When the NFL schedulers put this matchup on the books, I am sure they were hoping for an exciting rematch of last year's Week 16 thriller. Safe to say, they were not hoping for a showdown of Brock Osweiler and AJ McCarron. But, regardless of who is under center, they got a game with huge playoff implications. Thanks to Sadaraine of Mile High Report, we got a great look into Monday night's game in the eyes of a Broncos fan.
1. It sounds like Peyton Manning is getting close to a point (health wise) where he may be able to return. Brock Osweiler will start this week, but who gives the Broncos the best chance of winning - this week and going forward into January?
Brock is the starter this week without question. Until someone from the Broncos organization mentions there being a possible start for Manning, I think the drama we keep hearing is just that: drama. Manning hasn't been right since mid-way through the 2014 season. Our best option for winning football is Brock Osweiler for the rest of this season.
2. After jumping out on the Steelers 27-10 in the first half last week, the Broncos offense was shut out in the second half. What did the offense do so well to build the 17 point first half lead? And what were the Steelers able to do in the second half to shut the Broncos offense down?
The offense did a great job throwing into single coverage and letting our guys make plays. The scheme was solid and took advantage of the man coverage schemes that Pittsburgh was using to create big holes that were pretty safe places for Brock to attack downfield.
The Steelers switched to a lot of zone concepts in the second half that caused Brock to stall more and have problems finding holes to throw into. He is a young QB and when the coverage zones cover up his favorite stuff in this scheme, he doesn't yet know what to do or where to go as quickly as all of us would like. The good thing is that he was learning in that game and getting better at it. The bad thing is his teammates let him down on a lot of really good throws.
3. What does Brock Osweiler do well? And what are the areas he struggles in?
Brock looks really good on the bootleg plays Kubiak loves to run out of this scheme. When the run game is working, he really does do some damage there. He also has a very good arm as a QB and throws with nice zip fairly accurately.
Brock's struggles are what you expect from most young QBs: he's slow to diagnose coverages either from a micro or macro level. Many of us who have studied the game for some time have done many head-slaps this season with routes Brock moved on from that were open if he'd just read it and wait .3 seconds to chuck it. He's going to have to improve this if he wants to be a successful QB in the future.
4. The Broncos went to Pittsburgh with the top pass defense, top run defense and top scoring defense. Despite a disappointing day, they are still in the top five in terms of scoring and they remain the top pass and run defense. What makes this defense so good? And how were the Steelers able to exploit this defense?
The Broncos defense is so good because they have a disgusting wealth of talent personnel wise matched with a defensive coordinator who runs an aggressive scheme and designs his plays to take advantage of the strengths of his players. Wade Phillips + John Elway's personnel moves is the basic equation you are looking for to get the answers here. We have superb pass rushers, linemen who impact the run and the pass well, aggressively fast linebackers, and the best secondary in the NFL (when healthy).
The Steelers exploited our injuries at safety to great effect. Sure, our corners had lapses (especially Chris Harris, Jr. and Bradley Roby), but if you pull back from most of those and look at the whole defense, there was a safety in most cases that was closing but not where they needed to be to break up the play. This team misses Darian Stewart so bad on defense. He's a big key to our defensive success and Pittsburgh made us pay for not having him in the game while we ran cover-1 man most of the time.
5. For the second year in a row, these two teams meet on Monday night in Week 16 with playoff implications on the line. Last year, the Bengals got the win in front of their home crowd. How do you see this game unfolding this year in Denver? And who do you see coming out on top?
It is going to be a great aggressive game. We're going to see two really impressive teams lay the wood (I love your defense by the way...they play the way the game is supposed to be played). It should be a real close game. I like Denver at home, but not big at all. Denver 23, Cincinnati 21.