The Denver Broncos just suffered a defeat of historic proportions. A lot of things have to get wrong to lose 70-20, especially when you consider the Dolphins showed mercy and stopped before they set the all-time scoring and yardage record. This week their match-up is a lot more even, facing one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL.
Whether it was the passing game or the running game, the Broncos gave up five touchdowns. Mike White even got in on the action when he threw a touchdown pass. De’Von Achane a rookie third round pick, ran for 203 yards on 18 carries, 11.28 yards per carry, and 3 touchdowns on the day. On top of that Raheem Mostert topped 140 overall yards and 3 touchdowns total.
An embarrassment like this, can only mean that the Broncos have hit rock bottom and it can only get better from here. One thing that has to change, is the complete lack of discipline, and effort that resulted in giving up 376 yards passing, AND 350 yards rushing, and 7 penalties. One big question that came out of this weekend was simple: Is Vance Joseph the guy to turn around this Broncos defense?
Week 4 Preview
The Broncos luckily get a much easier match-up this weekend against the Chicago Bears who have struggled so far this season. Justin Fields was touted as a potential MVP candidate this season after receiving many votes last year. So far he hasn’t looked like an MVP candidate, he’s looked like a young quarterback struggling to find his footing. No one is writing home about a 58% completion rate, 3 touchdowns to 4 interceptions, and 3 fumbles.
Ironically this writing was on the wall last season when Fields received his MVP votes as well. He managed to complete just over 60% of his passes, throwing for 2,242 yards, 17 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, while being sacked 55 times. He also ran 160 times for 1,143 yards and 8 touchdowns but fumbled 16 times, or once every ten carries in 2022. Fields is a promising young talent, but he has a long way to go before he wins an MVP award. The Broncos defense should be looking at this game as their chance to bounce back after a record setting loss.
Pass Rush Must Play a Part
Justin Fields has played in 30 games, starting 28 during that stretch he has been sacked 104 times, or nearly 4 times per game. One fact that may hinder their pass rush is they will be without Frank Clark yet again, Mike Purcell was ruled out, and Josey Jewell will also miss this game. Those are three rather large losses for this defense to stomach. However the pass rush with Jonathan Cooper, and Randy Gregory still needs to step up. To make matters worse, they may be without Justin Simmons, and Lloyd Cushenberry III, and Jerry Jeudy were limited in practice.
So far this Denver defense has accounted for just 4 sacks in three games, not what they were hoping for when they signed Randy Gregory to a 5 year $70 million deal. So far since joining the Broncos he has played in nine games, producing just 3 sacks. Somewhere Von Miller is privately laughing that Denver turned their back on him when given the chance to bring him back to Denver prior to the 2022 season. Miller played in 11 games producing 8 sacks in Buffalo in 2022, he has yet to appear in a game in 2023.
As mentioned above, Chicago’s offensive line has been abysmal since Fields entered the league and he has been sacked more than any other quarterback. Russell Wilson in a close second. This is an ugly match up on paper that could be won by which team makes the fewest mistakes. Fields tends to hold the ball, averaging over 3.2 seconds to throw so far this season, down slightly from last season. This should help the Broncos pass rush hit home in this game.
Secondary Must Step Up
The Broncos cannot underestimate the weapons for Chicago. Chase Claypool just spoke out about his role, and rightfully so with only 4 receptions so far on the season. Darnell Mooney has also been barely involved, while Dj Moore has stolen the show as expected. Moore has been playing fairly well, and I expect Surtain II to have his hands full. Cole Kmet has proven to be a decent target for Fields as well.
Beyond Surtain II the Broncos secondary has not played well, Simmons, Turner-Yell, Mathis, Moreau, and Bailey have all been below average at best this season, with Mathis arguably the worst starting cornerback in the league currently. Mathis will likely be tested in this game early and often with Fields instructed to throw to his side of the field. With Simmons potentially missing this game, its up to Delarrin Turner-Yell to step at free safety next to Kareem Jackson who also has had a down season.
This unit could need a full on rebuild outside of Justin Simmons, and Patrick Surtain II. Mathis showed he could be a decent 3rd or 4th option but he simply doesn’t look to be ready to start. I’m not entirely sure why we haven’t seen more of Ja’Quan McMillian who has played a ton on special teams but not much on defense, I expect that to change going forward.
RUN. THE. BALL.
The Broncos have not stayed dedicated to the run this season so far. Granted game flow against Miami dictated that they went away from the run immediately, the Broncos run game as a team has produced 285 yards on the year in three games. I understand the hesitation to give Javonte Williams the full workload, they have Samaje Perine and Jaleel McLaughlin who have combined for just 18 carries so far. Williams has only taken 36 carries as well. We certainly don’t want to see Russell Wilson counted on for his legs at his age.
Working in the run game more, a staple of Sean Payton’s offense, should only help Wilson get more comfortable and allow him to really start producing the way we know he can. So far he has already looked much better than last season throwing 6 touchdowns and 2 interceptions through three games after throwing 16 total touchdowns in 2022. He is currently on pace for 34 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and 4,482 yards. He is also on pace for more rushing yards, but less carries than 2022. This is the progress we expected with Payton’s offense headed to Denver, but I think I speak for every Broncos fan when I say we had hoped for wins as the result.
Predictions and Betting Odds
Per our sponsor BETus.com the Broncos are favored by 3 points against the Bears as the away team. The Money line is -170 for Denver, and +148 for Chicago, with the over/under set at 47 points. With that in mind I am looking at Denver to pick up their first victory of the season with a late touchdown by this offensive unit.
Denver 24-17 Chicago
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