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MOtorboat
12-13-2008, 11:11 AM
Denver Broncos (8-5) at Carolina Panthers (10-3)

Where: The NFC South-leading Carolina Panthers will host the AFC West-leading Denver Broncos on Sunday, at 2:15 p.m. MST, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

Last meeting: Denver defeated Carolina 20-17 at Invesco on Sunday, Oct. 10, 2004.

All time series: Denver leads the all-time series 2-0. The other win came in a 34-0 beat down at Mile High in 1997, as the Broncos headed towards a Super Bowl victory. This will be Denver’s first trip to Charlotte. The Broncos did play an exhibition game in 1997 with the Panthers in Clemson, S.C.

Last week: Denver took care of AFC West opponent Kansas City, 24-17, at home. The Panthers are coming off of a huge home win over division rival Tampa Bay, 38-23, on Monday Night.

Vegas Odds: Carolina opened as a 9-point favorite, but the line has gone down to 7.5. The over-under is 47 points.

When Denver has the ball

Running game

Key Matchup: The Broncos running backs vs. the training table

The Broncos lost another running back for the season last week in Peyton Hillis, who is the team’s leading rusher this season. Hillis is the fifth Denver running back to hit injured reserve this season.

That leaves Tatum Bell and Cory Boyd, fresh off the practice squad, as the Broncos two feature backs. Selvin Young, the one running back left from the start of the season who has not been put on injured reserve, could also see some times as well. If Boyd starts, he would be the seventh back in 13 games to start for the Broncos.

The Panthers have given up 110 yards per game on the ground, 18th best in the NFL, while the Broncos have rushed for 113 per game, 15th best in the NFL.

Advantage: Push.

Passing game

Key Matchup: Ryan Clady vs. Julius Peppers

Ryan Clady has allowed just a half of a sack this season – the entire line has given up just eight sacks, tied for first in the NFL – while Julius Peppers has 12.5 sacks, tied for fourth in the NFL. Add to that that Peppers has 44 tackles and five pass deflections, and he becomes the biggest challenge for Ryan Clady. But, Clady has handled all comers with ease this season, and he’s coming off of a Rookie of the Week performance against the Chiefs.

The Panthers, however, aren’t going to shy away from moving Peppers around, if Clady wins the match up early, putting a lot of pressure on Ryan Harris – the Broncos right tackle – if the Panthers were to change up their scheme.

If Cutler stays upright, as he has for most of the season, the Broncos will have success moving the ball, as Cutler is quickly becoming one of the best passers in the game.

As a whole, the Panthers are 14th in overall passing defense, giving up 208 yards per game. They are tied for ninth in sacks, but they are 23rd in interceptions, which could play into the Broncos advantage, as Cutler has been prone to throw interceptions, including a pick-six last week against Kansas City.

Advantage: Denver.

When Carolina has the ball

Running game

Key Matchup: Carolina’s running backs vs. Denver’s linebackers.

This might be one of those situations where you can’t stop them, so you better hope to contain them. The Panthers are fourth in run offense, going for 146 yards per game, while the Broncos run defense 26th in the league, giving up 139 yards per game.

The Denver defensive line is key in this as well, as the Panthers have a bunch of maulers up front, but the key is the linebackers penetrating the line and getting into the backfield. Carolina has two very talented, young running backs in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, who have combined for 1,840 yards and 21 touchdowns with three games still to play.

Wesley Woodyard has made a big difference for the Denver defense at weak-side linebacker while starter D.J. Williams has been out. Denver head coach Mike Shanahan said that he will find a spot for both players on the field, and that may be one of the key factors for the Broncos. If these two linebackers can find gaps and get to Williams and Stewart, the Broncos could at least hold the Panther run offense at bay.

Advantage: Carolina.

Passing game

Key Matchup: Denver getting pressure on Delhomme.

If the Broncos force the Panthers to throw the ball – and that’s a big if – the key for the Broncos in forcing Delhomme to make bad decisions will be if they can get to him. The Panthers are 22nd in total pass offense, but they are 9-3, which means they just haven’t been forced to win games through the air. Delhomme has been sacked 19 times, however, and I think the Broncos can get to Delhomme if they force second or third and long situations.

Denver may get Champ Bailey back, which will certainly shut down half of the field. But if Bailey is back, expect him to see a lot of Muhsin Muhammad, rather than Steve Smith, as the Panthers will try to match him up with Dre Bly.

