The Denver Broncos can clinch their second straight AFC West Title with a home win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday afternoon. When the schedule came out last spring this looked like an automatic win for the Broncos; that’s no longer the case. The Buccaneers have won 4 out of 5 games and feature one of the league’s best offenses. It should be a very fun game for the fans as both teams are likely to put up points.
Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense have not been as sharp over the past couple of weeks, but they should get healthy on Sunday. The Buccaneers do have the NFL’s best run defense but they also have the worst pass defense. In addition to being awful versus the pass, the Buccaneers are also missing key players in the secondary and they do not rush the passer well. All of this adds up to a huge day for Manning, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and the rest of the receivers for the Broncos. They will run the ball some just to keep the Buccaneers honest but make no mistake; the Broncos are going to throw the ball all over the yard on Sunday.
Knowshon Moreno will continue to be the feature back but his contributions on Sunday will be as a receiver. The Broncos will probably use Ronnie Hillman a little more this week, especially as a receiver.
The Buccaneers offense will provide a great test for a Broncos defense that has been playing as well as anyone over the past six weeks. The offense features rookie running back, Doug Martin who is all ready one of the top backs in the league. The Broncos primary goal will be to stop or at least contain Martin, and force the Buccaneers to throw. Even if the Broncos are able to do that, the Bucs can throw the ball as well. Josh Freeman is having a very good year after struggling in 2011, and has numerous weapons in the passing game. Bronco fans remember receiver, Vincent Jackson from his days with the San Diego Chargers. Jackson is the main target for Freeman and he is a tough guy to cover because of his size and deceptive speed.
In addition to Jackson, the Buccaneers also have tight-end Dallas Clark who has provided Freeman with a security blanket on third-downs. If the Broncos are going to slow this offense down, they have to do two things. It has to start with stopping or at least slowing down Martin and the running game. After that, the Broncos will rely on their strength and that’s the pass rush. In short, force the Buccaneers to throw and then turn Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil loose.
The game has all the appearances of a shootout and it is usually turnovers that decide those types of games. Every offensive possession is going to be valuable and must be treated as such. If either team gains an extra possession or two from turnovers, then that team is in great shape. Third-down efficiency will also be an important stat to keep an eye on; if the Broncos can continue their stellar third-down defense then they are in good shape. However if the Buccaneers are able to force the Broncos to punt a few times, then they would have to like their chances as well.
In the end, the Denver Broncos are at home and they just have too much for a young Tampa Bay Buccaneer team. The game will be back and forth through the first-half and into the third quarter but the Broncos pull away in the final period. No team has been better in the fourth quarter than the Broncos and that will continue on Sunday. In a high-scoring and very entertaining football game, the Broncos win 38-27.
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