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A tough opening matchup, but our Ultimate Fan predicts victory over the Seahawks

But of course he does...what Ultimate Fan wouldn’t?

WOO HOO!!! We have made it.

We have survived arguably the longest offseason ever and have finally made it to real football and talking about actual games, and we are doing it with our fan base mostly together and behind this team and ready to win.

Whew.

I cannot tell you how awesome that feels (other than, awesome enough to write a run-on sentence)!

But I don’t even have to tell you because we all feel it, and it is the perfect way to launch the 2018 Ultimate Fan Guide Week 1 matchup.

And I truly can’t think of a better fan to do it than lancing_2009 - a regular to this site and a veteran of this series. Although he now writes regularly for Mile High Huddle, lancing2009 still drops in to give us great insight about the players, and this piece will be no exception. So grab a beer, get the Super Bowl 32 video (or SB50, your choice!) ready to play because I guarantee you won’t be able to wait until Sunday afternoon to watch the Broncos after you finish reading.

Week 1: Seahawks at Broncos

MHR - The regular season is FINALLY here. What were three takeaways from training camp and the preseason games that have you looking forward to this season?
lancing_2009: Dear God, I’m excited!!! First and foremost thank you for having me on this again, Doc. I look forward to these every year.

After seeing the Broncos in action for the preseason, my main takeaway is how the offense has come back to form. Quarterback Case Keenum has the full attention of the huddle on every snap, and the grasp he has on the playbook has everybody rejuvenated.

And that leads me to my second takeaway - Emmanuel Sanders looks like a new player out there, and that has me very excited for this season. He has that “PFM” smile back on his face and has been shredding people during the preseason. His game against Washington two weeks ago looked like what we saw when Peyton Manning led the 2014 offense to the playoffs. Between Sanders’ trust in Keenum and potential motivation to show out for another big payday, we might just see the best season of Sanders’ career to this point.

And the Offensive line looks REMARKABLY better from front to back. Garett Bolles is struggling a hair, but you can really see the improvement when he trusts his technique. Our boy Connor McGovern locked down the right guard spot and has been downright stellar from day one. Jared Veldheer is a for-sure answer at right tackle, and Keenum has rarely seen any pressure during the preseason games. The running game is clicking, pass protection has been really good.

All in all, the offense looks to be dramatically better, which is only going to help the defense be at or near the top of the league again.

MHR - The team looks A LOT different than last year - almost an entirely new QB room, a rookie running back taking the top spot and two of last year’s backs gone, another playmaker at wide receiver, an offensive line that looks more than competent, a defense with the same strengths up front but a few holes in the secondary. What do you think will be the M.O. for this team this year?
lancing_2009: If what we saw from the Oakland Raiders in 2016 was any indication of offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave’s offensive plan for the Broncos this year, I’m expecting a major emphasis on pounding the rock early and often. Royce Freeman is going to be a stud, and the Offensive Rookie of the Year predictions by some pundits out there have merit. He’s explosive for his size, has an unexpected burst through the hole and is hard to take down in the secondary. That jump cut he made against Minnesota was absolutely filthy.

Following a mix of quick passes, I’d expect a play action bomb to Courtland Sutton. His downfield ability to control his body and high point the football is epic, and it’s going to be on display A LOT. The other day I heard a comparison for Sutton that caught my attention. He’s A.J. Green’s play style in Terrell Owens’ body. How do you cover that?

Defensively, I see a fall off in the making in pass defense. With Aqib Talib now playing in Los Angeles, the No Fly Zone doesn’t have the bite it once had. However, with the acquisition of Adam Jones (don’t call him Pacman) and the return of Tramaine Brock, Denver is still in pretty decent hands. I’m not going to say the Broncos are going to drop off dramatically in pass defense, but they will likely fall out of the top five, maybe even the top 10.

MHR - The Seattle defense is not the stalwart it once was but it is will be no slouch for the Broncos’ offensive line. How do you think this O-line will hold up against the Seahawks’ linemen and the offense in general against this D?
lancing_2009: Frank Clark is the guy to watch out for. With Sheldon Richardson and Michael Bennett gone, the Seahawks’ front four got drastically worse. Jarran Reed was a favorite of mine coming into the 2016 draft, and he’s played well but hasn’t been exactly what I had hoped he would become.

Quinton Jefferson and Dion Jordan (former first-round pick) are probably going to rotate opposite of Clark, and Jordan can be filthy if he’s on his game and healthy. That said, he’s been a big disappointment too.

