Aside from the highly anticipated debut of quarterback John Elway, the season debut of head coach Josh McDaniels and his revamped Broncos squad is going to be one of the most talked about Denver debuts in a long time.
Cincinnati receiver Chad Ochocinco has already made things interesting by Tweeting he would "embarrass" the Broncos and star cornerback Champ Bailey.
The last time Denver played Cincinnati was on a cold day in 2006 when the Bengals bobbled a snap on the potential game-tying extra point, and the Broncos held on to a close 24-23 victory.
Denver has won 10 of its last 12 meetings with the Bengals, and is dominating the overall series between the two teams with a record of 16-8.
With all of the negative publicity surrounding the Broncos heading into this season, how can they make their way to the winner's circle on Sunday afternoon?
- Broncos front seven vs. Bengals offensive line: Let's face it: The Bengals' offensive line is horrible, and the Broncos' defensive front seven has been among the worst in the NFL over the last two years. The Bengals have not proven to be able to protect their franchise quarterback the last couple of years either, so Denver's improved front seven should take advantage of this matchup. Outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil has really excelled as a pass rusher in his new role, and the Denver defensive line looks vastly improved. Cincinnati has really bulked up on their frontline, but first round draft pick Andre Smith is not going to be playing. This is an area the Broncos need to really take advantage.
- Bengals receivers vs. Broncos defensive backs: The Bengals suffered a huge loss this offseason when T.J. Houshmandzadeh left for Seattle, but they were able to replace him with veteran Laveranues Coles and some developmental prospects taken in the 2008 draft. Their trio of Chad Ochocinco, Coles, and Chris Henry is among the best in the NFL, but Denver's defensive backfield is greatly improved from 2008. The Broncos added safeties Brian Dawkins, Renaldo Hill, Darcel McBath, and David Bruton, and cornerbacks Andre' Goodman and Alphonso Smith. The Broncos have some favorable matchups with Bailey on Ochocinco, Goodman on Coles, and the only question will be who covers the 6'4" Chris Henry. The Broncos could choose to match him up with David Bruton, a bigger safety, but the safe bet is on Smith. This will be a fun matchup to watch, providing the Broncos can put adequate pressure on Carson Palmer.
- Broncos' run offense vs. Bengals' run defense: This could be the absolute biggest and most crucial matchup of this game. If the Broncos can control the line of scrimmage and run the ball with consistency, they could potentially dominate this contest. The Bengals' run defense has not been known to be elite over the last couple of years, and the Broncos' offensive line is among the best in the NFL. Rookie tailback Knowshon Moreno is listed as questionable for Sunday's game, but is expected to play. Correll Buckhalter is set to start anyway, and the Broncos also have Peyton Hillis to take some carries.
This game, unlike most Broncos contests from 2008, does not appear poised to be decided by the big play. The Broncos are going to have to rely on a steady dose of intermediate passes and a solid running game to beat the Bengals offensively, and they are going to have to be aggressive on defense.
Denver's cornerbacks are good enough to the point where they can take risks in coverage against Cincinnati's deep receiving core.
One question surrounding the Broncos was regarding the coverage skills of their linebackers, which will not be tested too much by Cincinnati, who lacks a serious threat at the tight end position.
Even though the Bengals do not appear to pose a serious threat to the AFC in 2009, this is an absolutely huge game for the Broncos. They need to get off to a good start to the season to take advantage of a relatively weak part of a difficult schedule.
OUT: CB David Jones, OT Andre Smith
QST: OT Scott Kooistra
PRB: WR Chris Henry, S Roy Williams, QB Carson Palmer
OUT: S Josh Barrett, DL Le Kevin Smith
QST: WR Jabar Gaffney, QB Chris Simms, G Chris Kuper, RB Knowshon Moreno
PRB: S Brian Dawkins, QB Kyle Orton
Line: Cincinnati by five