The Minnesota Vikings head to Denver to take on the Broncos on Sunday afternoon as underdogs by about a touchdown. Not many people are giving the 2-1 Vikings much of a chance to upset the 3-0 Broncos at home, and the folks at Mile High Report are no different.
I talked to Sadaraine from Mile High Report to find out exactly why Denver is going to be such a tough out this week.
The early narrative was that Peyton Manning was done for and couldn't make the necessary throws anymore. After watching him in Detroit last week, the reports of Manning's demise may have been exaggerated. So what's your take on how Peyton looks so far? Was switching to more pistol all that Manning needed to get back to playing well for him?
Peyton is getting old. That is just a fact. Since his neck surgery his whole throwing motion has changed to something that is less arm and more core. He has to have his feet set and time to rotate his torso properly for the longer passes or there just isn't enough power there. For the shorter stuff, he can still wing it (last week he scrambled right and passed across his body to a short completion and looked great doing it with mostly his arm).
The other aspect of Manning that has really shown up in a big way is that he relies on his super human ability to read defense and get the ball out fast in order to play well. He does that at a level unlike any other QB in the NFL.
Add these things together and yes, switching to the pistol was just what the doctor ordered. Manning isn't backpedalling as much before he throws. He also is facing the defense so he can read as the ball is snapped. His game week 3 was leaps and bounds better than the body of work he had put together through weeks 1-2.
Just how good is this Broncos defense? I watched a bunch of game film the past couple days and to be honest I can't find a lot of holes. Both the statistics and the eye test say that Denver has one of the best--if not the best--defenses in the league. Who and what is making the defense look so good through the first three games?
Scary good. I still get goosebumps just talking about them like that. Denver has some good defenses in the past decade or so, but not great ones. This is in its current form a great defense top to bottom and with depth.
The first key to it is Wade Phillips. He's a superb defensive coordinator who plays an aggressive defense that at every level wants to get after the ball. He figures out what his players do well, then puts them in position to do that as much as possible instead of trying to get round pegs to fit in square holes.
The next key I'd give is that Denver touts the best cornerback corps in the NFL. Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., and Bradley Roby all have the kind of talent you like in a #1 CB. They are all extremely good in man coverage and are tough to throw against.
Finally, sprinkle in a little pass rush a la DeMarcus Ware, Malik Jackson, and Von Miller and you have created a monster. The front 7 can straight up get after the quarterback. There is no time to let pass routes develop deep and most teams are trying to get the ball out in less than 2.5 seconds. The pressure is getting there and it shows up in the turnover department.
While the defense is off to a great start, the running game is not. Denver is averaging only 2.6 yards per carry. Is the offensive line blocking that bad or is C.J. Anderson to blame as well? Do Broncos fans want to see more of Ronnie Hillman? How do you see Denver trying to improve their run game?
The offensive line is really the culprit here. There is youth at the line in Ty Sambrailo at LT and Matt Paradis at C. We also have a journeyman RT in Ryan Harris. The only carry over from last year is Louis Vasquez. The chemistry is not there and they need to improve in a big way.
Hillman is the kind of back who can house it at any time. He's had more success just because he can outrun the defenders on stretch plays. That being said, C.J. Anderson has a wicked jump step and a lot of talent when he's got holes to run through. We don't care really who runs the ball. Most of us just want to see some consistent success at a passable level.
Give us one player on offense and one player on defense that most Vikings fans may not be familiar with but might have a big impact on the game.
Ronnie Hillman is really ready to break out at running back. We've been saying it for a couple of weeks and waiting for our line to open some holes for him. He's been really playing football the right way on the field and he has the talent to make big plays happen.
You guys may not know Darian Stewart and you need to. He's probably not the best free safety in the game, but he's the best we've had in the past decade for sure. He is a play-maker at safety and has had a big impact in every game we've played this season. He doesn't bite on play action, he doesn't take himself out of plays, and he attacks the ball very well.
What do you think the final score will be on Sunday? Who wins, and how do they do it?
I think the early game will be sloppy, but as the day wears on we will start wearing out the Vikings. The altitude is something your team will have trouble with and it will show. The defense for us will be the catalyst for the win. They will create turnovers and short fields for our offense.
Final Score - Denver 31 Vikings 20
Thanks again to Sadaraine for some great insight about the Broncos. Our Q&A about the Vikings is available on Mile High Report right here.