The guys I’m most scared of don’t even play on the defensive line. Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright form a deadly duo at linebacker, and they can wreck a game plan from front to back. They can both blitz, they can both cover, and they are both sound tacklers. With Earl Thomas not expected to be in uniform, the onus is going to fall on either of these two linebackers to cover Jeff Heuerman and Jake Butt over the middle. They can stand to task.

The offensive line should see some stiff competition, and I wouldn’t be surprised if all of the praise they’ve received over the past few weeks is all for naught. However, I don’t necessarily see that happening at this point.

MHR - What are you hoping to see from Case Keenum in Week 1, and how do you expect him to go throughout the season in terms of performance? Do you expect the trend to continue up or will it plateau quickly?
lancing_2009: Keenum is the wild card to this entire offense. It’s no secret, he hasn’t exactly been the pillar of success throughout his career. What I would like to see from Keenum against Seattle is a continuation of his performance from last year. Getting the ball out quickly to help the offensive line, making the correct reads, and even going off script from time to time.

I’m not going to mind if he has a couple of boneheaded plays, so long as he doesn’t play scared when doing so. I’m so over the travesty that was TrevBrock LynchWeilien that I could puke. They all were so scared to make a mistake that they couldn’t perform, and the whole team crumbled. If Keenum just looks competent out there (and he has so far), I will be more than satisfied. Don’t play scared, trust your abilities and continue to grow.

MHR - Which news players/rookies have you the most excited this season and why?
lancing_2009: I’ve already slammed the table on the WR position, but I’ll continue that by saying DaeSean Hamilton isn’t getting nearly the credit he deserves right now. For good reason, and I know he doesn’t mind. Courtland Sutton stole the show, but Hamilton was killer in training camp. The Broncos have a strong four-man rotation heading into the season, and Hamilton can be a big piece over the middle of the field.

In another VIP piece, I broke down Josey Jewell’s game tape at Iowa to get a better idea of the player he’s going to be. The dude has some ridiculous play recognition, and if he’s allowed to play zone defense rather than man, he’s going to be a stud too. He isn’t the most athletic player, but he uses his extremely high football acumen to get to the ball at will.

And of course, you can’t forget the rookie RB tandem of Royce Freeman and Phillip Lindsay.

MHR - Expectations are high for Bradley Chubb. Do you think it’s fair to expect him to be the next great edge rusher his rookie year and how do you think he will impact Von Miller’s game this season?
lancing_2009: I think people need to pump the brakes on Chubb a little bit. Not because he isn’t performing, but because it’s completely asinine to expect Chubb to perform at a level similar to Von Miller or Demarcus Ware. Those guys are Hall-of-Fame caliber players; Chubb is a rookie. Slow down the expectations but continue to be excited for his potential and what he can bring to this team.

That being said, I do think he has a major impact on Von’s game this year. With Chubb and a healthy Derek Wolfe on the field at the same time as Von, this pass rush is going to be lit.

I also expect the Broncos to slide Chubb inside to play defensive end and get another of Shaquil Barrett or Shane Ray on the field as well. A front four of Von, Wolfe, Shelby Harris/Demarcus Walker, Chubb and Ray/Barrett is going to wreak havoc on offensive lines this year.

MHR - Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson has often given Denver fits. Will that be the case again this game or will the strength of the D-line and edge rushers be able to contain him better? Has Wilson lost a step yet?
lancing_2009: The biggest problem with Wilson is that even when you do get him contained in the pocket, he manages to slip through the smallest of cracks for a 25-yard gain. You can’t contain him, and when you do he pulls a Houdini act and miraculously escapes.

I’ve already praised Wolfe up above, but his impact to drive the interior of the offensive line into Wilson’s lap is the best way to attempt to contain him. You can’t let Wilson get a running start by climbing the pocket. After that, you absolutely have to maintain your gap discipline and stay home. Don’t get arrogant and try to be a hero. He’ll make you pay for it immensely.

And no. He hasn’t lost a step. (editor’s note: damn)

MHR - What is your confidence in Brandon Marshall and Todd Davis - along with Justin Simmons and Will Parks - to take care of the pesky tight ends and running backs over the middle of the field?
lancing_2009: Will Parks has been very good this preseason. He made my top ten most surprising Broncos list earlier during training camp after having a very strong performance against Minnesota. His coverage has drastically improved since last season, and he’s really embracing the dimebacker role.

