Panthers Defense Stats - Game Averages
|Def||19.5||318.8 (15th)||208.0 (14th)||110.8 (17th)|
Denver's Offensive Stats - Game Averages
|Off||24.3||393.5 (2nd)||280.5 (3rd)||113.1 (16th)|
One words come to mind when I see the statistical match-up, OUCH! The Broncos are 2nd in total offense and 3rd in pass offense. Based just on these stats I'd say the Broncos would walk away with the win. However, luckily we also have an offense and will be facing the Broncos defense that is ranked 28th overall with no one area that is ranked above 26th. But I'll leave that for Revshawn to cover in more detail.
The Panthers defense started the season as the strength of the team. After week 10, our pass defense was still ranked 10th overall, and earlier in the season they were ranked as high as 2nd before our game against the Cardinals. Since then however, we've seen a steady decline. I see two main reasons for this, one is that the last half of our schedule is clearly the tougher part of our season, and two is that the Cardinals exposed our secondary a bit. We struggled that game as they spread the offense with 5 receiver sets, something for which our secondary was not ready. We've gone from believing our run defense was the strength, to the pass defense, to not knowing what to believe.
But I like to comeback to one important face, they are the same defense as day one. Which means they are capable of great things. We talked a lot last week about the whole team needed to play a complete game to win. The good news is that while our defense had issues with the deep ball, "Double Trouble" (or whatever nickname you want to give to Williams and Stewart) more than made up for the deficiency.
Our defense will have it's hands full on Sunday. The Broncos offensive line is spectacular, only allowing 8 sacks this season. Beyond that they gone through 5 running back all season and each time one goes down the next one steps in and doesn't miss a step. They have shut down some of the best DE in the league, holding Atlanta's John Abraham and Miami's Joey Porter to zero sacks.
It is possible that our offense can make up for any troubles our defense might face. But I would rather not go there. The main reason is that the Broncos are that good on offense and I'd rather not have the Panthers offense in a shootout. But our defense from the first have of the season will have to reappear.
Defending Denver's Running Game
This off season, as we know, the Panthers goal was to beef up the front line and get back to a power running attack and put together a line that weights 1567 lbs combined. I mention this as 1527 lbs is the weight of Denver's offensive line. Denver has gone through 5 or 6 running backs. As I said it hasn't made a large difference. With their offensive line Shawn Alexander may look like a MVP candicate again. The key here is stopping the run with the front seven or at times six. Denver will spread their offense (see below) giving Jon Beason a large responsibility.
Defending Denver's Pass Offense
The strength of their offense is clearly their passing game, lead by the Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall duo. Yet I don't want to insinuate that there's no depth as there is little drop off in receiver quality. Rookie Eddie Royal has almost as many receptions as Steve Smith and more yards than Muhsin Muhammand. Their TE doesn't mind heading down field as well.
I expect the Broncos to constantly give us a three receiver set and four and five with should also be common. I also expect this game to resemble our match-up against the Cardinals. They both are high powered passing game with a rushing attach that suspect. However, I would also give the edge to Denver as a better team.
Regardless of who's fault the blown coverage was last week against Bryant-Gamble, Lucas, Harris, Godfrey, and Marshall will have to be on the same page to stop them. I by no means expect to hold Denver to minimal yards, but as always just end a few of their drives early and that could be the difference.
Julius Peppers versus Ryan Clady is going to be a major headline during the game and it will be matchup to watch. But Clady can hold is own and is VERY impressive as a rookie, playing as a veteran. I see the bigger story on the other side at LE. Between Charles Johnson and Tyler Brayton they have 7.5 sacks. Johnson has recorded more (5 total). While not knocking Ryan Harris, I believe Johnson has the best chance of getting to Cutler. But Cutler doesn't mind leaving the pocket and so the defense will have to be mindful when he roles out.
To be quite honest the Bronco's offense scares the hell out of me. However, even if we lose it will not because it's a trap game it because our defense still hasn't re-found it stride. Yet, I have full confidence in our teams ability to get the all important win and stay on top of the division.
If we are able to pull this off, Prediction: Panthers 31, Denver 27