The Denver Broncos are in a must-win situation against the Cleveland Browns in a Saturday special at Broncos Stadium At Mile High
The Denver Broncos find themselves in a must-win situation if they hope to make the postseason. This could extend until December 30 against the Los Angeles Chargers or it could end just hours from now.
The Broncos are still in propitious position to win a wild-card berth in the AFC. They are also a candidate for back-to-back losing seasons for the first time since 1971 and 1972.
As FOX Sports radio/TV host Colin Cowherd said Friday, the AFC playoff chase is “crazytown.” The Broncos are as insane with their possibilities as anyone else. The surest way for the Broncos to keep their postseason hopes alive until at least Christmas Eve is to beat the Cleveland Browns Saturday at Broncos Stadium at Mile High.
There is no way around it. The 20-14 loss last Sunday at Levi’s Stadium to the San Franciso 49ers was extremely disappointing.
It didn’t help matters that the Broncos’ primary competitors for what will prove to be the last wild card spot in the AFC playoffs — the Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans — all won last week.
Nevertheless, the NFL is an adventure every week and all the Broncos can do is get to 7-7 and give themselves a chance.
Now, I risked common sense, but I did watch the first half of Broncos-49ers on DVR and despite the 20-0 deficit, the Broncos did some good things.
The 16-yard scramble of underappreciated signal-caller Case Keenum (3,139 yards this season, 15 TD’s 10 INT’s [no interceptions since October 28 at Kansas City]) was a bright spot for instance. However, a subsequent bad snap got the Broncos behind schedule and the defensive line of the 49ers dominated the Broncos up front again. Of course, penalties played a horrendous role as well for the Broncos.
The primary problem is the penalties came at inopportune times and there is no way around the fact that the injuries at key positions the Broncos suffered affected them adversely.
However, as the game progressed, the Broncos started looking like they have more recently later in the game.
Ultimately, the inability to stop third-string signal-caller Nick Mullens spelled their doom.
It is a new week and the Broncos are back at 5,280 feet. They have a chance to decimate the playoff hopes of another AFC team from Ohio, one they have owned traditionally.
Saturday has not been the Broncos’ best friend as they are only 15-19-1 (.443) in regular season games on this day in their history.
The Broncos lead the Browns 23-5 all-time and have not lost to Cleveland at home since 1990.
History can serve the Broncos well if they remember to execute. For all of the supposed problems with sub-par coaching and the like, when the Broncos execute and play their game, they remain really solid.
The Broncos and Browns are both tied for fourth in the NFL in turnover margin at +9. As cliché and repetitive as it sounds, if the Broncos can win the turnover battle, they will have opportunities for big plays.
This is because the Browns are 31st in the NFL in yards given up, at 411.2 yards per game and they are tied for 24th in scoring defense, giving up 25.5 points per contest.
As Arnie Stapleton of The Associated Press wrote for The Fresno Bee, Broncos head coach Vance Joseph wants Keenum to take chances with the deep ball moving forward.
With rising star receiver Courtland Sutton hobbled at San Francisco Sunday, the Broncos turned to former University of Utah star, Tim Patrick. Against the 49ers, Patrick (7 rec, 85 yards) had a career day. Our blog boss, Sayre Bedinger, has more thoughts on Patrick’s emergence.
While Sutton was a full participant in Thursday practice and seems a go for Saturday, the fact that Patrick and Daesean Hamilton got valuable reps at San Francisco can only help the Broncos’ situation in the passing game.
Of course, the running game should remain the Broncos’ focal point. The Broncos are still 7th in the NFL in rushing yards per game at 130.2 yards per contest. The Browns are 28th in the NFL in rushing defense at 133.3 yards surrendered per game.
Star rookie tailback Phillip Lindsay has run for 967 yards on the season and has amassed 1,177 scrimmage yards and 10 total touchdowns.
His fellow rookie backfield mate, Royce Freeman, (461 scrimmage yards, 5 total touchdowns) is coming into his own as well.
Of course, the Broncos face a rising star signal-caller in Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal analyzes how the resurgent Browns’ offensive line has surrendered only one sack in the past four games.
With the Broncos’ injuries in the secondary (cornerbacks Chris Harris and Isaac Yiadom are both out for Saturday’s crucial game), the pass rush becomes even more paramount to their chances of winning. The Broncos must win in the trenches if they want to win Saturday. Their 40 sacks are tied for fourth in the NFL.
Star outside linebacker Von Miller is third in the NFL with 13.5 sacks and his protege, fellow outside linebacker Bradley Chubb is tied for 7th with 12 sacks.
This much is true. The Broncos must do better in the trenches then they did against San Francisco. That was a horrendous performance any way you slice it but I’m done ranting about it. You know how I feel about it.
In the Browns’ 26-20 win over the Carolina Panthers last Sunday, receiver Jarvis Landry was used in various ways. He ran for a score in the win and was used in a failed pass attempt that was almost a successful touchdown pass to tailback Nick Chubb.
Landry has 884 scrimmage yards and four total touchdowns on the season. He is the Browns’ leading receiver with 790 yards and three scoring grabs. The Browns also have their own star pass rusher in defensive end Myles Garrett who is fourth in the NFL in 12.5 sacks.
Therefore, it is also imperative for the Broncos’ offensive line to protect Keenum from Garrett, one of the true rising stars in the NFL.
If the Broncos can get a win Saturday, this would also be their 500th win in franchise history. This would make them the 14th team in NFL annals to reach this plateau.
Thus, my analysis is laid before the Broncos. If they can execute as they heretofore have recently (sans the first half of the 49ers game), they should get their 7th win on the season and stay alive in the postseason race.
Date: Saturday Dec.15, 2018
Start Time: 6:20 pm MST
Location: Broncos Stadium at Mile High
TV Info: NFL Network (506spors.com for listings nationwide)
Announcers: Mike Tirico (play-by-play), Kurt Warner (analyst), Peter Schrager (sideline reporter)
Our friend Graham Tiedtke has done the best he can with the injury report. A sincere thanks to Graham for this.
The best meteorologist in Denver, Marty Coniglio of 9 News, has the forecast that looks pretty good.
Well, this is your game thread. Tell your friends about us. Go Broncos!