I’m working on some stuff for the “down period” to try to figure out where the Chiefs are heading into 2014 on all levels – the roster, position battles, the schedule, the division, etc. While I was doing this I came across the Denver Broncos schedule and had a thought about Peyton Manning. First here’s Denver’s first eight opponents:
Indianapolis — Kansas City — at Seattle — Arizona — at New York Jets — San Francisco — San Diego — at New England.
Tough, yes, but strength of schedule isn’t what I’m going for here. Here’s where those eight teams ranked in pass defense ranking in 2013 according to Football Outsiders:
Colts (13) — Chiefs (7) — Seahawks (1) — Cardinals (5) — Jets (18) — 49ers (10) — Chargers (31) — Patriots (14).
Now those same team’s sack rates rankings:
Colts (8) — Chiefs (6) — Seahawks (7) — Cardinals (12) — Jets (24) — 49ers (29) — Chargers (15) — Patriots (9).
Denver has a serious problem on their hands the first half of the season when it comes to keeping Manning upright and healthy. Remember Denver is shuffling their offensive line and will have “new” starters at guard and right tackle, and will also have a hobbled Ryan Clady playing left tackle. They’ll benefit from having Clady back but keep in mind Clady has now had major knee, shoulder, and foot surgeries in the last five years.
Opponents are also now armed with the video Seattle presented the NFL on how to slow down Manning and force him to hold the ball longer. Yes, not everyone has the personnel to do what they did, however it should be noted Denver will be playing four top 10 pass defense teams and four top 10 pass rush teams from a year ago in their first eight games of the season. This would seem to indicate teams who have quality personnel on the defensive side of the ball.
And, yes, while the Chiefs were a top 10 team in sacking the quarterback a year ago, they did struggle to generate pressure in two games last season against Denver. One would hope the speed added to the secondary and the improved depth of the Chiefs pass rush will help the Chiefs this time around, however.
Twelve of the Broncos 16 games will come against teams who finished in the top 15 in sacks a season ago, with six of those games coming against top nine teams. How healthy can the Broncos realistically keep Manning given the onslaught of pressure that’s likely to come?
Just a thought.