Mile High Stadium is historically a difficult place for anyone to visit and it has been even more difficult for the Browns. The Broncos have owned this series without question and are currently on an 8 game win streak over the Browns.
One week ago, the Broncos stumbled to a victory over the Bengals - proving that it truly is better to be lucky than good – and want to make it back to back wins over the AFC North.
Local law enforcement has been contacted and is still in the process of trying to locate the Cleveland Browns Defense. They went missing during halftime in last week's loss to the Vikings.
Broncos Offense vs. Browns Defense
Just one year ago, the Broncos possessed one of the most potent passing attacks in the NFL, but in a plot that is worthy of a Day Time Emmy, that has come to an end. Gone is legendary head coach Mike Shanahan. Gone is one of the best arms in football with the departure of quarterback Jay Cutler.
While the loss of Cutler has already been felt this year, the Broncos acquired enough in this trade to build this team for years to come. Adding Knowshon Moreno was a great step in the building process. This young running back is the total package. He has the size at 5-11 and 210 pounds. He has blazing speed and versatility as a dual threat both rushing as well as receiving. He is a game changer and will give the Broncos stability at the running back position for years to come.
I love that the Broncos also brought in former Eagle, Correll Buckhalter to compliment Moreno. After three major knee surgeries most have given up on this talented back but he appears to be running with power and most importantly he is having fun. Correll seems to appreciate every snap and that attitude tends to rub off on the locker room.
Quarterback Kyle Orton jumped ship from the Bears to the Broncos as part of the Cutler trade. Kyle doesn't bring the same dynamics to the position as a Jay Cutler but he can move the chains and allow your running game to work. The one troublesome area with Kyle besides his lack of arm strength, holding the ball too long, and getting his receivers killed is the way in which he tends to lock onto his intended target for far too long.
Up front, this is a solid offensive line. They are incredibly quick as a group and fit the Broncos zone blocking style perfectly. This group is led by left tackle Ryan Clady. Clady as a rookie was credited with only half a sack in 16 starts as a rookie. Let the argument begin as to whom is the best left tackle in football. That argument may very well come down to who is better between Clady and the Browns Joe Thomas.
The Broncos are loaded at the receiver position with receivers named Brandon with Brandon Stokley, Brandon Lloyd and, most importantly, Brandon Marshall. Marshall is a very difficult match up for the Browns due to his size and physicality. When his mind is on the game, no one is better.
The Broncos also have Eddie Royal. Eddie is coming off of a terrific season and he brings speed, hands and route running to the wide receiver position. This is a terrific group of receivers and all they need is someone to get them the football. During the off-season they will be looking to add that piece to the puzzle - that is, if they survive Kyle Orton hanging them out to dry.
Look for the Browns to stack the box and dare Kyle Orton to beat them. Shaun Rogers is an impossible match up for veteran center Casey Wiegmann of the Broncos. Casey is listed at 285, which may be a stretch. Rogers is quicker than the smaller Wiegmann and also posses much greater physical strength. This is the single greatest mismatch in this contest. He should free up the interior for the Browns linebackers to step in and make plays.
Outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley is making many doubters eat their words. Kamerion has improved in virtually every aspect of his position. He is pressuring the pocket and getting to the quarterback. He has also shown tremendous improvement in run recognition and also in sealing that run to the outside. Kamerion Wimbley appears to be reborn under new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's system.
The Browns must find the compliment linebacker for D'Qwell Jackson. The faster rookie David Veikune can adapt to the NFL, the better it is for the Browns. If David isn't the answer, its back to the drawing room or to the draft board for the Browns. While Eric Barton gives his best effort and does an admirable job, he is more of a slower version of Jackson in style of play and the Browns need a sledge hammer for that position - not another Andra Davis clone.
One year ago, the Broncos embarrassed Browns corner Brandon McDonald in a nationally televised contest. They targeted the inexperienced corner early and often and never let him off the hook. Brandon is coming into his own as a solid corner with ball hawking skills. He could have a very big game against Orton this week.
