First Look: Denver Broncos

John “Mr. Ed” Elway, Karl Mecklenberg, Dennis Smith, Steve Atwater, Shannon Sharpe, Terrell Davis, and Rod Smith will not be suiting up for the Broncos on Sunday. Heck, Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall won’t even be there. It is a true test of you Seahawks fandom to see if you hate the Broncos even without all those old enemies. There is no question for me. Of all the rivals the Seahawks have ever had, no team has made my skin crawl and blood boil like the Denver Broncos. Brian Bosworth, for all his flaws, is still a player I remember fondly simply because he hated John Elway so much and would often late hit him out of bounds.

This is a team that started our 6-0 last season, before finishing 8-8. If you needed another reason to hate the Broncos, that ridiculous start cost the Seahawks a chance at a player like Gerald McCoy in the draft (although Earl Thomas is a darn good consolation prize). They were 4-4 at home, losing to the Chiefs, Raiders, Chargers and Steelers.

They hung their hat on a 7th-ranked defense (based on YPG), that was 3rd-ranked against the pass. 26th-ranked against the run and allowed 20.3 ppg (12th best). Their pass defense was predicated on a strong pass rush, led by Elvis Dumervill’s 17 sacks. Dumervill is injured this season, which is huge considering the rest of the Broncos defense only had 22 sacks. The team managed only one sack last week against Jacksonville, and David Garrard had a predictably great day passing with such little pressure. Champ Bailey is still a player to be reckoned with, although the scouting report says he has lost a step. I’ll believe it when I see it. NT Jamal Williams was once a feared run-stopper for the Chargers, but has been fighting injury. LB DJ Williams might be their best defender at this point.

Their offense was middle-of-the-pack in 2009 (15th), 13th passing and 18th rushing. Much like Dumervill, Brandon Marshall accounted for a lot of this unit’s production, catching 101 of the 341 completions and gaining 1120 yard of the 3825 yards through the air. Eddie Royal and Brandon Lloyd stepped for in last week’s game. Their offensive line is in flux as they transition from the Alex Gibbs zone blocking scheme to head coach Josh McDaniels power running setup. Ironic, isn’t it? That’s why a player like Tyler Polombus is more valuable to the Seahawks than to the Broncos. They start two rookies shoulder-to-shoulder at left guard and center. Pro Bowl LT Ryan Clady is coming off knee surgery, but managed to play in the first game. It’s unlikely he’s at his best. The line gave up three sacks last week facing a Jaguar defense that was last in the NFL with only 14 sacks last season.

QB Kyle Orton is a steady hand leading the offense, but there is little in the way of a running attack. Starting RB Knowshon Moreno is a sub 4.0 YPC guy. The gag-worthy Tim Tebow barely sniffed the field last week, but may get more action this week to give the home crowd a bone. Note to Lawyer Milloy: please knock him back to the bench.

Beating a Broncos team, any Broncos team, at home is a chore. This may be the worst product they’ve put on the field in a few years. If the Seahawks want to be taken seriously on the road, this is a realistic place to grab a W.