Two teams with losing records take the field in the early hours of Tuesday morning, as the Broncos and the 49ers try to put the finishing touches to their NFL preparations.
Questions for the Broncos
At 6-6 with four games to go, a play-off spot was a plausible goal for the Broncos last season, but four defeats ensured that their campaign ended with a whimper. It also triggered the departure of Case Keenum and the arrival of veteran quarterback Joe Flacco. Flacco will provide experience and composure, but his injury record could be a problem and overall the Denver offense looks ordinary, so the Broncos will once again hinge their hopes on a solid defence, led by ace pass-rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, while they have arguably the league’s best cornerback contingent.
Garoppolo Back for 49ers
The 49ers were tipped to have a good season last time but the injury that took out Jimmy Garoppolo in Week Three effectively ended their campaign before it had really begun. The good news for San Francisco fans is that Garoppolo is back in training and is likely to get a run out at some stage of this match, along with a number of regular first choice stars. He will be backed by an excellent offensive line, while the arrivals of Dee Ford and Nick Bosa will give the 49ers a much sharper edge on defense, helping to take some of the pressure off their limited secondary.
Broncos Edging Favouritism
The Broncos have a tough schedule, facing a string of potential play-off sides in the opening half of the season, so they will be keen to finish off their pre-season assignments strongly so they can hit the ground running next month. That fact, combined with the additional home advantage that comes with the extra altitude at the Mile High Stadium, explains why they are 5/6 favourites for this game, with the 49ers rated as 11/10 outsiders, despite the fact that many of their regular starters are likely to take the field. Punters will also be keen to see how well Flacco gels with the Broncos defense and a typically tricky pre-season affair should offer plenty of clues for the battles ahead.