The Denver Broncos and St. Louis Rams face unique challenges in 2013 as they endeavor to win an NFL title.
For the Rams, it's going to be a struggle just getting into the playoffs.
Which scenario is more likely to happen in 2013?
The NFC West is arguably the toughest division in football this year. The San Francisco 49ers won the division by a slight margin over the Seattle Seahawks, and both teams figure to be players in this year's postseason scrum.
Even the Arizona Cardinals, under new head coach Bruce Arians, can't be taken lightly.
Still, the Rams posted the best divisional record of all four teams in 2012, going 4-1-1, and general manager Les Snead has done a brilliant job bringing in players that can help his team continue to improve.
For the Broncos, getting into the playoffs should be easy, as the AFC West is perhaps the weakest division in the league.
However, with Von Miller's six-game suspension looming, as reported by NFL.com's Ian Rapoport, and a suspect offensive line, it remains to be seen what kind of impact the Broncos will have once they get into the postseason tournament.
Here's what you need to know about the upcoming Rams-Broncos preseason game.
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colo.
When: Saturday, Aug. 24, at 8 p.m. ET
Live Stream: Preseason Live
Listen: Online at NFL Audio Pass
Betting Lines (via Covers)
Over/Under: 43.5 pts.
Spread: Denver (-6.5)
Both teams feature offenses capable of putting up big totals on the scoreboard, but they also feature defenses capable of shutting said offenses down.
It should be an interesting matchup, but in the end I think the final total will be up over the 43.5 points, which means you should bet the over.
Don't be surprised if the Rams end up winning this game. I'd be wary about betting on Denver to cover the spread.
Injury Report (via ESPN.com)
- Terrance Ganaway, RB: Questionable (hamstring)
- Lance Kendricks, TE: Questionable (knee)
- T.J. McDonald, S: Probable (knee)
- Stewart Bradley, LB: Doubtful (wrist)
- Champ Bailey, CB: Questionable (foot)
- Derek Wolfe, DE: Questionable (back)
- Joel Dreessen, TE: Questionable (knee)
- Wes Welker, WR: Probable (ankle)
- Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: Probable (ankle)
Rams Player to Watch: Tavon Austin, Wide Receiver
The Rams made a bold move to pick up an offensive playmaker for Sam Bradford, drafting Austin No. 8 overall this past spring.
Unquestionably one of the most electric players to enter the NFL this season, Austin has garnered high praise from beat writers and national analysts alike. NFL Network's Mike Mayock said Austin, "might be the most explosive player I've ever seen in my life," via NFL: AroundtheLeague:
Mayock: Rams rookie Tavon Austin "might be the most explosive player I've ever seen in my life" http://t.co/NmOo6Q2kUi— NFL: AroundTheLeague (@NFL_ATL) August 6, 2013
Watching Austin carve up opposing defenses at West Virginia, it's hard to argue with Mayock's assessment.
However, to this point in the preseason Austin hasn't made much of an impact at all. After failing to catch a single pass in Week 1, he managed just four catches for 28 yards in Week 2.
This week, with starters expected to play at least through halftime and perhaps through the third quarter, fans should get a chance to see what—if anything—all the hype is about.
Broncos Player to Watch: Shaun Phillips, Linebacker
The Broncos can weather the storm while Miller serves his six-game suspension to start the season, provided Phillips can play at a high level.
Will Phillips be able to hold down the fort while Miller serves his suspension?
Even though the former San Diego Chargers pass-rusher managed 9.5 sacks a year ago, he doesn't come close to matching what Miller did for the Broncos, when you factor in pressures and hits.
Furthermore, Phillips has played in a 3-4 defense during his time with the Chargers, and he'll be taking on new responsibilities this year, now that he's replacing Miller and won't be just a situational pass-rusher.
For his part, Phillips isn't worried about replacing Miller, as noted by the team's official Twitter account:
Shaun Phillips said the Broncos defense will be "quite alright" while dealing with Von Miller's suspension: http://t.co/p5hA4yQXiZ— Denver Broncos (@DenverBroncos) August 21, 2013
A strong showing against an underrated Rams offense would go a long way toward giving such a sentiment firm ground on which to stand.
St. Louis features a dynamic front four, and I expect the Rams to get pressure on Peyton Manning early and often, which could spell doom for Denver's offense.
Who you got?
On the other hand, the Seahawks brought plenty of pressure, even getting a few hits on Manning, and he still managed to move the offense.
The real key to this game is whether or not Denver's secondary, playing without Champ Bailey, will be able to contain St. Louis' passing attack.
I'm betting on the Rams to surprise a lot of people and outclass the Broncos in their own house.
Final Score: Rams win 31-27
Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78.