Minnesota Vikings (2-1)
Denver Broncos (3-0)
The Denver Broncos completed a perfect September, as far as their win/loss record is concerned, beating the Detroit Lions last Sunday night. It was a game that featured many themes consistent with the early part of the season: the Broncos defense remains an impressive unit, combining a stifling approach with the takeaways that have been missing from this team in recent years and the offense, specifically the running game last week, simply has not found its stride.
Denver played a significant portion of its offensive snaps out of the pistol formation and had very good results. Peyton Manning looked more like, well, Peyton Manning and the passing game came alive. The team hit on a few big plays which helped soften up the Lions pass rush (Manning was only sacked once) and gave fans another glimpse of what this unit might be able to do when it gets its head on straight. The touchdown catch by tight end Owen Daniels was a particularly good sign.
Though the game wasn’t closed out until late in the fourth quarter, this was Denver’s most convincing win of the season. On the road against a team that was desperate to win, the Broncos did more than enough to get the W.
Sunday’s game is another tough draw – I guess the majority of games in the NFL are tough draws – as the Minnesota Vikings seem to have rediscovered the key to their success: running Adrian Peterson.
KEY MATCH UP
Denver’s defense will have its hands full with an Adrian Peterson that looked like a back in his prime last week. They will need to swarm to Peterson to get him on the ground and will have to try to limit his big plays. When he gets going, Peterson can dominate a game. If they can take him away from the Vikings’ attack, Teddy Bridgewater will be called upon to win the game versus Denver’s pass rush and solid secondary. If the game goes that way, I love the Broncos’ chances.
With an injury to starting right guard Ty Sambrailo keeping the offensive lineman out of the game, Ryan Harris will flip from the right side of the line to the left. This is the key to the offense side of the ball. If he can protect Manning, the Broncos should be able to move the ball against the Vikings. If he cannot, or if this switch further challenges this unit which has, to put it mildly, not been very good this year, it could spell significant trouble.
I think the Broncos will follow up a pretty complete game versus the Lions with another solid effort against a Vikings team that is not quite ready to come into Denver and beat the Broncos. I think the offense will continue to improve and the defense, which has a very, very high ceiling, will keep Peterson in check and will force Bridgewater into some tough spots and bad decisions. Though they may not walk away with the win, I think Denver will take this one in relatively easy fashion.