The 2021 NFL season is finally here. We take a look at five impact players and games for the Denver Broncos throughout the course of the year.
Finally, after months and months of waiting, the 2021 season is officially here.
This coming Sunday, the Denver Broncos will kick off the new campaign against the New York Giants. With a revamped offense led by a new face under center, a potential top-five defense with a loaded secondary and hopes to end a five-year playoff drought, there are going to be a lot of questions that the Broncos will hope to answer. Yet, there’s still a lot of hope as well.
The new season will also include a 17th game that could have impacts on numerous teams, but which games and players will be impacted throughout the course of the season for the orange and blue? Here are the five games to circle and five players that could be impacted by them.
WEEK 1: vs. NY Giants – Impact player: QB Teddy Bridgewater
This one should have been easy to guess for obvious reasons.
Since the newly inducted Hall of Famer Peyton Manning retired, the Denver Broncos have started 11 different quarterbacks and only two (Trevor Siemian (13-11) and Brett Rypien (1-0)) have a winning record. The first game of the season can give a team huge momentum moving forward, just as it can hinder them.
If Bridgewater plays his usual style of short-yardage throws and doesn’t try to force anything to turn the ball over, it is very realistic that Denver can have their first September victory of the Vic Fangio era. The Giants ranked 12th last season in total defense spearheaded by Pro Bowl cornerback James Bradberry and allowed 238 yards per game through the air, While not the most agile quarterback, Bridgewater is going to have to find a way to keep plays alive and make the decisions that last years starter Drew Lock seemed to struggle with making.
Come out fast and come out hard. Bridgewater can’t afford to not force the Giants D into biting when he will have the two-headed monster on the ground in Melvin Gordon and rookie Javonte Williams to take some of the pressure off.
If Denver were to lose yet another game in the first month of the season, fans will be chomping at the bit for Lock to start once again.
WEEK 4 vs. Baltimore Ravens – Impact player: Von Miller
In the first true test for the Denver Broncos of the season, they will be looking at a way to contain Baltimore’s always electric quarterback Lamar Jackson. The one most capable of that feet is Miller.
Coming off a lost season from an ankle injury before the start of the 2020 season, Miller will be looking to shake off the dust and get back to his All-Pro form. Slowing down the Ravens did get a bit easier as they lost another running back to a season-ending injury and now Jackson will look to spread the offense more with his legs than he had to last season when he rushed for over 1,000 yards.
Miller will also get the chance to have a full season opposite Bradley Chubb in which he can take some of the focus off Von to create more chances to get at Jackson. One of the traits that has always tipped the scale in a one-on-one for Miller was his insane first step off the line and force the opposing quarterback to rush in the pocket and force a turnover.
Look to see Miller challenging Ravens left tackle Ronnie Stanley and new right tackle Alejandro Villanueva all game long.
WEEK 10 vs. Philadelphia Eagles – Impact player: Courtland Sutton
By this time, we’ll have a good sense of who this Broncos team is when they look to go into their bye week just before Thanksgiving when they host the Eagles.
Denver was hindered by numerous injuries last season and none seemed more detrimental than the one wideout Courtland Sutton suffered during their Week 2 matchup against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Sutton tore his ACL early in the game and had missed the Denver Broncos Week 1 game against the Tennessee Titans because of a sprained AC joint.
Philadelphia is a mess on offense and exploiting their defense should be key for the Broncos. While Fletcher Cox will be the center of their defense, he is on the wrong side of 30, Darius Slay is their most experience corner, and most important of all, the Eagles will have a brand new defensive coordinator in Jonathan Gannon, who hasn’t been a coordinator at any level.
Fangio should use that to his advantage and use Sutton’s unreal athleticism on slant and curl routes. What can make the difference is how Sutton can use his body to force his defender to play closely and then break off to clear space between themselves. This would also play right into Bridgewater’s strengths as a quick release for quality yardage.
Knowing that Denver has one of the youngest and potentially most dynamic receiving cores with second-year receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler to join Sutton, the Eagles would need to find a way to stop them as a whole and that doesn’t seem likely.
It should still be expected that Sutton will be looked at as a top target for Bridgewater and try to return to his 2019 form when he made his first Pro Bowl.
WEEK 15 vs. Cincinnati Bengals – Impact player: Javonte Williams
The Denver Broncos traded up in the third round of this year’s draft to select the North Carolina running back, and it is widely expected that he will play a big role alongside Melvin Gordon. However, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Williams become the starter by this point in the season.
The Bengals ranked in the bottom half of the league in rushing defense last season, giving up 148 yards per game and a staggering 5.1 yards per carry. William’s main skill is running in the trenches and looking for contact to fight for more yards. Look to see him do just that against Cincy’s front seven.
While Gordon is the more experienced back, there has been a lingering injury history and it did take almost two-thirds of the season before we got to see him explode like he did when he was with the Los Angeles Chargers. Williams has already shown glimpses of his potential and why he was viewed as the best overall back in the draft.
Around this point of the season, Fangio and company will be looking to do whatever it takes to secure their first playoff spot in half a decade. I don’t think starting a rookie running back with a high ceiling would be a bad thing.
WEEK 18 vs. Kansas City Chiefs – Impact Bronco: Vic Fangio
I know, I know. Fangio isn’t a player, but he will have as big an impact on the final game of the season as anyone else.
By this point, it will be said and done if the Denver Broncos will have a successful season, and whether or not Fangio will be looking for a new job next season. The Chiefs are not only are coming off a second straight Super Bowl appearance, but they haven’t lost to Denver in 11 straight games dating back to 2015. Fangio needs to find a way to change that because his seat won’t be getting any cooler.
However, that’s easier said than done as Kansas City will have their MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes to lead them. Denver will need to not only contain him but the plethora of weapons at Mahomes’ disposal. Fangio’s main focus has always been defense and instead of trying to match them speed for speed and point for point, he should attack them from the defensive side and capitalize with smart play calling on the offensive side.
Keeping Mahomes off the field is paramount for the Broncos and using the running game to drain the clock could be the best way to ensure that they come away with the win. Fangio will also need to make smart decisions with timeouts as well (think back to last season’s finale against the Raiders). Smart and safe may finally be the best course of action for once.
Denver has plenty of options on both sides of the ball, a very favorable schedule with the fifth easiest in the league, and a fan base that is simply looking to have a winning season. It doesn’t have to be Super Bowl or bust, but rather a playoff team or back to the drawing board.