The Denver Broncos will take on the Detroit Lions tonight on Sunday Night Football. There are many options for what players to watch on both sides of the ball, but I'm only focusing on two per team. Choosing which was quite hard and took a lot of research to come to a firm decision. So let us get into who to watch and why.
Broncos Offensive Player to Watch: Emmanuel Sanders
The Lions cornerbacks are not a strong group, but they do have some talent there. Darius Slay is their top corner and will find himself matched up on Demaryius Thomas—a good matchup. Sanders, however, should find himself matched up with the veteran Rashean Mathis, who has been in the NFL since 2003.
Mathis relies heavily on his experience to compete in-game, but does have solid speed to help him stick with Sanders. He isn’t as agile, however, and if Sanders can use his quick moves to get separation, it will be a long day for Mathis.
Lions Defensive Player to Watch: Ezekiel Ansah
The Broncos offensive line has done nothing but struggle so far this season. Rookie left tackle Ty Sambrailo has been a big reason for those struggles, especially with his pass protection. He was completely dominated by Tamba Hali and the Kansas City Chiefs. Hali is still a great player, and Ansah is right there with him, if not better.
Ansah doesn’t have big pass rush numbers with only two sacks and one QB hit through two games, but he has still controlled his man. If not for a lot of quick releases or double teams, Ansah’s numbers would be far greater. He also is a force against the run, and should easily control the line of scrimmage. The type of player Ansah is plays perfectly to Sambrailo's weaknesses.
Lions Offensive Player to Watch: Golden Tate
Opposite Tate you’ll find Calvin Johnson, who has dominated in the NFL for years. A year ago, Tate really burst onto the scene and will find himself against Chris Harris, Jr. Tate has been playing some solid football and is catching 58 percent of passes thrown his way. The matchup against Harris is exciting, as they counter each other so well.
The key here is, Harris has to play tight coverage. Harris found himself separated from the Chiefs receivers often, and allowed 58 yards. So far in two games he has been targeted 10 times and is allowing 80% of catches to be completed. Tate has big play potential, so giving him any kind of separation can end up being a huge mistake.
Broncos Defensive Player to Watch: Aqib Talib
I could have easily gone with one of the Broncos pass rushers, but Talib is facing the toughest matchup. He likely will find himself lined up against Calvin Johnson, who is as formidable as they come. Both players are big, physical specimens at their position.
While Harris has struggled, Talib has been stout, with two interceptions and is allowing a measly 33.3 percent of catches on passes thrown his way. Not only is Talib the player to watch, but this may be the matchup of the week.
Offensively, both teams match up pretty evenly, but on defense, Denver has a huge step on the Lions. I'm not seeing a defensive battle, but a pretty one-sided game, if the Broncos offense steps up and Peyton Manning plays efficiently and effectively. The Broncos defense can control the game, they just need to offense to move the ball and put points on the board.
To counter the Lions pass rush and take advantage of the Lions secondary, Denver should use a lot of quick passes and try to pick up yards after the catch. If they try to go deep, or use long routes, where Manning has to hold onto the ball longer, he likely will take a beating.
Final score: Denver 41, Lions 17. Not only does Denver put up three touchdowns on offense, their defense picks up two scores.
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