If you have yet to do so, read the first two parts of my Week 1 preview. Part I covers how each position group matches up with their counterpart on the other team. Part II covers how they matchup on the field. Both are essential reads before getting into which players to watch.
Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore OLB
The first player to watch comes from the Baltimore Ravens defense, Elvis Dumervil. The Ravens have turned him into a situational pass rusher. They try to keep him off the field when their opponent runs. Why? Because he is a great pass rusher, but weak in run defense, as he always has been. He will often find himself matched up against Ty Sambrailo, who has struggled with speedier pass rushers, which is to Dumervil’s advantage.
Where Dumervil can win; Again, Dumervil is a great speed pass rusher. With his advantage, I would expect him to be a focal point of Peyton Manning when he sets up his blocking assignments. We also should see a tight end or running back chipping Dumervil to give Sambrailo some help. However, I don’t think a few sacks this game by Dumervil alone is a crazy thought.
How to slow/stop Dumervil: One of the easiest ways to counter pass rushers are quick passes. Slant routes or quick ins/outs. With Manning’s quick release, it should slow Dumervil and his rushing. Another step is to call plays that put Dumervil at a disadvantage. Remember Dumervil's weakness? Run defense. So when he is on the field, Manning must audible to a run off his side and put the ball back in Denver’s court.
Chris Harris, Jr., Denver CB
For the Denver Broncos first player to watch, we have Chris Harris. He should be matched up against the top Ravens receiver, Steve Smith. Harris is quick, agile and smart enough to handle his own against Smith. Unlike Dumervil, Harris doesn't have an obvious weakness that can be easily exploited. His run defense is also excellent and he is aggressive enough.
Where Harris can win: Really, everywhere. Smith is a very good receiver, despite all the mileage he has. However, Harris is one of the best corners in the NFL, if not the best. He has everything needed to shut Smith down in the passing game, and to make a big impact in the running game.
How to slow/stop Harris: The only limitation in Harris' game is when he is matched up on good receivers with size. While the Ravens don’t really have anyone that qualifies, it is easy to keep Harris off of them and on Smith. Just put Harris on an island with Smith and let the other corners handle the other receivers.
C.J. Anderson, Denver RB
For the Broncos on offense, the player to watch is C.J. Anderson. Anderson really broke onto the scene late last season with excellent play. There are high hopes for him entering this season, and he will find himself in Gary Kubiak’s offense, which is built for success of running backs.
Where Anderson can win: Anderson has everything needed to see success in this scheme. The quickness and agility is there, and his vision is excellent. He also has the strength to bounce off, or break, tackles. His vision is the key here, as it should get him to see holes before, or as they develop.
How to slow/stop Anderson: The Ravens have an understated advantage here. They know Kubiak’s scheme from his time as their offensive coordinator a year ago. That gives them a very slight advantage in knowing just how to step the running game.
However, they still have to execute. On the field, their best shot at slowing or stopping Anderson is by dominating at the line of scrimmage against the Broncos offensive line and get in the backfield to hit Anderson behind the line of scrimmage.
Maxx Williams, Baltimore TE
The final player to watch comes on the Ravens offense. He has huge potential, but is only a rookie this year. He is tight end Maxx Williams. Williams has such a great, well-rounded skill-set that makes him hard to defend against. He matches up really well with the Broncos linebackers and safeties. However, the potential is there for him to dominate the matchup, which is why he is a player to watch.
Where Williams can win: His athleticism alone is hard to defend against, especially for linebackers. He can beat them in a variety of ways, including agility, quickness, or just going up and high-pointing the ball. As a receiver, he could have a big game and huge impact on the outcome.
How to slow/stop Williams: The solution is simple. He is a rookie and you never know what you’re going to get come game time. So, to start the game you leave Williams in a one-on-one matchup, and usually with your best cover linebacker or safety.
In this case, Denver would line up ILB Brandon Marshall or FS Darian Stewart on Williams. If Williams starts to cause trouble, then switch it up, and put a double coverage on him. For being a rookie, he is one of the two big receiving threats on this offense.
This should be a great game by both defenses. The offenses for each team have shown they still have areas they need to work on, while the defenses are playing great. It’ll be a defensive matchup. Whoever gets more takeaways likely ends up the winner, as is usually the case.
All the offenses needs to do is not turn the ball over and keep moving the ball, eating up time on the clock. This will be a low-scoring game that likely comes down to the final minutes, with whichever team scores last winning.
Final score: 23-20 Denver.
In the first half only a total of 10 points between the two teams are scored. Going into the final six minutes of the game the Broncos are down 20-17. They march the ball downfield to tie the game up at 20.
The Ravens move the ball decently, before Von Miller hits Joe Flacco as he throws, which ends up getting picked off. Denver has the ball on the Ravens side of the field and move the ball effectively to run down the clock.
In the final seconds, Brandon McManus hits a field goal to put the score at 23-20, giving Denver the win.
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