A trip as far away from home as possible may be just what the Denver Broncos need right now. They certainly wouldn’t be treated like royalty here, so heading to London where aristocracy defines the city may just be the recipe for what ales ails them. The San Francisco 49ers (1-6) actually have a worse record than the Broncos. They have some of the best individual talent in the league, but have not been able to tie it together. The one game that they did win came against the Oakland Raiders, so really, any outcome is possible. However, because the Broncos lost so badly last week, I think they’ll pull it together. My Prediction: Denver Broncos 27 San Francisco 49ers 21
Broncos - The key for the Broncos’ offense is to get out of the gate fast. The team has only scored once in the first quarter this year, and they are usually down at halftime. A lot of that can be attributed to the lack of running game. The Broncos have elected to go with a pass heavy offense (Kyle Orton has the 2nd most passing attempts in the league) which has allowed the defense to really settle in along the line of scrimmage. When the favored passing game doesn’t work, the Broncos are left with a lot of third and longs and drives that are cut short. The Broncos are ranked 3rd in passing and 32nd in rushing with the Detroit Lions (the next best rushing team) averaging about 10 more yards per game than the Broncos. Kyle Orton will need to be on his game as the 49ers have one of the best intercepting secondary’s in the league. Getting some kind of run game going will help eliminate the potential for turnovers.
49ers- Much has been made of the fact that starting QB, Alex Smith, isn’t playing due to injury. Instead of opting for David Carr to be the backup, the 49ers have decided to go with Troy Smith. This scares me a little bit. Smith was the starting QB in Baltimore in 2007, but the Heisman Trophy winning rookie QB got sick. He’s known for his scrambling abilities, but can also throw a great ball in the pocket. Helping Smith get acclimated will be running back Frank Gore who will get a lot of carries. The Broncos’ coaching staff has described Gore as the best back that they’ve faced this season. He finds the mistakes in the defense and will shoot up the gaps. The 49ers run a lot out of passing formations. Gore gets a lot of his big runs out of 3-receiver packages against the nickel and dime defenses. Leading the team in receiving is tight end Vernon Davis and Gore. These guys are such scoring threats that the Broncos defense will have its hand full.
Broncos - The good news is that Brian Dawkins and Andre Goodman will be back with the team. However, the bad news is that Perrish Cox and Kevin Vickerson did not make the trip across the Atlantic. The Broncos are ranked 10th against the pass, but 30th against the rush. They have had some success containing some very good rushing teams, however. Against the Titans, they held Chris Johnson to 50 yards below his rushing average and did it by blitzing the edge and taking away the outside. They failed to do this against Darren McFadden and as we know, he had a career day. Robert Ayers is a big missing piece in the Broncos’ ability to stop the run. However, because of the new QB situation with San Francisco, the Broncos can play the run early in the game. The 49ers are going to run a lot until they create some room for Smith to throw and get in rhythm. The Broncos’ secondary should be able to get a pick or two out of Smith considering he hasn’t started a game in three years and nerves are probably riding high.
49ers- The 49ers are ranked 14th in rush defense and 15th in pass defense. They have a very fast front seven and will strip the ball if it’s exposed at all. Patrick Willis is a great coverage linebacker who is 7th in the league in tackles. He doesn’t miss and he reads the right lines. Nate Clements and Shawntae Spencer are great corners that have two INTs each on the season. Travis LaBoy and Parys Haralson lead the team in sacks with three each. This 49ers defense is allowing 23.1 points per game, but in their lone win against the Raiders, they held them to 9 points (all field goals). This defense is capable of creating big plays. It seems like they’ve always got their hands on the ball with 27 pass deflections and 6 forced fumbles.
Broncos - The Broncos will need their kick coverage to be spot on because they need to cover Ted Ginn Jr. who can go the distance on both kickoffs and punts. Matt Prater has been near perfect on the season, and punter Britton Colquitt had plenty of chances to show his tremendous leg last week. Winning the field position battle will be very important in this game.
49ers- Kicker Joe Nedney is 7-for-8 on the season with a long of 51 yards. Andy Lee handles punting duties and out of 40 punts, 14 have landed inside the 20-yard line and 3 have landed inside the 10-yard line.
Broncos - The two head coaches have taken very different approaches to the overseas game. The Broncos will land in London on Friday morning, giving them a small window to adjust to the time difference and new city. The 49ers have been there since Monday. Josh McDaniels could take a lot of heat if the team comes out sluggish.
49ers- Mike Singletary could also take a lot of heat for his decision to start Troy Smith over David Carr if things don’t go the 49ers way. His thinking is the team doesn’t have much to lose so why not evaluate the 3rd-stringer. Singletary is running through all of his options, trying to find one that works, just so he can keep his job.
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