Simmons is going to be a stud. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him earn a Pro Bowl nod this year to be honest.

But the guy we need to be focusing on happens to wear #35 in his chest. Dymonte Thomas played amazing against Washington and held his own against Vernon Davis all night. I broke down his film for our subscribers following the game, and he’s sneaky good. He has great athleticism and was actually supposed to be fighting for a spot at free safety at the beginning of training camp. When Su’a Cravens and Jamal Carter went down with injuries, the Broncos asked Thomas to slide into the box and help fill the hole behind Will Parks.

Thomas answered the call with authority. He may be buried on the depth chart right now, but if he continues to progress like he has the past couple weeks, he could see a lot of playing time for the Broncos this year.

MHR - Seahawks are a little thin at wide receiver, so how will this different Broncos’ secondary hold up against them? And how do you expect the Aqib Talib-less No Fly Zone to fare this season?
lancing_2009: I kind of touched on this above but will expand here. The problem with losing a guy like Talib doesn’t only have to do with who is going to replace him, but having to replace the next guy on the depth chart as well. We already knew we were in decent hands with Bradley Roby stepping into the No. 2 role, but who was going to replace Roby for the No. 3 spot? Tramaine Brock was one of the top nickel cornerbacks in the league during his time with San Francisco, but he has fallen off hard the past couple of seasons. Can he get back to his former self?

Adam Jones had a fairly nice night in the fourth preseason contest, but he’s getting older and admittedly slower. As a fourth cornerback, you could do plenty worse. He’s really focusing on his mental aspect to win his matchups and told the boys over at Orange and Blue 760 that he can tell you which route is coming based on formation and where his man is lined up in the formation. Is that enough for him to succeed, though?

MHR - Which players will be playmakers on Sunday (1 offense, 1 defense)?
lancing_2009: The obvious choices are Keenum, Sanders, Miller and Chubb, so I’ll go in a different direction here. Phillip Lindsay is gonna catch a touchdown pass out of the backfield, and Justin Simmons records an interception.

Predictions

Stats for Case Keenum? 225 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT

Stats for each Broncos RB? Freeman 65 yards and a score; Booker, 35 yards; Lindsay, 3 receptions for 40 yards and a score.

Number of yards receiving/TDs for each Broncos receiver? Sanders, 80 yards; Sutton, 60 yards and a score; Thomas, 40 yards

Longest FG for McManus? 49

Number of sacks to Keenum? 2

Number of sacks to Wilson?

Broncos player with the most tackles? Simmons with 8

Broncos player with the most penalties? Bolles gets a holding call at least, and somebody gets a B.S. helmet call

How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 1 FF on the Von Miller strip sack

Final Score? 24-21 Denver

The Favorites:

Favorite Broncos game EVER? Most go with a Super Bowl victory or a playoff game. I go opening weekend of 2011. A loss to Oakland. The first game following my beginning to a second chance at life.

Team you hate to lose to the most? I hate losing to anybody.

Team you love to beat? I’m a winner. They all taste the same.

Favorite upcoming game this season? I would go cliche here and say the next one on the schedule, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the Rams game.

Toughest game on the schedule? The Rams

Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Demaryius Thomas

Favorite Broncos player of all time? Rod Smith

Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Josey Jewell

Superstitions on game day? I wear the same complete outfit every game. If we win, I don’t wash it. It can get grimy at times - lol.

Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Phil Simms

Favorite sports cliche? Winners never quit, quitters never win

Favorite sports movie? 61*

What is the latest MHH article you’re most proud of?

This one. Right after I started at Mile High Huddle I posted a story featuring the running back competition during OTA’s. If you notice the website, it’s not on MHH but rather CBS 4 in Denver. This one and the one about the “Latimer Curse” were back to back on Bleacher Report at the same time, but the running backs piece was good enough to get moved to the CBS website. I was super stoked about that!

I’ve shared a lot of what I’ve put out up above. Hopefully everybody enjoys what I’ve written so far.

How did you become a Broncos fan?

I was born into Broncos fandom, but I was hooked after seeing my Dad cry when Broncos won SB32. I could tell that he truly loved this team (what seemed like more than he loved me - lol, jk). At 8 years old, what more can you do? I wanted to be like dad, so I made the Broncos my whole life. Literally.



This post first appeared on Mile High Report, A Denver Broncos Community, please read the originial post: here

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A tough opening matchup, but our Ultimate Fan predicts victory over the Seahawks

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