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  1. #1
    Nick's Avatar
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    Why I Think the Broncos Will Win in Week One

    Now don't get me wrong. I'd love to see the Rams return to the Edward Jones Dome for their first game this season and walk out with a win against a legitimate AFC contender. And I certainly think itís possible. The Rams are a tough team at home in the dome. Furthermore, I would bet that we havenít seen anywhere near a majority of either the offensive or defensive playbook. The coaching staff could come out on Sunday and wow us with brilliant play designs that lead us right to victory.

    But Iím not going to be holding my breath. Weíre talking about the Denver Broncos, the defending AFC West champions who lost only three games last season and made an appearance in the AFC Championship Game. This is a team whose biggest and perhaps only true loss was defensive lineman Trevor Pryce. One could contend that the loss of Mike Anderson is substantial, but again, weíre talking about the Broncos here. This is a team that could plug in a peg-legged pirate in the backfield and still have a 1,000 yard rusher.

    And that brings me to the first reason why I donít believe the Rams will beat the Broncos. Denver is a strong running team, and theyíre not exceptionally fancy about it either. Denver averaged 34 rush attempts per game last season and over 150 yards per game. Returning all five of last yearís starting offensive line, the Broncos are going to run the ball right down your throat and force you to stop them.

    The Rams defense is somewhat undersized, especially with former weak-side linebacker Will Witherspoon manning the Mike position. One of the biggest questions of the offseason has been how will Witherspoon stand up as the man in the middle. Teams are going to look at this defense, which sacrifices size for speed, and challenge us to man up and stop them.

    Will the Rams succeed? The first team run defense hasnít shown us a tremendous amount to be excited about in the preseason, but now weíll get to see what they bring to the table when the game matters. Unfortunately, I donít think this defense is built to stop a power running game, and I think Denverís going to exploit our size weaknesses by outpowering us on the ground. The Rams will win their fair share of battles defending the run, but in my opinion, Denver is just too strong of a running team to be shut down by this defense.

    When the Broncos arenít rushing the ball, theyíre going to be depending on quarterback Jake Plummer to not give this game away. Plummer had a quality season last year capped off by a less-than-perfect performance against Pittsburgh in the conference championship contest. Jake Plummer is not the kind of quarterback that you ask to win you games, as evident by his quarterback rating of 71.9 when trailing last season. Heís a great game manager, which is all the Broncos really need of him with that great running game and solid defense. The key skill that Plummer brings to the table, however, is his ability to throw on the move. Denver utilizes a number of rollouts to get Jake moving laterally, where he loses virtually no accuracy when throwing down field.

    Why is this an important factor? Because the Ramsí defense is going to be much more aggressive this season. However, one of the best ways to combat an aggressive blitzing defense is to move your quarterback out of the pocket, and as I said, Denver does this quite well. Plummerís quarterback rating against the blitz last year was 108.2, highlighted by a touchdown to interception ratio of 11/0. The Rams are going to bring the pressure, and I have no doubt that Jim Haslett has a number of great calls up his sleeve. But this Denver offense is very capable of handling the blitz by moving their quarterback out of the pocket, and I suspect theyíre going to take advantage of our aggressiveness more times than not.

    Finally, letís look at what the Rams bring to the table offensively. Head coach Scott Linehan is going to want to establish the run early in this contest, and heís going to try to utilize two tight end sets to maximize the blocking in front of Jackson. Unfortunately, the Rams are facing one of the tougher run defenses of last season. Denver not only allowed only 85.2 yards per game on the ground, but also protected their end zone well by allowing only 10 rushing touchdowns all season. This in a division with Larry Johnson and LaDainian Tomlinson.

    If the Rams canít find success running the football, there will be added pressure on the offensive line to keep Marc Bulger protected in the pocket. The Broncos would like to get pressure with their front four without having to blitz extra defenders, and against the Ramsí questionable offensive line they might just be able to do that. Also, while the Rams boast one of the best groups of receivers in the league, donít underestimate the skill of Denverís secondary. Standing across from Torry Holt will be Champ Bailey, one of the leagueís top corners. Across from Isaac Bruce? Darrent Williams, a small but quality starter who likes to gamble for the big play but has the speed to close distances if he makes a mistake. I like how our receivers match up against their secondary, but I donít think the talent gap between the two units is exceptionally large and I think Denver will win more battles than youíd think.

    Overall, I just donít like how we match up against the Broncos. I worry about their power running game against our undersized defense, Iím concerned about our ability to put consistent pressure on a mobile quarterback in Jake Plummer, and Iím not convinced our own running game will have the debut that Linehan and Steven Jackson would like. I envision a 24-13 win for the Broncos in which they have a solid day on the ground, minimize mistakes in the passing game by keeping Plummer on the move, and step up to keep Steven Jackson from breaking out as an early season stud.

