Broncos Looking To Strike Gold Against 49ers

Sunday, as the new-look 4-1 Denver Broncos host the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday Night Football, some have surmised this could be a Super Bowl preview although one would have to like the Broncos’ chances better than last season in said scenario against an NFC West team.

As contrasted to last season, when the Broncos had one of the worst statistical defenses in the NFL, after the first month and change of the season, they have shored things up considerably.

Presently, NFL.com confirms that the Broncos have the 7th best scoring defense in the league, surrendering only 20.8 points per game and are 4th in yards given up at 312.8 yards per contest. San Francisco is 7th in the league in rushing, at 135.7 yards per game, but the Broncos are 4th in stopping the run, giving up 76.8 yards per contest.

In conversation I have in part instigated with 49ers fans on Niners Nation, the 49ers’ SB Nation fan site, it’s apparent to many that whoever wins in the trenches could end up winning the game.

Right now, Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Broncos as 6.5-point favorites, but it’s important to remember that home-field advantage is usually worth three points so it’s understandable to suggest this game could be played within a field goal margin.

Anyway, Peyton Manning could be making history Sunday night as he currently has 506 career touchdown passes and is three away from first-place in this illustrious statistical category.

On the season, Manning is showing no signs of slowing as he has thrown for 1,530 yards, 15 TD’s and 3 INT’s  in completing 66.5 percent of his passes, so while some may think he is significantly regressing, there just is not sufficient evidence to substantiate such an assertion.

Furthermore, Manning is fifth in the NFL at passing yards per game (306.0), and tied for first at percentage of passes which go for scores at 7.9 percent with Green Bay star signal-caller Aaron Rodgers.

His most productive target early on this season remains tight end Julius Thomas, who has an NFL-best 9 scoring receptions on 24 catches, meaning 37.5 percent of his receptions go for scores. Meanwhile, wideout Demaryius Thomas, after a slow start, has become the fifth-leading receiver in the NFL at yards per game (98.2) and is eighth in overall receiving yards (491) while scoring four touchdowns. Receiver Emmanuel Sanders also remains productive as he is seventh in yards per game at 94.6 yards receiving.

The 49ers offense is again led by tailback Frank Gore who is sixth in the NFL at 403 rushing yards and one touchdown, while signal-caller Colin Kaepernick (1,456 yards, 64.3 completion percentage, 10 touchdowns, 4 INT’s) is relying upon stalwart veteran Anquan Boldin (32 rec, 397 yards, TD, 12.4 yards per reception) often, especially in 3rd down situations when San Francisco is in dire need to move the sticks.

Of course, even with the presence of linebacker Patrick Willis in the San Francisco lineup being no sure thing Sunday, the 49ers’ defense continues to excel even with several new contributors such as safety Antoine Bethea, cornerback Perrish Cox and inside linebacker Chris Borland, the 49ers are still #2 in net yardage defense at 287.2 yards per game.

Additionally, they are sixth in scoring defense at 20.5 points per game surrendered, second in passing yards per game allowed (207.3 yards) and fifth in rushing yards given up at 79.8 yards per contest.

Defensive end Justin Smith and linebacker Ahmad Brooks have three sacks apiece to lead San Francisco, while the 49ers are tied for third in the NFL with 7 total interceptions thus far, Cox leading the way with a team-best three this season.

Thus, both of these defenses are among the best units in the league although there are dynamic playmakers boasted by both offenses, making this matchup all the more fascinating.

Turnovers could also be a crucial factor in this game as they always seem to be, especially in matchups between a pair of excellent teams and both squads are in the top half of the league in turnover ratio, the Broncos are 14th best in the NFL thus far at +1, while San Francisco is at +5, tied with Carolina for fifth place.

With all of this said, I think America will not be disappointed with this choice for the NFL to have this game airing in its premier Sunday Night package on NBC.