The Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos meet again a mere months removed from the Super Bowl, this time to help kick off Week 1 of the 2014 NFL preseason Thursday.
The hosts of the contest would love to forget the swift brutality of the 43-8 loss, and although there is nothing on the line in the meaningless game, those who were subjected to the trouncing surely will play with a bit more bite than they would in a typical opening preseason encounter.
This matchup in particular is anything but typical. Seattle made minor additions this offseason and has young players ready to take on bigger roles in a second championship pursuit. Meanwhile, John Elway and the Denver front office went all-in this offseason as the clock continues to inch toward Peyton Manning's retirement.
It is a perfect Week 1 matchup, as the opening week is used by staffs around the league to see how the new pieces fit and how young players are coming along, even if it includes the most vanilla schemes and strategy possible.
Below, fans will find how to catch the first week's lone can't-miss matchup and what to watch as it unfolds.
When: Thursday, Aug. 7, at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver
Watch: KUSA (local)
Live Stream: NFL Preseason Live
Betting Info (via Odds Shark)
Spread: Denver (-1.5)
Team Injury Reports
Updated info can be found here once reports are released.
New Faces in Denver
Much of what makes the first week of the preseason so exciting for fans is finally seeing familiar faces don new jerseys, and rookies stepping into the fire for the first time.
Denver offers a ton of both.
Elway's spending spree brought in a few recognizable names, to say the least. There is 32-year old DeMarcus Ware, who spent the first nine years of his career in Dallas and tallied seven seasons with 11 or more sacks—the two exceptions being his rookie season and last year when he missed three games.
Ware is a force, obviously, but his influence on one Von Miller is perhaps the biggest storyline of all in Denver. That, and his desire to match Manning's offense, as captured by ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold:
"We are trying to be a force to be reckoned with this year and you already talked about us being an offensive team, but at the end of the day, we are trying to be [No.] 1 and [No.] 1," Ware said. "The best offense in the league and the best defense in the league."
That secondary Ware and Miller are tasked with helping via quick pressure received significant upgrades, too.
There is safety T.J. Ward, who spent four productive seasons with the Cleveland Browns and ranked as the No. 4 overall safety in the league, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). He is joined by one of the best cover corners and another recent addition in Aqib Talib, who will also play a key mentor role for Bradley Roby, the No. 31 overall pick in this year's draft.
The No. 56 overall pick, wideout Cody Latimer, is another young player who figures to see plenty of time Thursday and will scrap for positioning on a depth chart that includes Demaryius Thomas, Wes Welker and Emmanuel Sanders.
Given his performances in camp, as one can glean from a Tweet by Fox Sports' Peter Schrager, the Indiana product should have no trouble grabbing Manning's attention should he continue on his current trajectory:
1. Rookie wide receiver Cody Latimer looks like the real deal. Has wheels, good hands. Turned heads a few times today. 2nd round steal.— P. Schrager (@PSchrags) July 31, 2014
In short, the Broncos are perhaps the most intriguing team of all this preseason.
With an understanding that Manning's clock is ticking and that Super Bowl losers rarely succeed the year after, the quest to buck history begins Thursday.
Young Guns in Seattle
As a testament to the draft prowess of coach Pete Carroll and the Seattle front office, the focus in Seattle will not be on veteran additions, but young players of various tenures.
One is Robert Turbin, a fourth-round pick from the 2012 draft who touts a similar, violent running style that makes would-be-tacklers think twice about lowering a shoulder. He is due for more time, and his approach is perfect for carries in the red zone.
The other is Christine Michael, a second-round pick last year who has the potential to emerge as the best in class once he gets a starter's load. As Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times hints, this season will see him inch even closer:
We all know the story with Michael. Limited to just 79 yards on 18 carries, fourth on the team, while working behind Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin a year ago, but entering camp with a chance to earn a much larger role this season. His play in the spring did nothing to quell the idea he will get regular carries this season. The only question is how many.
It helps that he has the backing of perhaps the most important man in the organization, as the Seahawks' Twitter account captures:
Wilson: “Robert Turbin and Christine Michael will be ready to go especially the way practice has been going.”— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) July 26, 2014
The team's top pick in this year's draft, No. 45 overall, is wideout Paul Richardson. The Colorado product will see plenty of action, and as Sports Illustrated's Robert Klemko notes, fans will notice a few similarities between him and the top receiver on the depth chart:
Big takeaway from SEA today: WR Percy Harvin looks like a star again, and rookie Paul Richardson looks like his clone.— Robert Klemko (@RobertKlemko) July 25, 2014
There are other storylines (Terrelle Pryor vs. Tarvaris Jackson for backup duties, anyone?), but the point is rather simple—Seattle has a formula it sticks to, and the first matchup of the preseason is a way to begin the process anew.
What to Expect
Which team wins?
Unfortunately for fans, this will not exactly be a true rematch. Starters will see limited time if any, so they will have to settle for a rather lengthy glimpse at the future of each franchise—which can, of course, be accelerated thanks to injuries.
The Denver defense is a work in progress with a ton of moving parts, so expect a backup like Pryor to give it nightmares on the ground. That also applies to the pair of aforementioned tailbacks behind Beast Mode on the depth chart.
Seattle is the deeper team, and that is usually enough to win a preseason contest. This one is about the journey, not the end result, so kick back and enjoy the ride as last season's top teams recalibrate before another run.
Prediction: Seahawks 23, Broncos 17