Head coach Vance Joseph has the pieces to win in a Super Bowl 48 rematch. Broncos fans will never forget the game in which they infamously went down in flames. Almost five years after the fact, both teams look to put the other in their place.
How Vance Joseph Can Beat Pete Carroll On Sunday
Sunday’s game will be a game of matchups. How will the Broncos offense match up against the Seahawks defense? How will the Broncos defense match up against the Seahawks offense?
Broncos Offense Vs Seahawks Defense
The Broncos offense has been given a much-needed renovation. Case Keenum has replaced Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian, and Paxton Lynch as the starting quarterback. Running back Royce Freeman will start over incumbent Devontae Booker with undrafted free agent Phillip Lindsay acting as the third back. Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are back as the starting wide receivers. There are new facces next to them, as they’re flanked by rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton. The offensive line is mostly intact, the only changes from last year are the additions of tackle Jared Veldheer and guard Connor McGovern. As a whole, the offensive line looks to be an upgrade from last year, as they only gave up two sacks over the course of ten preseason drives. Overall, the Broncos offense looks to take a major step forward in 2018.
Seattle’s defense looks to be a shell of its former self after the exodus of the Legion of Boom. Cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor, as well as defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are gone. All that remains from the Legion of Boom is K.J. Wright (not expected to play due to injury), linebacker Bobby Wagner, and an angry Earl Thomas, who showed up on Wednesday after a failed holdout. In place of the Legion of Boom are the Griffin brothers, Shaquill and Shaquem. The Griffins are expected to start at cornerback and linebacker respectively. It goes without saying that the Seahawks defense should take a step back in 2018.
Broncos Offense Vs Seahawks Defense: Who’s Better?
The Broncos’ wide receivers should beat the Seahawks secondary consistently. Last year showed that Seattle’s backups couldn’t replace Richard Sherman on their own. Granted, Earl Thomas is expected to play and should, therefore, mitigate the worst of the disparity between the two units but Thomas is only one player. He alone cannot defend every receiver on the field. For example, if Thomas locks down his assigned player then that simply forces Keenum to throw to any other receiver on the field, receivers which will have a distinct advantage in their matchups.
That being said, the Broncos rushing attack will likely have a pretty fair matchup this week as it will be Royce Freeman’s first NFL game. That fact will likely result in a less than average game from the young back, who could be overcome by the moment.
Broncos Defense Vs Seahawks Offense
At the center of Seattle’s offense is none other than perennial MVP candidate Russell Wilson, a player that elevates everyone around him. He is most well known for his ability to scramble out of the pocket and turn a would-be sack into a huge play, usually late in games. It’s this ability that has shocked opponents for over half a decade and will continue that trend in Sunday’s game.
Seattle’s backfield has struggled to find a consistent bell cow since the departure of Marshawn Lynch. This year, Seattle looks to juggle 2017 seventh-round pick Chris Carson and 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny. Penny has missed some time this preseason due to a broken finger, but will begin his career on Sunday as Carson’s backup.
On the other side, the Broncos’ front seven might be the deepest in the NFL, made up of talents such as Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, Shane Ray, Adam Gotsis, Domata Peko, Shelby Harris, Demarcus Walker, and Shaquill Barrett among others.
At first glance, Seattle’s offense looks to tread water. However, the addition of Rashaad Penny and a more aggressive style of play calling could create an offense moving in a positive direction.
At the head of the receiving core is Doug Baldwin, Russell’s go-to for the last several seasons. Like Penny, Baldwin has been dealing with injury throughout the preseason but is expected to be ready to go for Week 1. Baldwin has had right around 1000 yards per season for each of the last three seasons and seems likely to repeat that feat yet again this year. Behind Baldwin is Tyler Lockett. Lockett has been trending down in recent seasons, ending 2017 with a career-low 555 yards. Seattle’s third wide receiver is ex-Bronco Brandon Marshall. He was injured for much of 2017 and at 34 years old, the Broncos should not expect too much out of him.
