In the first NFL preview I was way off. The Falcons demolished the Texans 48-21. This time I hope to do a lot better. I will once again team up with MooreSportsHead to cover the game between the Green Bay Packers and Denver Broncos. Both teams enter the game 6-0 and 1st in their respective divisions. I’ll be giving the preview from Denver’s side and you can check out the coverage of Green Bay here.
Denver is undefeated but their route – they only have one victory by more than 7 points – hasn’t been pretty. To say they’ve struggled on offense is an understatement. In the season opener versus the Baltimore Ravens, Denver’s offense only managed 219 total yards in the 19-13 win. Peyton Manning was nothing like himself while passing for only 175 yards and being sacked 4 times. The run game was nonexistent and everybody on the offensive side looked rusty in new head coach Gary Kubiak’s system. Luckily for the Broncos, the Ravens weren’t much better. They were held to 173 total yards and only converted 2 third down opportunities. Denver’s only touchdown was scored via an Aqib Talib pick 6. The other 13 points were courtesy of kicker Brandon McManus.
In game 2, Denver traveled to Kansas City to play the Chiefs. They fell behind early after a Jamaal Charles TD and pick 6 by Marcus Peters. Denver’s defense was able to find their footing and started causing problems for KC’s offense. They were able to force 5 turnovers, get 5 sacks, 8 QB hits, and scored the most important TD of the night. Peyton Manning didn’t have a great night completion wise but he was able to connect when needed. Manning threw 3 TDs – 2 of them to Emmanuel Sanders – after the early pick 6. Late in the 4th quarter Manning was able to connect with Demaryius Thomas on crucial pass plays to set up a game tying TD to Sanders. Both WRs finished with 8 catches (Thomas with 116 yards and Sanders with 87 yards). Bradley Roby scored the game winning TD on the following possession. Roby scooped up a Jamaal Charles fumble and returned it 21 yards for the 31-24 win.
Next the Broncos traveled to Detroit to play the Lions. Manning had his best passing game of the early season. He went 31/42 for 324 yards and 2 TDs. He was only sacked once and threw 1 interception. The run game was a none factor once again. Denver entered the 4th quarter only up 14-12. Thanks to a field goal by McManus and a Manning TD pass to Owen Daniels they were able to pull away for a 24-12 victory. Demaryius Thomas had another solid game with 9 catches, 92 yards and 1 TD. The defense forced 3 more turnovers and sacked Matt Stafford 4 times.
In Game 4 the Vikings visited Denver and put up a good challenge. In the end, Denver was able to win thanks to a 39-yard FG by McManus. Peyton had a bad day; he threw 1 TD and 2 interceptions for only 213 yards. Denver’s defense was able to save the day racking up 7 sacks and 1 turnover. The run game finally got on track with Ronnie Hillman gaining 103 yards and 1 TD. Neither team was efficient on 3rd downs with Minnesota going 6-16 and Denver going 2-9. Despite a 48-yard TD, the Broncos were able to hold Adrian Peterson to 81 yards on 16 carries.
Up next for the Broncos was a trip to Oakland. And once again the offense missed the plane. Really both offenses had a subpar afternoon. Neither team cracked 300 total yards of offense and both had multiple turnovers (2 for Denver, 3 for Oakland). Denver’s lone TD was via a 74-yard pick 6 by Chris Harris Jr. This gave Denver a 16-7 lead in the 4th quarter. Sebastian Janikowski was able to make it 16-10 with 50 -yard field goal but the Raiders failed to recover the onside kick that followed. McManus accounted for Denver’s offensive points due to the offense having a 2-13 day on 3rd downs. They were only able to gain 45 yards on the ground. Meanwhile the defense racked up another 4 QB sacks, the TD and turnovers mentioned earlier while holding the Raiders to 65 rushing yards.
Denver’s game to reach 6-0 followed the same script as the 5 before it. TD by the defense, yep. Field goals by McManus (game winner in OT), yep. Turnovers by Peyton Manning (3 to be exact), yep. This game was strange because Denver was able to move the ball to the tune of 442 total yards of offense. The problem was failure to have success on 3rd downs, the 3 INTs – one was returned for a TD – and the inability to score in the Red Zone (0-3). Manning did respond after the pick by Cleveland with a 75-yard TD strike to Emmanuel Sanders. The game could’ve ended in regulation but one of the strangest plays ever happened. Josh McCown had the Browns in Denver’s territory but threw an INT trying to get the ball somewhere. Denver’s defense had 4 sacks once again and held Cleveland to only 298 total yards of offense. McManus missed his first field goal of the season but made up for it by hitting the winner in overtime. A few positives for Denver’s offense were Hillman’s ability to gain 111 yards, no sacks allowed, and the performance from WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas.
Denver has had a lot of luck but they’ve also been great on defense. They currently lead the NFL the in total defense and are giving up only 17 pts/game. The defense has scored 4 TDs off 17 turnovers while also racking up 26 sacks and 2 blocked kicks. Through 6 games, opposing offenses have on converted 31.6% on 3rd downs. A crucial stat to remember on Sunday night is that Green Bay and Denver are tied in the giveaway/takeaway category with +6. Denver has 7 more takeaways but the Packers have 7 less giveaways. All-Pro cornerback Aqib Talib has 3 INT (2 TD) & block kick. DeMarcus Ware’s 4.5 sacks lead the team and 2nd year man Shaquil Barrett has been a pleasant surprise for the team with 3.5 sacks. Malik Jackson also has 3.5 sacks and “the sack master” Von Miller has 3 sacks.
On offense, Peyton leads the way but his numbers aren’t too uplifting. Manning has a 61.6% completion percentage with 1,524 yards, and 7 TDs. He also has 10 INTs and has been sacked 12 times. Offensive line problems and Kubiak’s new offense is a culprit for some of the problems. Better blocking has helped some issues in run the game. Hillman leads the team with 323 yards but the Broncos haven’t gotten much out of CJ Anderson. Former Wisconsin standout Montee Ball was cut after the preseason. Demaryius Thomas leads the team in receiving with 48/527/1 TD but Emmanuel Sanders isn’t far behind with 38/527/3 TD. A serious case can be made that Brandon McManus is the offensive MVP so far. He leads the team in scoring which isn’t unusual but his numbers are off the charts – 16-17 FG (4-5 from 50+) 13-13 on XPs – in a season where kickers are having all types of problems. As a team, Denver is 30th total offense and only avg 23.2 pts/game. They only have 110 first downs only St. Louis has fewer at 88. They’ve committed 47 penalties and their lack of efficiency on 3rd down at 30.2% hasn’t helped at all.
The game on Sunday will be a case of “something must give”. Green Bay’s offense features Aaron Rodgers who has been his usual self for the most part. The Packers offense is top 5 in points/game (averaging 27.2) and right outside the top 10 in yards/game (364.2). Defensively GB is no slouch as they currently sit in the #1 spot ahead of Denver for points allowed (16.8 pts/game). They also rank in the top 15 for yards/game. If Denver wants to win on Sunday and remain undefeated, they will have to get pressure on Rodgers and contain the GB running backs. The Pack is averaging 127.3 rush yards/game and that’s with Eddie Lacy still trying to find his way. The Broncos must protect the ball on offense and establish the run game. The less time they give Green Bay’s offense the better. Denver’s defense has been steady this season but I think this is the night that the offense gets going. I have the Broncos winning this one 28-21.
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