Advantage: Carolina.

Special Teams

Key Matchup: Field Position Battle.

Neither team has broken a kick, or a punt, for a touchdown this season, so field position will be very important for both special teams. The Broncos have allowed both a kick and a punt return for a touchdown, while Carolina has allowed a punt return for a touchdown.

Whichever team gets the better field position, could hold a big key in a game that could turn into a slugfest.

Advantage: Push.

Analysis

This game will have a playoff feel to it. Both teams would clinch playoff spots with a win, and the Panthers could still feasibly get the No. 1 seed in the NFC, so the game carries heavy importance for both teams.

Carolina’s potent run offense is the key to the game. If the Broncos can contain it, and force Jake Delhomme to have to win the game for the Panthers, the Broncos could win a shoot out type of game. Delhomme has been a little inconsistent this year, but it hasn’t hurt him, because Williams and Stewart have run roughshod over teams, at times, this season. Meanwhile, Denver’s run defense has been extremely inconsistent, though better, in the last few weeks (despite Thomas Jones running over the Broncos two weeks ago).

There’s been a lot of talk about the NFL flexing this game to the late game, which for whatever reason, has helped the Broncos in the past, as early games on the east coast have really hurt the team in the past.

This game will be seen by most of the country, and has evolved into one of the best non-conference matchups of the season.

Prediction: Carolina 27, Denver 24

topscribe
12-13-2008, 11:19 AM
Good analysis. :2thumbs:

My fondest hope is that Denver is really focused on this game, whereas
Carolina has the Giants coming up next week. They say they're not overlooking
Denver, but how could the Giants' looming not have their attention?

I won't be surprised at a win or a loss this week. I'm not sure anything would
surprise me this year.

-----

slim
12-13-2008, 11:21 AM
Nice work, MO.

I think there is a typo in the last line, but other than that...well done.

slim
12-13-2008, 11:23 AM
MO, do the panthers generally move peppers around? I thought that was an interesting point you made, but I haven't watched them enough to know.

MOtorboat
12-13-2008, 12:19 PM
MO, do the panthers generally move peppers around? I thought that was an interesting point you made, but I haven't watched them enough to know.

I haven't seen them much this year, but I know they have in the past.

They have always been pretty creative on defense.

King87
12-13-2008, 01:49 PM
Fantastic analysis.

I think the Broncos steal this one. I don't think that Carolina has that great of a secondary, and I also think that in the past Peppers has struggled when teams ran directly at him.

Lonestar
12-13-2008, 02:30 PM
great thread and glad it was in the article section..

Looks like a lot of work went into it..:salute:

dbwitadb719
12-13-2008, 02:31 PM
This game has the makings of a shootout with the explosive offense of the Broncos, and a Panthers pass defense that isn't all that great. On the other side of the ball though, Denver has proven to struggle with their run defense allowing running backs to run all over them. So I think that the key for the Broncos is to really step up and do a good job in containing that two headed monster of Deangelo Williams and rookie Jonathan Stewart.

OrangeHoof
12-13-2008, 04:18 PM
I think Denver will beat the spread because we look like a classic trap game. The Panthers finished a Monday nighter against their chief rival in their division and next week have the Giants up with the #1 seed in the conference possibly on the line. Why would they focus on a team from the other conference which is struggling just to keep a roster intact?

The Broncos can easily lose this game but I think they will keep it close and either win narrowly or lose narrowly. If the Panthers blow us out, it will be a testimony to how good their coach is because Carolina has got to be less focused on us than who they just played and who is upcoming.

MOtorboat
12-13-2008, 04:45 PM
I think Denver will beat the spread because we look like a classic trap game. The Panthers finished a Monday nighter against their chief rival in their division and next week have the Giants up with the #1 seed in the conference possibly on the line. Why would they focus on a team from the other conference which is struggling just to keep a roster intact?

The Broncos can easily lose this game but I think they will keep it close and either win narrowly or lose narrowly. If the Panthers blow us out, it will be a testimony to how good their coach is because Carolina has got to be less focused on us than who they just played and who is upcoming.

They probably need to win this one to really be in the hunt for home field.

TXBRONC
12-13-2008, 10:44 PM
Great analysis MB.

I heard yesterday that although Carolina has a great running attack they're 3rd down conversion percentage isn't very good.

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