Mason’s career in the process.
The Ravens defense was still very good, the Chiefs were able to stay in the game by not turning the ball over.
Week 9 Pittsburgh Steelers
I think that it’s safe to say that the Steelers are the same team as last season, possibly even slightly better. They’re still scary, but speaking of scary the, ‘Madden Curse’ struck again as safety Troy Polamalu went out late in the second quarter. The main story is that neither of Pittsburgh’s first or second string running backs could find any daylight. This may be due to the fact that it’s going to be tough for anyone to find daylight against a still stout Tennessee Titans defense or it may be that Willie Parker and Rashard Mendenhall are still not options at tailback for the Steelers (36 yards on the ground with a 1.6 avg.).
Titans quarterback Kerry Collins lost to the Steelers for the first time in his career, but if we’re going to talk about QB’s we’ve got to address Ben Roethlisberger. He didn’t look great in the beginning, he was sluggish and taking big hits, but he showed superstar ability in the fourth quarter and overtime going 16 of 18. This goes to show that regardless of whether the Steelers are going to be able to run or not, they will be able to pass and this game would not have gone to overtime had Hines Ward not fumbled on the four-yard line, eliminating Pittsburgh’s chances of kicking a game winning field goal.
If Denver can cover Santonio Holmes and Hines Ward then Denver’s offense does have a chance against this defense.
Week 2, who is the best in the NFL? I know that it is ridiculous to guess already, but Power Rankings will definitely change between last week and this week. Let me go ahead and say right now that it would be the Steelers and the New Orleans Saints, though the Saints benefit from being in the NFC. What do you think Nation?