This week has been an analytical one here at Buffalo Rumblings - we've broken down the Broncos and laid out the easiest ways for the Bills to beat Denver on Sunday. But that still doesn't answer the question - how do Denver fans view the progress of their team right now?
Johnny on the Spot, we've got TheSportsGuru from Mile High Report with us this morning to answer just those questions. MHR is one of the most respected football sites here at SB Nation, and Guru does an outstanding job of being fair and balanced in his obsessive love for the Broncos. Here's what he thinks of his team currently (my questions in bold):
What kind of impact do you think Simeon Rice can have along a revamped (and young) defensive line? How much do you think he'll be used in Week One?
MHR: Rice is telling anyone that will listen that he is ready to go. That said, I still think the Broncos will have to be careful with him. There is no way he can be in game shape, and the last thing the Broncos need is for Rice to tweak a groin or a hammy. Over time, I think Rice can have a huge impact, especially on Jarvis Moss, who comes into the League with similar size and talents as Rice when he came into the League. If Rice could be effective 10-15 snaps on Sunday and wreak havoc in the Buffalo backfield his first game would be a success.
Travis Henry and Mike Bell have been beat up all pre-season, and your offensive line isn't fully healthy either. Are you at all concerned about Denver's ability to run the football this weekend?
MHR: The Broncos always find a way to run and they'll find a way Sunday as well. To be honest, however, I think the Broncos are going to try and throw the football on Buffalo, testing out that defensive backfield. I think Shanny wants to show the world how far Jay Cutler has come, and if the Broncos can get a couple quick strikes down field early it will open up the run a bit. Travis Henry is back on the practice field, and Selvin Young, Henry's primary backup, has looked great all pre-season.
A lot of people (including yours truly) think highly of Jay Cutler, but this is still only his second season. How much of a learning curve do you think he'll have to overcome to reach his potential this season?
MHR: I think it is huge that Cutler has gone the entire off-season, training camp and pre-season as the starter. He is a student of the game and there will be a huge improvement from what we saw last year. That said, Cutler still has flaws to his game that will need to be addressed. He simply isn't that accurate in the short passing game and has a tendency to throw of his back foot. It usually doesn't hurt because his arm is so damn strong, but NFL DB's and LB's are much faster to react that college players and that was evident in the two pick-6's Cutler threw last season. How quickly he improves his fundamentals will go a long way to determining his success in '07.
I've been hearing mixed reports about the Broncos' secondary, specifically Dre' Bly. We all know that Champ Bailey is great, but how does the rest of the starting and nickel secondary stack up?
MHR: Dre Bly will be fine. Where Bly struggles is when he is lined up against big, physical receivers because Bly is not a big guy at 5' 9". Bly is a playmaker, however, and should a quarterback miss Bly has the hands to make you pay. Obviously Champ is the best in the game and after Bailey and Bly the Broncos have Domonique Foxworth who could start right now on many teams in the League. Foxy will be the Broncos main third corner, though when they want to go big you'll see Curome Cox, more of a safety, play the nickel. John Lynch still is playing at a very high level and Nick Ferguson is a solid, steady safety opposite Lynch. I am a firm believer, however, that your DB's are only as good as your pass-rush and how the Broncos' D-Line gets after the QB will be a key to the success of the pass defense.
Denver has struggled on Opening Day in recent years, including a loss at St. Louis last year. How does this team break that jinx and win an opener on the road - especially in a difficult environment like Ralph Wilson Stadium?
MHR: The odd thing about it is Mike Shanahan is still the active coaching leader in winning percentage in openers(10-4, .714). The past two season have been embarrassing performances to be honest and I think the Broncos are sick and tired of hearing about how poorly they have played, especially offensively. I think a lot of that is going to change with Jay Cutler at the helm instead of Jake Plummer. Shanny has taken the reigns off of the playbook and I expect to see a lot of dazzle on Sunday. Whether it works or not is another thing, but I think the Broncos are better prepared for this opener than for any in the past couple of years. Buffalo is going to be tough, there is no doubt, and the Broncos will need to play a solid 60 minutes in order to come out with a much needed win.
A huge thanks to TheSportsGuru from Mile High Report for taking the time to answer our questions. Be sure to stop by his site to see my answers later on today, as well as to catch up on any Broncos news and analysis you may crave before Sunday's matchup. Seriously, if you're looking to impress your buddies with your knowledge of our opponent on Sunday, spend 15 minutes reading at MHR. That's how spot-on the site is.
Two days and counting, Bills fans!