Week one of the NFL is a precarious week.
After seven months without NFL games, yet plenty of speculation, fans and media readily derive and predicate the veracity of their preseason predictions from week one of the NFL.
I, for one, had claimed that Kyle Orton is a good game manager, but would not have much to manage because the Denver defense would cause the offense to play from behind.
Defensively, Denver "bent but did not break," and benefited from miscues by Cincinnati’s offense. For one, it was the return of Bengals receiver Chad Ochocinco and quarterback Carson Palmer with a revamped offensive line.
Offensively, Denver receiver Brandon Stokley brought home a last-minute touchdown to upset the Bengals at home.
Nevertheless, Denver's offense had more than meets the eye; not just a timely touchdown that could be written off as luck. The much questioned Kyle Orton turned in an overall efficient game, even if his one touchdown pass wasn't "manufactured," to borrow a term common to baseball analysis.
Orton however, did "manufacture" enough offense to sustain Denver drives, which is important because it kept Cincinnati's offense on the sidelines. Of the 10 first downs by Denver, seven resulted from Orton passes. He completed roughly 60 percent of his passes with a virtually non-existent running game.
The fact that Denver won on a lucky strike does not represent the whole picture. Orton had to play efficiently in order for that lucky strike to make the difference.
It's also important to note that Cincinnati’s defense went underrated in 2008, and that much of Cincinnati's struggles last season resulted from key injuries to Ochocinco and Palmer. Orton did not cut Cincy's defense like a hot knife through butter. In fact, Cincinnati played a fair game defensively, but paid for miscues. Yes, all it takes is one, but it is important to note that the mistakes were exceptions and not the rule.
Denver earned an ugly win. A win is a win, but the question is whether that win will translate into future ones. I still think Denver is in for a long year, but will show signs of life.
Denver has also started hot the past few seasons, but collapsed by midseason, which could again be the case.
I think Orton has showed that he can replace Jay Cutler in the Josh McDaniels system that successfully employed some of the unorthodoxy common to the Patriots system. The Broncos still have work to do with their defense that will probably require different players.
The belief in the offseason has been that McDaniels would be a massive flop. This game may have been an ugly win, but once you consider that many wondered about the future of McDaniels even before his first game as coach, it is a true win for him.
Cincinnati will likely start the first half of the season slow and finish strong, likely between seven and nine wins. There is still a lot of football to be played.