Denver Broncos: Updated Game-by-Game Outlook
Why did the Broncos fall behind early? When will the offense begin to click with Peyton Manning? Is the defense good enough to compete with the good teams?
Looking ahead, the Broncos have plenty of time to build on Peyton Manning's excellent playmaking skills (683 yards and six touchdowns in the last two games) and make a run for the playoffs.
Week 6: @ San Diego Chargers
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When the Broncos travel to Qualcomm Stadium, it's not only an important Monday Night Football game, but also an important AFC West matchup.
In order to beat Philip Rivers and the first-place Chargers, the Broncos need to put points on the board first and fast to keep from playing from behind. Peyton Manning is a great quarterback, but this team is not built to fight from behind week after week.
The Chargers are averaging 311.8 yards per game, but had 427 in their loss against the New Orleans Saints. The Chargers offense is lacking a spark that the Broncos should take advantage of.
Rookie Melvin Ingram received a critical penalty that quickly swung the momentum to the Saints. The Chargers' passing game is also very inefficient, something the Broncos should definitely take advantage of.
Prediction: The Chargers will be coming off a disappointing loss to the Saints and will want redemption. Although the Chargers lost the game, both Ryan Mathews and Robert Meachem had explosive games. They also have the home-field advantage.
If Peyton Manning and the offense can get points on the board quickly, it will take pressure off from having to play from behind in the past three losses. If they aren't able to get points on the board early, it will be a hard uphill battle, something the Broncos likely won't be able to come back from.
Final Score: San Diego 27, Denver 24
Week 8: New Orleans Saints
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After a Week 7 bye, the Denver Broncos will host Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints at Mile High Stadium. The Saints have had a rough start to the season, starting out 1-4 and ranked 28th in the league in rushing yards. The defense isn't much better.
Through Week 5, the Saints defense allowed 2,280 yards. A lot of the Saints' issues could be attributed to their losses due to the bounty scheme and injuries.
Although the defense is struggling, the offense is brilliantly led by Drew Brees, who just broke Johnny Unitas' record of consecutive games with a touchdown pass. The offense is averaging 28.2 points and 402 yards per game.
Prediction: Unless the Saints defense improves by Week 8, Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense will rip the defense apart. If Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas can get a good rhythm with Manning by Week 8, it should be smooth sailing against the suffering Saints defense.
It won't be an easy game, though, as Drew Brees will carry the Saints offense and the Broncos defense may have trouble with Brees. It will be a back-and-forth affair, but the Saints will barely come out on top.
Final Score: New Orleans 34, Denver 31
Week 9: @ Cincinnati Bengals
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Cincinnati and its hot offense had an early three-game win streak before being halted by the Miami Dolphins in Week 5. The problem with the Cincinnati offense is that the line is up and down each week, leaving fans and analysts guessing how they will perform.
If quarterback Andy Dalton is put under pressure, he sulks back and becomes nonexistent. When the Dolphins put pressure on Dalton, he threw two interceptions and overthrew easy targets.
The Bengals defensive line, consisting of the likes of Michael Johnson and Geno Atkins, is responsible for 18 sacks through Week 5. They are also very strong against the run and are great at pressuring the quarterback.
Although the front line is strong, the defensive backfield is weak: something the Denver Broncos should take advantage of often.
Prediction: The Bengals will be feeding off the home crowd. If the red-hot offense from the beginning of the 2012 season shows up, this could be an interesting game of youthful versus veteran quarterbacks. If not, Von Miller could easily pressure Andy Dalton into pulling back and possibly force him into missing targets or throwing interceptions.
Manning's connection with the receivers should be better at this point, and with the weakness of the Bengals defensive backfield, the Broncos offense should run wild.
Final Score: Bengals 17, Broncos 38
Week 10: @ Carolina Panthers
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The Denver Broncos will visit the struggling—and dramatic—Carolina Panthers in Week 10. Cam Newton and the Panthers have a sluggish 1-4 start to the season and are filled with questions about their young quarterback.
Newton has thrown more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (4) and has fumbled five times. After Week 5, he already has as many fumbles as he did the entire 2011 season.
One issue with Newton is that he tries to force big plays and make things happen when he could easily settle for short passes or runs.
Prediction: The Broncos' pressure will get to Newton and he will feel like he needs to make big plays to keep up with Peyton Manning, causing him to throw multiple interceptions. The Broncos defense will also easily read Newton's offense, causing even more pressure.
Peyton Manning's veteran experience and stronger team chemistry will overshadow any red-hot offense Cam Newton may have reignited by Week 10.
Final Score: Broncos 41, Panthers 14
Week 11: San Diego Chargers
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When the Broncos face the Chargers for the second time in Week 11, it will be on their home turf, and the devout Broncos fans will have Mile High rocking for a showdown with their AFC West rival (I'll be there too!!).
This time, the Broncos are clicking on all gears and both the offense and defense are working together under Peyton Manning.
Prediction: The Broncos won't be playing from behind this time around. Peyton Manning will throw multiple long passes and drive the pace of the game from kickoff.
Philip Rivers and the Chargers will answer back quickly, and it will be a back-and-forth, exciting game. Ryan Mathews and Robert Meachem will continue to be a big part of the Chargers offense and give the Broncos trouble, but the defense will make big stops when needed.
