The Broncos look to forget about last season and the off season drama by kicking off the 2009 season in Cincinnati. Last year, the Bengals went 4-11-1 with an injury plagued roster. Like the Broncos, the Bengals have a lot to prove, and are looking forward to starting with a clean slate. Both teams see it as a winnable game. As with all the games this opening weekend, expect a lot of intensity right out of the gate from both teams. The Broncos have a lot of pent up frustration that can be released only through a regular season game. The Bengals also have much to release after their disappointing year last season. Josh McDaniels is returning to his home state of Ohio, and I know losing in the regular season is unfamiliar to him, so My Prediction: Broncos 28 Bengals 24.
Broncos - I expect McD to continue to utilize the mid range passing game with maybe a couple of deep attempts to Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal. It’s going to take some time to get use to Kyle Orton running the show for all four quarters, so look for the Broncos to run a balanced attack on the ground and in the air. Orton is very sensitive to his mistakes right now, so Knowshon Moreno, Correll Buckhalter, and LaMont Jordan will get plenty of carries between the three of them just to get Orton use to handling the ball again. Also look for short passes to Peyton Hillis with the wideouts and tight ends blocking up field. Our receivers are better than their corners and safeties, so look for McD to attack them as the game progresses. The offensive line shouldn’t have much trouble containing the defensive line, but I don’t want to jinx anything yet. This is the one area of the game where the Broncos should be able to use their talent and athleticism to get a lot of points on the board. Avoiding turnovers like the plague is the best game plan I can offer this offense because we know that if the Broncos aren’t putting points on the board, the Bengals certainly will.
Bengals- This team is stacked with offensive talent. Carson Palmer is back from injury and he’s got Chad Ochocinco, Laveranues Coles, and Chris Henry to work with downfield. Even though T.J. Houshmandzadeh went to Seattle, Coles is a great veteran replacement. I would have to argue that this is the most talented and athletic receiving group the Broncos will face this year. They can catch the ball anywhere on the field and then take it to the house. Their “yards after the catch” stats are impressive. Pair that with Cedric Benson in the backfield, and this team could easily average 30 points per game this season. Like Orton, Palmer suffered an injury (sprained ankle) in the preseason that made his starting date questionable at one point. The Bengals offensive line is big and they did a good job in the preseason as evident by the Bengals leading the league in rushing. This Broncos defense has a great test ahead of them.
Broncos - Champ Bailey may even be tested on Sunday. Gasp! Andre Goodman certainly will be as will Brian Dawkins. However, it all starts up front with the defensive line pressuring the QB. If Elvis Dumervil and others can get some hits in (not even sacks), I think that will shake Palmer a little bit. Remember, Palmer only played in four games last year (all losses) and coming back from an elbow injury is not just a physical test, but a mental one too. It’s like asking a Grammy Award winning singer to perform one year after vocal cord surgery. If the sound system is off, you think that singer is going to perform well? If Denver’s defense tweaks Palmer a little bit, you think he’s going to perform well? This new 3-4 defense has shown signs of life. They created turnovers against Arizona, and they made some big plays in earlier preseason games. Their demise, however, is giving up big plays on third and longs. They tire themselves out when they do that. It’s almost like watching fender bender after fender bender in a line of traffic. Those long steady drives by opposing teams eat the clock and take away whatever momentum our offense had going.
Bengals - The Bengals pass rush isn’t that great, but the corners still managed to create some turnovers last year. Leon Hall had 3 INTs last season (1 TD return) and Johnathan Joseph is another talented corner. I think the Broncos receivers are still more than capable of outperforming them. Weakside linebacker Keith Rivers is back after missing most of last year while the addition of Tank Johnson should help their front line a bit. Tank’s backup, Pat Sims, did well last year, but he’s been on a tear in the preseason. He could step up for this team at some point in the season. They also have rookie Rey Maualuga out of USC at strongside linebacker. The Bengals added some key players on defense and got some key players back, so there should be an improvement over last year’s defense. Because the Broncos have their full offensive line back from last year, I don’t see why they can’t contain this Bengals defense.
Broncos - There wasn’t anything too impressive about the Broncos return specialists during preseason. As long as they hold onto the ball and give the team descent field position, I’ll be happy. The kicking game looks good with Brett Kern as our punter and Matt Prater as our kicker.
Bengals- Last year, the Bengals return game had nothing substantial to it. Kevin Huber and Shayne Graham are responsible for the punting and kicking, respectively. As we know, Ochocinco can kick too.
Broncos - This is your official welcome to the NFL kid McD. Nothing better than going to your home state to be baptized into the NFL head coaching ranks. McDaniels knows a win here is so important. He needs to diversify his passing game by going downfield more, but other than that he’s shown a nice balance in his play calling as far as running and passing. Just like a rookie player, this rookie head coach is going to need to learn from his mistakes in order to develop.
Bengals- I don’t know how Marvin Lewis is still there after six years and one winning season, but hey, I’m not complaining. This former defensive coordinator did amazing things with the Super Bowl champion, Baltimore Ravens, but he lost his steam once settling in Cincinnati. He’s got more experience as head coach than McD, but that’s not going to be enough to win this game for the Bengals.
Topics: Andre Goodman, Brandon Marshall, Brett Kern, Brian Dawkins, Carson Palmer, Cedric Benson, Chad Ochocinco, Champ Bailey, Chris Henry, Cincinnati Bengals, Correll Buckhalter, Denver Broncos, Eddie Royal, Elvis Dumervil, Johnathan Joseph, Josh Mcdaniels, Keith Rivers, Kevin Huber, Knowshon Moreno, Kyle Orton, Lamont Jordan, Laveranues Coles, Leon Hall, Marvin Lewis, Matt Prater, Pat Sims, Peyton Hillis, Rey Maualuga, Shayne Graham, T.j. Houshmanzadeh, Tank Johnson