Sunday night’s showdown featuring Big Ben and the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos promises to be one of the best games of Week 1.
Brett Favre, Dan Marino and Joe Montana are perceived as just a few of the greatest signal-callers ever, and yet Manning has more All-Pro (than any QB, ever), Pro-Bowl (same as Favre) and MVP’s than all three of them.
Manning’s return to the field after a major neck surgery will cause this contest to be the most-watched game of the weekend, as he faces one of the best defenses in all of sports. The Steelers defense has been labeled as “soft, and over” by analyst Warren Sapp and this is a vital challenge and season for Mike London’s Steelers.
Dick LeBeau was put into the Pro Football Hall of Fame two seasons ago and while his defense may no longer be the best in the NFL, they are still relevant with three premier players.
James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and Troy Polamalu are all capable of working together as a team and forming one of the elite defenses. Plus, the linebackers are still arguably the best out there with Lawrence Timmons likely turning into a future Pro Bowler.
Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton up front will test the Broncos offensive line, which might turn into the key matchup that nobody is discussing. Most are looking at Erik Decker and DeMaryius Thomas against Keenan Lewis and Ike Taylor without safety Ryan Clark suiting up (sickle cell).
Manning can dissect a defense better than arguably any signal-caller we have ever seen, but can he do it in his first game back?
Look for the underrated tight end Jacob Tamme to really allow Decker and Thomas to go bonkers on key drives against a few defensive backs that lack the elite speed, athleticism and length.
Yes, Ben Roethlisberger has Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown to thread it to, which will give the Broncos defense some issues as well. However, Denver has the best second year player in the league arguably with Von Miller teaming up with Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey.
Bailey can still lockdown one side of the field, but former Saint Tracy Porter will have his work cut out for him.
While both offenses lack a true running game thanks to some suspect offensive lines, Manning will grab America’s attention in this one with a come from behind game-winning drive in the fourth quarter to make everybody feel as if he is the same old Hall of Famer.
Time: 8:25 p.m. Eastern
Experts Pick: Broncos by 1.5
Danny V’s Pick: Broncos 21, Steelers 20