Things feel a little bit sweet this week, don’t they? The Detroit Lions’ win over the Minnesota Vikings makes you feel like this team is capable of anything. Maybe they can make it two in a row. Who knows? Football is a crazy thing.
Don’t throw caution to the wind just yet Lions fans. The Denver Broncos might be good. In fact, they might be a team that could win it all if they had the right quarterback. At the very least, they could be a playoff team.
The scariest thing about the Broncos is that it feels like you just don’t know enough about them. It’s been a little bit since the Lions played the Broncos, and this team is different now. We needed know more, so we got in touch with our pal Joe Rowles at Mile High Report to get more info. Here’s what he had to say:
1. It seems like the Broncos are a quarterback away. Do you think the Aaron Rodgers thing happens? Or are the Broncos going to shoot for a QB in the draft?
“If Aaron Rodgers becomes available I believe the Broncos’ general manager George Paton will move heaven and Earth to try and ensure he becomes a Bronco. Failing that, the Broncos will have two options before them. They’ll have a shot at retaining Teddy Bridgewater if this season ends without some sort of turmoil, or they’ll play out the offseason much as they did last year. Paton has made his interest in quarterbacks no secret, it’s a matter of finding one he believes in building around.”
2. What are the Broncos strengths?
“The Broncos will typically play with three receivers on the field because it’s the best part of their offense. In Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick, the Broncos have two 6-foot-4 receivers who can create chunk plays downfield. Both are 4.5 guys who can beat most corners off the line of scrimmage and go above the rim or win through contact at the catchpoint. In the slot Denver has Jerry Jeudy, who’s one of the best separators in the league with his silky smooth route running and elite lateral quickness. Most of the time the Broncos will play Noah Fant in this 11 personnel group. The 2019 first round pick is one of the more athletic tight ends in football. Denver runs 31% of the time out of their 11 personnel group. When they want to pound the rock they’ll typically go to two tight end sets, and I suspect this could be a big part of beating up on the Lions. Albert Okwuegbunam is every bit the athletic freak Fant is, and he’s a better blocker at the point of attack. The Broncos run about half the time when they’re in this 12 personnel group. When Denver does run the ball their most explosive back is Javonte Williams, who combines elite contact balance with a very good lateral mobility. The rookie runner is at his best on gap concepts running behind Dalton Risner or Quinn Meinerz, who’s quickly become Denver’s best run blocker.
Defensively, the Broncos are built to win in a passing league. Patrick Surtain II looks like a future All Pro while Justin Simmons is the best safety in football, and they’re surrounded by savvy vets who all fit the Fangio defense. Jonathon Cooper and Dre’Mont Jones are Denver’s best players up front. The former Buckeyes are reaping the benefits of long careers at Ohio State under Larry Johnson, which is helping them to overcome size limitations. Cooper has an advanced pass rush repertoire for a rookie and combines it with a good burst and athletic tools. Jones has a very good burst off the snap which helps him stress bigger and slower opponents. Like Cooper, he has a very good repertoire that includes a signature long arm.”
3. What are their weaknesses?
“While Teddy Bridgewater is the best starting quarterback to wear orange and blue since Peyton Manning, he has clear limitations to his game that take certain concepts off the field. To his credit, he’s typically the kind of passer who plays within himself and doesn’t take unnecessary heat checks that lead to mistakes There are also times where this conservative outlook to the position leads Bridgewater into taking four yard gains when he could have gotten 10. Bridgewater’s also shown a propensity for hanging in the pocket to make plays happen this season. It’s helped the Broncos weather pass protection issues that crop up when there’s four backups and a second year starting center, but he also takes a lot of shots. A concussion and shin injury already knocked Bridgewater out of significant stretches of two games this year, and Drew Lock’s looked like a struggling backup in relief.
On defense, the Broncos biggest issues pertain to their front. By design the Fangio defense will roll out of two high shells and lean on lighter box counts because they prioritize stopping an opponent’s passing game, but injuries to Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell exposed the smaller defensive tackles limitations in run defense. Kenny Young and Baron Browning have exceeded my expectations since entering the starting lineup, but neither is as stout at the point of attack as the former starters. I expect the Lions’ gap concept runs to have some success on Sunday. The Broncos’ pass rush will also go through droughts because Bradley Chubb has yet to regain his 2020 form after missing most of the season with an ankle injury and Von Miller’s on the Rams. Fangio will turn to the blitz to generate pressure, which can leave the Denver DBs on islands.”
4. Does Homer Simpson still own the Denver Broncos?
“If he doesn’t now’s his chance to buy back in. The Broncos recently reached out to six different banks to try and sort out a sale.”
5. Who’s winning this thing?
“The Broncos have enough difference makers on both sides of the ball where they should be able to beat the Lions by a comfortable margin. However, I think a special teams blunder or two and shaky play from Bridgewater leads to a close finish. I’ll take Denver 23-20.”