After winning the AFC West and defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the playoffs last season, the Denver Broncos picked up the legendary Peyton Manning this offseason, and expectations are a mile high.
On the back of a 31-3 preseason win against the Chicago Bears, the Broncos have to be feeling good right now.
On the other side of the ball, we have the Seattle Seahawks, who finished 7-9 for the second season in a row in 2011-2012 and continue to face questions about their quarterback situation.
Rookie quarterback Russell Wilson impressed in the Seahawks' 27-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans last week, outplaying offseason acquisition Matt Flynn.
Here's a look at the upcoming preseason matchup between the Broncos and the Seahawks.
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
When: Saturday, August 18 at 9 p.m. ET
Watch: Q13 Fox (Seattle), KUSA-TV (Denver)
Listen: 710 AM ESPN (Seattle), 97.3 KIRO (Seattle), Sirius 113 (Denver), NFL Audio Pass
Betting Line: Broncos -2.5, Over/Under 37.5 (via ScoresAndOdds.com)
What's at Stake?
While the preseason doesn't mean much in terms of wins or losses, it means a whole lot to the youngsters vying for a roster spot or a starting job.
Russell Wilson's performance against the Titans undoubtedly put pressure on Matt Flynn, who will reportedly start on Saturday. The battle in the Seahawks' receiving corps is also important to watch. Former San Francisco 49ers receiver Braylon Edwards made an impact against the Titans last week.
As for the Broncos, Peyton Manning may have the starting spot locked up, but there is quite a battle going on between Caleb Hanie, rookie Brock Osweiler and Adam Weber for the backup spot.
Seahawks Key Injuries (via CBSSports.com)
WR Sidney Rice, Shoulder—OUT (Probable for start of regular season)
TE Zach Miller, Concussion—Questionable
Broncos Key Injuries (via CBSSports.com)
LB Jason Hunter, Triceps—Doubtful for start of regular season
RB Ronnie Hillman, Hamstring—Questionable (Probable for start of regular season)
RB Mario Fannin, Achilles—OUT for season
What They're Saying
With Tarvaris Jackson in danger of being traded and Matt Flynn performing poorly against the Titans, Russell Wilson likes his chances of grabbing the starting gig at quarterback.
Wilson told KJR Seattle, via SportsRadioInterviews.com:
I definitely believe I've moved closer...I know there’s going to be ups and downs, it’s a process like I said, and always in a process there’s ups and downs but as long as I keep moving forward, that’s the key.
In Denver, the Broncos haven't even played two preseason games yet, but they are already getting slammed by injuries.
According to Mike Klis of the Denver Post, starting linebacker Jason Hunter may be lost for the season after surgery on Wednesday, and guard Chris Kuper is expected to miss the first three games of the regular season after the ulna bone in his left forearm broke on Tuesday.
Seahawks Player to Watch: Russell Wilson QB
Despite a tremendous college career, Russell Wilson dropped all the way to the third round of the 2012 NFL draft, primarily because teams had issues with his size (5'11").
That hasn't stopped him from gunning for the starting spot, though. Wilson went 12-of-16 for 124 yards, one touchdown and one interception against the Titans. And he added 59 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
It was largely assumed that offseason acquisition Matt Flynn would be the starter in Seattle this season, but Wilson figures to make it a tough choice for head coach Pete Carroll.
Broncos Player to Watch: Peyton Manning, QB
Is there really any question who the player to watch is for the Broncos?
After the Broncos' miraculous run last season, they acquired a future Hall of Fame quarterback in 11-time Pro Bowler and four-time MVP Peyton Manning.
On the other hand, there are still questions about the 36-year-old's arm strength after four neck surgeries. He has admitted he still has some work to do in rehabbing.
Key Matchup: Broncos Pass Rush vs. Seahawks Offensive Line
The Seahawks gave up 50 sacks last season, fourth most in the NFL.
And it's no secret that the Broncos have a burgeoning defense that racked up 41 sacks last season and collected six against the Bears last week.
Defensive linemen Jeremy Beal and Derek Wolfe each collected two sacks against the Bears, as the Broncos forced two fumbles and added an interception.
Who will win?
Prediction: Broncos 24, Seahawks 17
With Peyton Manning still assimilating into the offense, this likely won't be a blowout, but it's hard to see the Seahawks coming out on top given the Broncos' propensity to cause turnovers.
I think Russell Wilson will get a bit of a wake-up call in Denver, although I also believe he'll show some more promise. Matt Flynn needs to have a big game and show that he's the man for the job.
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