    Now, RamsÖ prove me wrong.

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  2. #2
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    Re: Why I Think the Broncos Will Win in Week One

    Nice read Nick. It is a bad matchup for us. They are an elite team, that like you said look almost the same as last year. I too hope for a win, but it won't be a big shock if we lose to an elite AFC team in the Broncos.

    I will however remind everyone where we went from the 98 season to the 99SB season. I'm not declaring that will happen, but it is something we are all hoping for.
    BRUUUUUUUUUUUCE


  3. #3
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    Re: Why I Think the Broncos Will Win in Week One

    The irony of this game is that it might cause the Rams to revert to old habits on offense. Last year, the Broncos were fairly stout against the run (yielding 4.0 ypc), but had a relatively weak pass rush (only 28 sacks). This year, they'll be without one of their better pass rushers, Trevor Pryce, and DE Courtney Brown is questionable for the game.

    If Bulger has time to throw, the Rams may be tempted to return (though, perhaps briefly) to the pass oriented attack, and they could have success in this area.

    Don't be shocked to see the Rams come out throwing early in an effort to get a quick lead (thereby putting pressure on Denver to throw the ball as well) and then settle into a more balanced attack.

    Also - if the Rams can manage to isolate John Lynch on Kevin Curtis, look out!

    I'm sticking with my pick:

    Rams 23 Broncos 20

  4. #4
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    Re: Why I Think the Broncos Will Win in Week One

    I have to agree with Nick. I remain concerned about the rushing defense.

    I am cursed by my RamFan conscience. I can bet against them only so long, before I just have to go with the Them.

    Gotta take the Rams. Head says Broncos - Heart Says Rams...go with the heart!!!

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    coy bacon is offline Registered User
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    Re: Why I Think the Broncos Will Win in Week One

    Great write up Nick.

    I think that another factor contributing to a Rams' loss will be the green coaching staff. I'm assuming that Linehan will need time to adjust being the HC in the heat of battle. I think Denver wins big time.

    And, I'd be delighted to be wrong. I have a proven track record of most often picking the wrong team to win.

  6. #6
    Archimedes Owl is offline Registered User
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    A Broncos Fan's Perspective

    Well, the Broncos have been able to run the ball with more success than any team over the last decade and they have done it with many different backs and have had success against many different defenses, so I agree that the Broncos will probably have some success against the Rams run defense just because the Broncos almost always have success with their run game, but I also don't think that your team speed hurts you. Especially against Tatum Bell who is very explosive, your team speed can only help. We have some fast and powerful linemen, but they are not that large, so your speed can help you match up against them. They actually do pretty well against larger lines.

    The Broncos pass offense is pretty good as well and Plummer was asked most of last year to play a very tight game and to be very careful with the ball. People think of him as a game manager now, and that's accurate to a degree, but the year before when we let him be a bit more of a gunslinger we led the league in yards per completion, but sported a lower completion percentage and more interceptions. Last year we decided that a safer approach made more sense to minimize the mistakes, but also we had the lead in most games, so we used the passing game to keep time consuming drives going instead of to score points. (Not to say that we couldn't score points as Philly [While they were still a good team] and New England can attest.)

    Anyway, The Rams really have a terrific pass offense that is as good as any in the league. Your best bet by far is to put up a huge lead against us and then to keep scoring in a shootout in which Denver can't quite keep up, but Denver does have a superb pass defense. Last year only two teams allowed a lower completion percentage and only ten teams allowed fewer yards on the occassions when the ball was actually completed.

    Both sides of the ball were good in the turnover category and it helped us quite a bit.

    Still, most teams underestimate our pass defense because we ranked 29th in the league in yards per game allowed, but we faced something like 50 more attempts than any other team and almost 100 more than the average team.

    This led to some very scewed statistics, but that also DOES include our rush defense because we also faced fewer rushing attempts than any team. Sure, we ranked second in yards allowed per game in rushing, but we still were mediocre in yards allowed per carry. Sure, with us having the lead so often last year that stat may have been raised by some draws agaisnt our nickle defense, but I still think it's safe to say that we were not as good as our ranking suggests at run defense. We were just about average while our pass defense was elite despite our total lack of a pass rush.

    Our two second year corners in Darrent Williams and Foxworth looked fantastic in coverage last year and Nick Ferguson who most people didn't even noticed pulled in five picks (And he was also used to blitz pretty often, too.) Champ is still champ and will always be Champ. And John Lynch may be slowing down a little, but too much is made of him slowing down. He really wasn't burned at all last year and still levels recievers on a regular basis.

    Our linebackers are as fast as any in the league and are fantastic for linebackers in coverage.


    It should be a good game. The Broncos have to hope to slow the Rams offense and The Rams have to hope to score early and often.

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