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Match-up Mayhem Week 1 Defense

In depth look at Baltimore's defense against the Broncos offense

Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

Manning at the helm week one in Denver against the Ravens; we've all experienced this before. In fact only two seasons ago Manning tied the record for most TD passes in a single game. Ravens fans watched as Peyton Manning eviscerated the champions week one, and foreshadowed what to expect from Baltimore that year. 8-8 watching as Gino Gradkowski attempted to ruin both Ray Rice & Bernard Pierce's YPC to record lows. But enough of the dim, and let's get to the good stuff.

Note: this is week one and the assumptions are the best to my knowledge. I am pulling some info from Pro Football Focus to attempt a better view. These aren't perfect, but I try my best to keep everybody informed and without homerism.

Offensive Line V D-line & Pass Rush

The Denver Broncos offensive line is looking strong, and ready for the season. But like every team, there is weakness, and Baltimore is very good at exposing holes with an always powerful front seven.

Terrell Suggs will be key in the match-up. Suggs has the opportunity to bully a young left tackle that isn't Ryan Clady after the ACL tear sidelines the big guy. Ty Sambrailo, a second round selection from my current city Fort Collins, Colorado is Denver's starting left tackle for the season. I have not had the opportunity to watch many Denver games this pre-season but against Seattle, Houston, and San Francisco he played well enough according to pro football focus. Nothing stellar, and nothing worrisome here. In fact he finished with a positive overall. But, with the big spotlight on him protecting Hall of Fame QB Peyton Manning will Ty crumble under the pressure in his first start against Terrell Suggs, or beef up and win the trench warfare? I expect Sizzle to come out and put the moves on the young fella. Suggs can set the tone early. Especially knowing Terrell's hunger for run stopping and pass rushing.

The guard combo for Denver is almost as impressive as Baltimore's with Louis Vasquez and new addition Evan Mathis. Not happy seeing the Broncos take hold of a top 3 guard. Mathis can run block to the talents of Yanda, in fact Evan Mathis was the third ranked run blocker for guards in the NFL last season behind only Mike Iupati and Marshal Yanda. Pass blocking Mathis ranks tenth in the NFL. Clearly the inside run game can be a problem for Jernigan, Williams, and Canty if Mathis & Vasquez get a step on them.

Denver's right tackle is not something for the Broncos to be proud of as Ryan Harris ranks negative in the overall rating. Elvis Dumervil, who put in a franchise record breaking season last year totaling 19 sacks, and 21 including play-offs should be frothing at the mouth with hopes of tackling former teammate Peyton Manning. Harris is positively ranked in pass blocking, but Elvis was the second best 3-4 OLB for pass rushing, sitting only behind Justin Houston. Elvis brings the heat with third and long, Harris can only hold the fort down for so long.

When the run game is present Courtney Upshaw will be taking advantage of the bad run blocking from Harris with his great edge setting technique. Upshaw has followed his duties of run blocking on first and second allowing Dumervil to swoop in on third and get the pretty QB hit stats everybody loves. Upshaw does the dirty work, and does it well. Harris could be in for a long night dealing with both Upshaw and Dumervil. If the Ravens offense jumps out to a long lead and Elvis starts seeing more snaps from the Broncos attempting to catch up, Dumervil could have a career night. But that's a big if obviously. Yesterday's Match-up Mayhem shows that.

Quick overall: Denvers guard combo is looking to pummel the interior Ravens, but the tackles are facing a top three linebacker attack from last year. Expect the Ravens to set the tone, and the linebackers to be forced to run stopping for interior play, but the zone blocking for stretch plays to be snuffed out by Suggs, & Upshaw.

Wide Receivers V Cornerbacks

Jimmy Smith, Lardarius Webb, Rashaan Melvin and Kyle Arrington against Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Andre Caldwell and Cody Latimer.

Jimmy Smith can handle almost any receiver 1 on 1 in the NFL. I have wrote about him going back to back to back to back (yes that many) against Brandon Marshall, AJ Green, Calvin Johnson Jr, and Josh Gordon. Never allowing a TD, and less than 100 yards against all of them. #22 is the real deal, and if healthy he can handle Demaryius Thomas. Even with Manning throwing the ball. I don't see Manning releasing any 40 yard bombs, taking away the stretching routes. You can tell me Manning isn't gone and I whole-heartedly agree but you cannot convince me the playbook for Gary Kubiak involves a whole lot of deepshots. I expect one maybe two deep passes. Manning is still damn near perfect from 1-15 yards in my mind. He picks apart teams with his brain, not his arm. His intelligence is bar none number one in the game.

