The mid-way point of the NFL season has the Denver Broncos (2-4) hosting the Detroit Lions (5-2) in what will be an absolute slugfest. These two teams have met just 10 times with the Broncos holding a 6-4 edge in the series. The Broncos won last week while the Lions have dropped two in a row since their 5-0 start. The Lions will be entering their bye week after this game, so expect the team to go all in to get this last game before their time off. The Broncos have not won two games in a row since October 2009. Here’s what we can expect from the offense, defense, special teams, and coaches.
Broncos: The Broncos have not come out getting points up on the board early in games. The key in this one is getting off to a fast start instead of playing catch up at the end. Willis McGahee is likely sitting this one out so Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball will need to pick up the slack. The Lions have given up some big plays on the ground this year. The Lions bring a strong pass rush, so the offensive line will need to be at their best and Tim Tebow will need to make his reads faster. The thing that will help Tebow is if the ground game gets going early so that the play action works later. The Broncos are ranked 16th in rushing and 26th in passing. With one nerve racking game under his belt, let’s see if Tebow will let it fly more early on rather than waiting to work his magic until the end.
Lions: The Lions are ranked 27th in rushing and 11th passing. Matthew Stafford hurt his ankle last week, but claims that he’s ready to go this week. His No. 1 target Calvin Johnson is the team’s biggest offensive weapon. He’s got 10 touchdowns on the year and he’s dangerous in all areas of the field because of his ability to make plays on the ball and shed tacklers after the catch. Running back Jahvid Best is sitting this one out. The team gets former Bronco tight end Tony Scheffler back after he sustained a concussion in week 5. This is a situational running team that relies on the pass. Stafford is fourth amongst QBs in touchdowns with 16 while only throwing 4 interceptions.
Broncos: The way to stop the Lions’ offense is to bring an aggressive pass rush. That’s how the 49ers and Falcons did it in their wins. The Lions have given up 14 sacks on the year. They don’t have much of a ground game, especially with Best sitting out, so playing the pass initially would not allow Stafford to find a rhythm. Champ Bailey and his “help” safeties have their work cut out for them defending Calvin Johnson. He won’t be double teamed all of the time, but extra attention will be placed on Johnson on every single snap. The Broncos are 18th against the rush and 19th against the pass. Von Miller will need to take off his Clark Kent glasses and turn into Superman for this showdown.
Lions: The Lions’ defense struggles against a hurry up offense. Tim Tebow thrives in one. With the Mile High air on the Broncos side, speeding up the offense will wear the defense out in a hurry. The Lions are 28th against the rush and 9th against the pass. This spells good news for the legs of Tebow and the Broncos’ backs. Ndamukong Suh will line up across from Chris Kuper for most of the time. Suh has three sacks, but Kyle Vanden Bosch has 4. Chris Houston is 7th in the league in interceptions. The Lions defense plays well into John Fox’s play calling style. The run heavy coach will look to take advantage of the Lions poor rush defense.
Broncos: Matt Prater rode the emotional roller coaster last week after missing two first half field goals, and then nailing the game winner from 52 yards out. Britton Colquitt is 4th in punting average. This one could come down to which team has the better field position over the course of the game.
Lions: Special teams has been shaky the past few weeks. They’ve given up some longer returns. Stefan Logan is the primary return man and he has a long of 32 yards on kickoffs and 20 yards on punts. Jason Hanson has missed one field goal all year. Ryan Donahue is averaging 43.1 yards per punt.
Broncos: John Fox saw what Tebow did in a hurry-up offense last week. Will the coach speed the game up for his QB? It’s hard for a run-first coach to do that, but that’s what Tebow thrives in.
Lions: Jim Schwartz’s boxing gloves almost came on two weeks ago when the 49ers beat Lions. He knows his team has a target on their back because of their 5-0 start. Let’s see if the coach can get his young team out of the begging of a downward spiral or if youth keeps them in a sinking hole.
Prediction: Lions – 28 Broncos – 24.