Final Score: Denver 31, San Diego 27
Week 12: @ Kansas City Chiefs
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The Kansas City Chiefs have started the season 1-4 and aren't getting any offensive help from one of the worst quarterbacks in the league, Matt Cassel. To make matters worse, he left in the fourth quarter of the Week 5 loss to the Ravens with a head injury.
Backup quarterback, and former Denver Bronco, Brady Quinn is replacing Cassel for the time being—something Chiefs fans have been wanting.
The Chiefs are quickly losing control of their season, and the only way to gain some momentum is to figure out the quarterback situation. A quarterback who throws nine interceptions and five touchdowns is not going to help this team turn around their luck. The Chiefs would be better off giving first-team reps to Brady Quinn.
Prediction: At this point in the season, the Chiefs have probably benched Cassel and have made Quinn the starting quarterback, but Quinn hasn't had any real playing time since 2009. Arrowhead Stadium is typically a hard place to play for division rivals, but it shouldn't take much for the Broncos to rattle the Chiefs offense.
This game will be an easy win for the Broncos, unless they are suffering from injuries at this point in the season.
Final Score: Broncos 45, Chiefs 10
Week 13: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are another team that has had a rough start to the 2012 season, finishing with a 1-3 record through Week 5 (bye week).
The Bucs' biggest problem is the secondary. They rank 30th in total defense because of this weakness. The secondary has allowed too much open space in the backfield, allowing the opposing offense to run wild.
The Bucs also have offensive issues, and many fans want to blame QB Josh Freeman for the problems.
While he has five touchdowns, he ranks 25th in the NFL in passer rating at 75.3 points. The lack of aggressiveness by Freeman and the offense has led to the issue of not being able to score until late in the game.
Prediction: Manning and the offense will take advantage of the weak Bucs defense. Von Miller and the defensive line will prove to be more aggressive than Freeman and the Bucs O-line, frustrating Freeman into making pressured and rushed plays.
Freeman may push for a fourth-quarter comeback, but it will be too little too late for the Buccaneers.
Final Score: Bucs 22, Broncos 34
Week 14: @ Oakland Raiders
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After blowing out the Raiders, 37-6, at home in Week 4, the Broncos will travel to Oakland in Week 14 for a chance to take a 2-0 season record against the Raiders.
In their first meeting, the Broncos more than doubled the Raiders' total yardage. While Peyton Manning threw for three touchdowns, Carson Palmer only got close enough for two field goals. That credit goes to the Broncos defense.
After Week 5, the Broncos are second place in the division and the Raiders are right behind them in third place, but the two teams couldn't be farther apart. The Broncos are growing and getting better each week, while the Raiders continue to struggle.
Prediction: Carson Palmer and the Raiders will suffer another blowout loss to the Broncos, but this time it will be on their home turf. The home-field advantage noise will get to the Broncos, but it doesn't hold them back too much.
Final Score: Broncos 28, Raiders 10
Week 15: @ Baltimore Ravens
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This game will probably be a playoff seeding decider. Needless to say, there will be a lot on the line and both teams will be fired up.
While the Ravens defense is one of the worst in the league, their offense is ranked in the top 10. Joe Flacco has thrown for over 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns through Week 5.
The player to watch in this game isn't Flacco, it's Ray Lewis. Lewis had 14 tackles, one forced fumble and one sack in Week 1. Between him and Peyton Manning, they've played in 439 regular-season games, played in 32 NFL seasons and have two Super Bowl rings and MVP trophies between them.
Ray Rice will be a big factor in this game. So far this season, he is the top rusher in three of the Raven's first five games.
Prediction: This game will be an offensive battle. Both teams will be fighting for a high playoff seed so the quarterbacks will be on top of their game. There isn't room for mistakes in this nail biter.
Peyton Manning will throw for at least three touchdowns, but Flacco will answer right back. The Ravens will prove to be too much in the end for the Denver Broncos.
Final Score: Ravens 31, Broncos 30
Week 16: Cleveland Browns
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The Cleveland Browns were hoping Brandon Weeden would be the offensive answer for the 2012 season, but their season has started 0-5 with 11 consecutive losses since the 2011 season.
The Browns are self destructing by letting mistakes get to them, instead of brushing them off and moving to the next play. These mental mistakes are leading to fumbles and interceptions.
Another problem is the Browns' age: they are the youngest team in the league. They don't want to hear about rookie mistakes, but that's why they have a losing record. The mistakes are leading to penalties; 10 for 91 yards in the loss to the Giants.
If the Browns want to turn around their luck, they'll have to let mistakes slide and move on to the next play.
Prediction: The youth and inexperience won't bode well for the Browns as they come into Mile High Stadium and take on a Broncos team full of seasoned veterans.
Weeden will have some flashes of greatness, but Manning will easily steal the quarterback show. The Broncos will probably play the second-stringers in the second half, but they will still deliver a stomping for the home crowd.
Finals Score: Broncos 20, Browns 6
Week 17: Kansas City Chiefs
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Prediction: After taking a beating from the Broncos in Week 12, the Chiefs are better prepared coming into Mile High Stadium.
They have their quarterback situation figured out and have settled with Brady Quinn. Quinn will have better chemistry with the offense, but the Broncos defense will bring too much pressure, causing costly mistakes.
Manning will pick apart the Chiefs defense in the first half and rookie Brock Osweiler will take over in the second half. Osweiler won't have as much of an impact, but he will show Broncos fans that he is the quarterback of the future by closing the 2012 regular season with a big home win over the Chiefs.
Final Score: Broncos 27, Chiefs 13