Denver Broncos (2-0)
Detroit Lions (0-2)
The Denver Broncos have emerged as something of a challenge for NFL talking heads. One can see that from how the Broncos have been assessed in Power Polls this week – some polls rank them among the top five teams in the league and some have them closer to the middle of the pack. Surely, it’s difficult to get a solid handle on any team in the league this early in the year, but the Broncos have posed a special problem.
They’ve played well enough to win both of their first two games and, in fact, have done so. In both contests, it was the defense that provided the victories, not the offense, and that fact simultaneously provides reasons for optimism about the remainder of the season and reasons for concern. Is the offense has bad as it’s appeared for about 6 of the 8 quarters the Broncos have played or will it come around? Can the defense continue playing at this level? Will the real Denver Broncos please stand up?
Lost in the hysteria over the Denver offense is the fact that the team has played 2 exceptional defenses out-of-the gate, though Baltimore didn’t look as hot against the Raiders in Week Two as they did against the Broncos in Week One. This week, against the Lions, they get a bit of a break. The Lions are a good defense, but they are having to discover who they are after key off-season losses.
The Lions are 0-2. Matthew Stafford is beaten up a bit and was, at least early in the week, questionable for the game. That’s a bad recipe against Denver’s defensive front. This is their home opener, though, and I don’t know that I would be terribly shocked if Denver lost this one.
Though I think the mini-Bye Week the Broncos are coming off will have helped them get their offensive line issues sorted out and the running game into gear. The Broncos should finish Sunday evening 3-0.
KEY MATCH UP
I don’t know how to say it any differently – until the offensive line pulls itself together, helps produce a 100 yard rushing day and keeps Peyton Manning upright and out of danger, they will be the key match up against whatever team the Broncos play. Again, the 10 days off should have helped in this area. If not… it may be approaching the time to make personnel changes.
The key factor in this game has got to be Chris Harris, jr. and Aqib Talib going up against Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson. if the Broncos’ tandem can limit big plays to the Lions’ star receivers, it could be a long day for the Lions. There’s no reason to think that they cannot. Harris, jr. and Talib are the most underrated corners in the league. Period. They can handle this challenge especially with the dominant Denver pass rush.
Denver won in the most improbable fashion last Thursday night. You don’t get a lot of games like that in an NFL season, though that one was incredibly fun to watch. I doubt it comes down to the last drives on Sunday. I think Denver is going to be able to control the game Sunday. The Broncos should certainly be able to do that on the defensive side of the ball and I remain hopeful that the 10 day break – the extra time in study and practice – can be the catalyst for getting this offense out of the doldrums. The offense has shown it can play at a high level. Sunday is a game when they can show they can do that consistently.
The Lions are a surprise at 0-2. This is their home opener. They could certainly beat the Broncos. I just don’t think they will.
The Broncos go to 3-0 after this one and are looking at a very, very winnable stretch of games leading to the Bye Week.