The Denver Broncos may have saved their season against the Chargers. They seek to continue their good vibes against the Steelers Sunday at Mile High.
By virtue of the Denver Broncos’ heart-pounding 23-22 win over the Los Angeles Chargers last Sunday on a 34-yard field goal from Brandon McManus, the squad finds itself at 4-6.
If you watched the Lions-Bears Thanksgiving game on CBS, you saw that the Broncos were in the playoff picture at 4-6. This means the games they are still playing, provided they still win, will impact the playoff picture.
After a heartbreaking 19-17 loss to the Houston Texans, prior to the bye week, not many thought this was possible.
Nevertheless, the Broncos looked poised in the clutch and quarterback Case Keenum (229 of 362, 2,605 yards, 11 TD’s, 10 INT’s) played his second consecutive game without an interception Sunday.
The last interception he threw was October 28 at Kansas City primarily because current Houston Texans receiver Demaryius Thomas gave up on the route.
The Broncos will be facing their third consecutive opponent who is on at least a five-game winning streak in the 7-2-1 Pittsburgh Steelers (the Chargers were on a six-game streak, incidentally).
Mike Klis, the Broncos’ insider for 9 News, the NBC affiliate in Denver, verifies the rarity of such an adventure.
History is on the Broncos’ side, however, as they are 19-11-1 all-time against the Steelers. This includes a 12-5-1 record at 5,280 feet against the perennially-contending Steelers.
Based on my film study from last week, this is a game the Broncos can win against Pittsburgh. The Broncos made clutch plays all second half long against the Chargers and executed effectively when they did not do so against Houston.
No one worth listening to on Twitter could legitimately blame head coach Vance Joseph for anything after a thrilling win like that. It’s because I’ve been right all along. The Broncos will excel if they execute properly.
Also, the Broncos will be wearing helmets with their old-school D logo. I’ve always found this a classy look.
The Broncos are facing one of the best statistical offenses and defenses in the NFL Sunday, except in two vital categories.
The Steelers are a woeful -3 (tied for 21st in the NFL) in turnover margin and tied for 20th in the NFL in takeaways with 12. In each of these categories, the Broncos are the Steelers’ superior. They are +2 in turnover margin (tied for 15th in the NFL) and tied for 15th in takeaways with 14.
Winning the turnover battle seems to be the best way to combat the Steelers. Pittsburgh is sixth against the run (99.6 yards per game) but a key member of the Steelers interior defensive lineman, defensive end Stephon Tuitt, has been ruled out.
Tuitt’s absence was significant in the 20-16 win over the Jaguars as Jacksonville ran for 179 yards and a score. Tuitt is a tremendous player and essential to the Steelers’ scheme if his absence represents 80 lost yards.
If not for the heroics of QB Ben Rothelisberger (ranked fourth in the NFL with 3,202 passing yards) at Jacksonville, the Steelers would have been goners in north Florida.
Roethlisberger has been magnificent but he has also been turnover-prone. His ten interceptions are tied for the most for a top ten ranked quarterback in the NFL with Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes and Matthew Stafford of the Detroit Lions.
The Steelers, however, remain a really strong team in virtually every particular, except turnovers of course.
The offense averages 29.9 points per game (fourth in the NFL) and the defense gives up only 22.5 points per game (tenth in the NFL).
Against Jacksonville, when the Jaguars really could have buried the Steelers, the Pittsburgh defense forced field goals at key intervals.
The Broncos must get touchdowns if they want to stay in the playoff hunt. This may entail taking risks they wouldn’t otherwise take. This game, and every other one moving forward, represents the season being on the line for the Broncos.
Even though the Broncos’ 4th and 1 didn’t work last Sunday, I still think it was the right call after watching the film.
Tailback Royce Freeman (360 scrimmage yards, five total touchdowns) is better equipped for those situations than his fellow rookie stud back Phillip Lindsay (857 scrimmage yards, six total touchdowns), magnificent as he is. Incidentally, Lindsay is only 60 rushing yards short of the most rushing yards in history for an undrafted Broncos’ rookie tailback. Selvin Young ran for 729 yards in 2007.
In any event you cannot say, in good faith, that Joseph isn’t doing whatever he can to be aggressive and win the game.
He’s an easy target because fans want a scapegoat when things don’t go right. However, I think that it’s ridiculous to remotely suggest, moving forward, that Joseph isn’t all in to win.
The Steelers’ passing offense is fourth in the NFL, averaging 312.5 yards per game. Receiver Juju Smith-Schuster is tied for 12th in the NFL with 64 receptions. His 866 receiving yards are also the best on the squad.
His teammate, Antonio Brown, is tied for 14th in the NFL with 62 grabs for 807 yards and his 11 receiving touchdowns are tied for the most in the NFL with Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill.
However, as has been the case with the Broncos, the Steelers’ running game has been saved by a rookie.
With incumbent tailback Le’Veon Bell never reporting to camp, James Conner, a third round draft choice last April, has been a revelation. He has 1,351 scrimmage yards and 11 total touchdowns. Various NFL broadcasts have suggested that the Steelers’ offensive line loves blocking more for Conner than they do Bell.
If your offensive line is happy, that just works out more propitiously for you.
The Steelers are also one of the few NFL teams to be better at sacking the quarterback than the Broncos. Their 37 sacks are the most in the NFL. Outside linebacker T.J. Watt is tied for fourth in the NFL in sacks with ten.
Of course, Broncos outside linebackers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb have combined for 19 sacks on the season. Denver currently ranks seventh in the NFL with 31 sacks. If Miller posts 1.5 sacks against the Steelers, he ties Chicago Bears legend Steve McMichael for the 41st most sacks in NFL history.
Former Steelers standout Emmanuel Sanders should be a focal points of the Broncos’ offense as he has 816 scrimmage yards and four total touchdowns. Sanders is also only 81 receiving yards short of 7,000 for his career.
His fellow Southern Methodist Mustang, Courtland Sutton, has followed meticulously in Sanders’ footsteps.
Sutton is now first in the NFL in yards per reception at 20 yards per catch. At the risk of ruining his garish stats, perhaps the Broncos could use him even more. He is a game-changer as the Chargers know all too well.
Date: Sunday Nov.18, 2018
Start Time: 2:25 pm MST
Location: Broncos Stadium at Mile High
TV Info: CBS (506sports.com for local listings nationwide)
Announcers: Jim Nantz (play-by-play), Tony Romo (analyst), Tracy Wolfson (sidelines)
Teresa Varley of Steelers.com included a final injury report for both the Broncos and Steelers.
Therefore, a sincere thanks to her.
Receiver DaeSean Hamilton was a full participant on Friday. Therefore, let us hope he can be healthy for the long term and be as anti-Jake Butt as he can be.
A new star meteorologist in Denver contributes to our weather forecast. Thanks to Matt Makens of FOX 31 for his meticulous report.
Anyway, this is your game thread. Please tell your friends about us. GO BRONCOS!!!