The Broncos also have a solid safety group led by Justin Simmons and Darian Stewart. Aside from the number-one corner Chris Harris Jr., the biggest question about this defense lies at cornerback. After the departure of Aqib Talib, the Broncos have attempted to fill the void by promoting Bradley Roby to become the second corner. This created a competition for the third corner spot. It was a good plan on paper, but in practice it has shown its problems. First, while it’s clear that while Roby is a good starter, he’s no Talib. Also, the competition for the third cornerback spot hasn’t produced a clear winner. As a stop-gap solution, the Broncos have signed Adam Jones “Pac-Man,” who could slide into the third corner role as the game progresses depending on how the combination of Tramaine Brock and Isaac Yiadom faires.
Broncos Offense Vs Seahawks Defense: Who’s Better?
When it comes to matchups in the passing game, the Harris-Baldwin and Roby-Lockett battles should cancel out. However, the Seahawks have a likely advantage in the matchup between the third corner and Brandon Marshall.
As for the rushing attack, the Broncos should have a clear advantage as the Seahawks line has struggled for a long time. That should continue on Sunday, as Carson and Penny might have trouble finding consistent running lanes.
The Broncos have the edge on defense, but a smart game plan that attacks the third cornerback could expose this otherwise outstanding defense.
Planning For A Broncos Win: Defense
If the Broncos want success on defense, they will need sacks, not pressures. Wilson has made a career turning would-be big sacks into huge plays, both with his legs and his arm. In addition, the Broncos must be very liberal using quarterback spies. The Broncos should allow him only one scramble of four or more yards before beginning to use spies on most man coverage plays and every blitz.
In the secondary, the corners must stick to the Seahawks receivers like glue, especially when Wilson begins to scramble. They should essentially pretend that Wilson has a clean pocket and is lazily scanning the field until he is taken down even if it takes a while.
Wilson has made a career turning would-be big sacks into huge plays, both with his legs and his arm
As for the best matchups, Chris Harris should stay with Baldwin, Roby should focus on Lockett. The third corner should have Marshall with some additional safety help. As stated above, Harris should negate Baldwin while Roby and Lockett should be pretty competitive with both sides winning plays. The third corner is going to need additional help from a safety on most snaps.
The Broncos defensive line should be able to essentially negate Seattle’s rushing attack.
If this guide is followed, the Broncos should be able to contain Wilson. However, he will still find a way to make some plays, so the Broncos offense needs to keep their foot on the gas for 60 minutes.
Planning For A Broncos Win: Offense
The overall goal of the offense should be to find a way to get the ball to the receivers while avoiding Earl Thomas. Head coach Pete Carroll has been seemingly more apt to blitz this year, likely in an attempt to hide his deficiencies at cornerback. He’s also hoping to overcome opposing offensive lines by sheer numbers instead of one-on-one matchups. The Broncos line, while seemingly improved, will likely struggle to hold off repeated blitzes. Keenum should be throwing quickly to avoid the pressure using slants, curls, and other fast-developing routes. He will likely have to focus on Sutton and Sanders or Demaryius Thomas, depending on where Earl Thomas is. The goal will be to throw around these blitzes before pivoting to a run when they drop into a zone.
The Broncos’ number one goal should be to avoid creating a situation similar to the last two season openers. Both of those games came down to a late missed field goal that allowed the Broncos to survive the game. If Wilson gets a chance to set up a game-tying/winning field goal, the Broncos will not survive a third time.
This game will be tight, with a touchdown or less separating the teams. Seattle historically starts slow and picks up momentum as the game goes on. The Broncos should jump out to an early lead and work to grow it for the rest of the game. However, starting in the second half, Wilson, who has been focusing on Baldwin too much, will begin to pivot to Lockett, Marshall, and tight end Nick Vannett. Late in the game, Wilson will likely do what he’s done since 2012 and leak out of the pocket, dodge defenders and throw a deep completion to Lockett or Marshall, cutting the lead to less than a possession. The Broncos offense will end up sealing the game with a late field goal. The Broncos should win 27-24.