The Denver Broncos this week come up against their Super Bowl nemesis from last year, the Seattle Seahawks. Fresh from a dismantling of their general game by the brilliant Seahawks last season, the Broncos have identified the source of their loss and have attempted to solve the issue.
Their campaign last season ended in ashes largely due to their defense, but they will be hoping that from those ashes a phoenix will rise.
They have made changes across the board on defense in preparation for this season to build from the ground up. Teams have inevitably worked out that the best way to beat Peyton Manning is to keep him off the field. As such, the Broncos are now attempting to build an aggressive defense to make the big plays and get their star man back on the field as quickly as possible.
As per Ashley Fox at ESPN, the Broncos have "made significant upgrades along the defensive side, signing defensive end DeMarcus Ware, safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Aqib Talib" going into this season. This is already a significant step up on last season's starting defense.
Talib has showed his danger as an attacking corner by taking an interception all the way to the end zone against the Chiefs last weekend, even though it was ultimately called back on an offside call.
Jack del Rio, the Broncos defensive coordinator, told The Associated Press (via Fox News) this week that he doesn't want his defense to bend. It is all very well saying this, and this is of course what every defensive coach wants, but the beginnings of it were very much in evidence last week against the Chiefs.
A 10-minute drive that ended in just a field goal and a goal-line stand to stop the game from going into overtime may well be the first signs of a more resilient defense.
Of course, that last goal-line stand probably should not have even been required, with the Broncos repeatedly shooting themselves in the foot by giving away unnecessary penalties. However, this was with a set of new players who were thrown together; they will take some time to jell.
The preseason rotations do not allow for any serious game time together, and there are bound to be teething problems. Indeed, we saw it last week against the Chiefs. Denver conceded five penalties on defense, including the one that robbed them of the interception that was returned for a touchdown in the final quarter.
This, frankly, is not good enough. Other teams will punish them if they repeat this profligacy. Teams like the Seahawks.
Seattle has not lost two games in a row since 2012 and will be the Broncos' sternest test so far this season by far. Having lost to San Diego last time out, the Seahawks will have a point to prove against Denver, and it may just be too early in the season for Denver to answer it.
If the Broncos can play to their potential and force the Seahawks to try to make the big play, then they can bring their new talent Ward and Talib into the game more.
Where the Chiefs had success last week was avoiding the big play and working the plays through the middle, playing between the lines. The Seahawks will look to exploit this, too. If the Broncos defense has not learned from last week, the lack of playing time together and jelling may well come back to haunt them.
Denver is, without a doubt, an improved defensive outfit from last season, but they are still not perfect. If they can avoid the penalties they racked up against Kansas City last weekend and bring their new players into the game with big plays, then they will cause Seattle many more problems than they did in last year's Super Bowl.
If not, expect the Seahawks to bounce back from last week's defeat and peg back the Broncos' early season success.