The entire secondary has been showcased all week long for their failed attempt to corral Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. This group will come out with a purpose and be looking to prove something this week. I would not be surprised if we do not see even more blitzing from the safety and corner positions.
Browns Offense vs. Broncos Defense
Far too much has been made about timing between quarterback and receivers one week ago. The reason the Browns Offense were horrible one week ago was play calling and no Kellen Winslow at the tight end position.
When playing a team with great pressure up front that employs the cover two, it is imperative to have a pass catching tight end. That is the weakness against the cover 2 scheme. Browns quarterback Brady Quinn would often target the right receiving option but tight end Robert Royal does not have that kind of ability.
I would love to see the versatile receiver/return ace Joshua Cribbs filling that role at tight end to give this offense a diverse look. Cribbs is realistically more of an undersized tight end than he is a receiver.
As for play calling, using the wildcat shotgun from one foot away from the end zone was possible the dumbest play call that I have seen from a Browns offensive coordinator (with some of the play calling we have seen that says a lot). Now with all that said, Brian Daboll overreached one week ago and was outthinking himself throughout this contest. I expect to see a much more focused play selection this week.
The Broncos are a lightweight defense. They fly to the ball from everywhere. They remind me of army ants. One you can squash but while you are squashing one the others bring down the prey.
Former long-time Brown linebacker Andra Davis is one of the generals of this defense. Andra last week played arguably one of the best games of his career. He was everywhere. Andra's familiarity with the Browns will be an asset for the Broncos. The key will be to challenge Andra as well as the entire linebacker corps with big bodied offensive linemen.
Where the Broncos play small ball on defense, the Browns employ more of a mauler football philosophy with their offensive line. This is a big line that wants to get out and get into the face of the smaller Broncos defense. Physically they should be able to overpower and wear down the Broncos defense but questions remain about this offense. Those questions are bigger on the right side of the line, which gave up five sacks one week ago.
One positive from last week's contest is the play of running back Jamal Lewis. Lewis was dominating and the only thing that stopped Lewis from having a career type of day was the play selection. Lewis will be looking to plow over the Broncos defense and if the Browns receiver corps can provide improved blocking in the secondary, Lewis and possibly Jerome Harrison will have a big day.
The Broncos secondary will be hurting if corner Champ Bailey and safety Brian Dawkins miss this one (both participated in practice on Friday). They bring not only pro bowl talent, but also tremendous leadership. In their place could be a pair of rookies in corner Alphonso Smith and safety Darcel McBath. Smith is small in size but a tenacious defender who likes to press and really get inside the jersey of the receiver. McBath is a ball hawking free safety with tremendous burst and exceptional recognition. He can get to the ball in a hurry.
If he's so lucky as to face them, Brady Quinn will look to challenge the rookie defenders and they should be on their heels as the Browns receivers rebound from a disappointing week one performance. Job security for these receivers is at stake - especially with two rookie receivers looking to earn a starting role on the offense.
Brady Quinn will need to show the world that he can throw the deep ball with consistency while remaining patient. For that to happen, the receivers need time to get downfield. Outside linebacker/defensive end Elvis Dumervil will likely be moved around this week as he looks to use his speed to get to the quarterback. He will give Joe Thomas a challenge but he could give St. Claire nightmares. Elvis is one of the best young pass rushers in the league but his weakness is his size. If the Browns want to negate that speed, they should target him in the run game.
The Browns have clear advantages in this contest but they also have serious questions that need to be answered. An O-2 start would be the season most have predicted. A win and things suddenly look much brighter. The Browns need confidence like the Broncos need a quarterback.
Whenever you face the Broncos, the defensive linemen must not only focus on the ball but they also must keep an eye out for the chop block. These guys would chop their mother to free up a running back.
The Broncos would be in great position in the AFC West with not only another AFC win but also a win against the AFC North. This game is huge for the Broncos as they look to set a high bar for the AFC West Crown.