This week we take a look at how a Broncos fan looks at the upcoming matchup with the Carolina Panthers:
1) The Broncos’ offense looks like it has finally gelled with that incredible 2nd-half comeback against the Chargers. Do you think they’ve reached their peak – realistically speaking – or do they still have a notch or two to jump?
With Peyton Manning in charge, I don’t think an offense can ever reach its peak because that peak just keeps rising. The Broncos are far from perfect. Dropped balls and fumbles are still an issue for receivers. The running game needs to be more effective on first down so that the play-action on second and third down can be more effective. Overall, the team is 4th in points per game with a 4th ranked passing attack. The running game is ranked17th in the league so there’s always room for improvement there.
For a guy who hasn’t seen a change in scenery for the past 14 seasons, Manning is adjusting to his new city nicely and his teammates are adjusting nicely to him. I expect even more improvement over the remainder of the season because that’s the expectation that Manning has for his team too.
2) What’s been done to improve the rush defense in Denver which was so soft last season?
First off the team drafted Derek Wolfe with their first draft pick in 2012. Wolfe is a hungry defensive end who has 25 tackles and 3 sacks already. His play has really brought some stability to the line. The Broncos also brought Justin Bannan back to Denver. He brings veteran leadership and solid tackling to the line. Kevin Vickerson is the third piece used to clog the middle. Overall, the defense has benefited from Jack Del Rio’s hard nosed style. It’s been years since Denver has been able to clog the run, so seeing the improvement is exciting and it allows for the Broncos to be more aggressive.
3) If Denver has a weakness, it would seem it’s the running game, averaging only 3.9 yards per carry. With defenses worried about Peyton’s accurate arm, I’d think that would open up the run more. What’s your take on the situation?
Although far behind the passing game, the Broncos run game is stable. They may not be getting big chunks of yards, but they’re making their runs count. The Broncos are 9th in the league with 54 runs that have gone for first downs. Willis McGahee is capable of breaking for huge chunks at any time, and he has. He has multiple 100+ yard rushing performances already this season. As for Manning’s arm opening up the rushing game, that will happen in time. We’ve already seen glimpses of it. Against the Saints in week 8, the team had 225 rushing yards.
4) What scares you the most about the Carolina Panthers – both offensively and defensively – in this matchup?
Offensively, that’s an obvious one. Cam Newton is both a threat in the air and on the ground. The Broncos have two great pass rushers in Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, but I’m not sure that they can even keep up with his athleticism.
Defensively, I’m concerned about the Broncos ability to protect Manning. The Panthers are getting to the quarterback this season, and the Broncos had starting guard Chris Kuper go down last week with an ankle injury. Manning has been taken down a lot more with Kuper’s replacement, Manny Ramirez, in the lineup.
5) How much longer do you think Peyton will play before he retires? He doesn’t exactly strike me as the Brett Favre type.
I don’t know if Manning will retire without winning at least one more ring. If that doesn’t happen, I don’t think he’ll play past the age of 40.