Lardarius Webb hasn't looked the same in awhile, but nonetheless is the starter for Baltimores CB2. The biggest match-up I see is Emmanuel Sanders working on Webb. Sanders talents are speed, route-running and great hands. This match-up hopefully isn't as one-sided as I expect. Webb and Sanders are built exactly the same at 5'11" and 180 lbs. Neither one of them has a physical advantage in that aspect. I see Emmanuel winning out here as Manning will feed him targets. I also see Daryl Smith in coverage shading towards Sanders position.

Arrington against Latimer or Sanders is something I'm in favor of. Arrington in the slot is very good. Great hips, shiftiness and explosive recovery speed. Word is Sanders will be in the slot more often than last season, which may be good for the Ravens with Arrington's talents. Latimer is unproven and very difficult to pin for me. his 2014 season including 8 games played with only 2 receptions for 23 yards and one first down. That doesn't strike fear in my heart, but then again looking in the mirror you can see Ravens tight ends combining for 15 total receptions. Yet I broke that down yesterday for a positive. I can't judge Latimer, but his physical attributes are 6'3" and 216. If Rashaan hits the field to play against Latimer he can keep up better than Webb physically at 6'2" and 194. Though others yesterday criticized my physical judgements and it is true these aren't boxing matches with "Tale of the Tape" but Rashaan cannot so easily be pushed around like Webb would 4 inches and 40 pounds less.

Quick overview. Demaryius can be neutralized by Jimmy for the most part, but it's not going to be easy. Webb and Arrington will do their job to the best of their ability but Sanders is a handful. Latimer is unproven, but Rashaan is no golden boy cornerback.

Tight Ends V Linebackers

Owen Daniels and Virgil Green against C.J. Mosley and Daryl Smith. A quick look makes the Ravens favored, but let me delve deeper than just boringly announce this.

Owen Daniels is good. In Baltimore we all saw Daniels snag some catches and make some blocks. 48 receptions amounting 500 yards and 4 endzone celebrations. Not bad, but he has become older every year. By November Owen Daniels turns 33. His veteran presence is obvious, but his play-making ability is dwindling. I agree Daryl Smith is no young gun at 33 either, but his coverage is still without question. Ranking as the 8th best coverage linebacker in the league Smith not only holds his own dropping back, but dominates. He is ranked higher than big names Bobby Wagner, Jamie Collins, and James Laurinaitis. Smith is a season older, and regression is bound to happen, but I see Baltimore winning.

Mosley is not a coverage expert, in fact his weakness (and only one at that) is pass coverage. Mainly due to Le'Veon Bell paired with Big Ben abusing him week two of his rookie season. The other games CJ struggled with is his match-ups with New Orleans and their talented checkdown skills with runningbacks hurting Mosley, paired with an embarrassing game against the Houston Texans. Hopefully #57 fixes his issues with Daryl Smith tending to his efforts, but nothing is promised. Don't come in with the expectations CJ just learned to play coverage.

CJ matching against Virgil Green is a no contest. Green has been with Denver since 2011. In his four seasons Green has 23 catches, 200 yards and a single touchdown. Definitely not boastworthy accomplishments. Julius Thomas took a lot of plays from Green obviously with his last two seasons accumulating over 100 catches for 1,200 yards and 24 touchdowns. They no longer have Orange Julius though, meaning Green is expected to advance, and I don't see it happening.

Quick overview: Both teams match-up well, but Baltimore has a top coverage back. Not helpful for Denver


Baltimore D-line V Denver Interior O-line: Advantage Denver

Baltimore Edge Rushers V Denver Tackles: Advantage Baltimore

Baltimore Cornerbacks V Denver Receivers: Tie goes to the offense, Slight nod to receivers.

Baltimore Linebackers V Denver Tight Ends: Advantage Baltimore, Daryl Smith shines.

This game will be more defensive than most expect with Manning & Flacco quarterbacking. Maybe I'm completely wrong, but both defenses are strong. A tough game to judge week one. This is going to be a great game, don't you dare miss out.