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Broncos at Browns preview: It's all about that No Fly Zone in Week 7

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Cleveland Browns
Sunday, October 18, 2015 - 11:00 AM MDT
Denver Broncos




6th Pass Off. 23rd
28th Rush Off. 30th
18th Pass Def. 5th
31st Rush Def. 5th
2-3 FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland, OH 5-0
3rd AFC North Spread: Broncos by 3.5 1st AFC West

The Denver Broncos travel to face the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, October 18th. For this game, Vegas is thinking the Broncos at 5-0 are roughly a half point better all around than the 2-3 Browns. The Broncos defense has been on the field a ton over the last two weeks, so if that continues then Josh McCown could very well make that spread look reasonable.

Peyton Manning is what Peyton Manning is at this point in his career and what we all need to start looking for is a reduction in the number of bad reads he is making each game and some efficiency from the running game. The Broncos are essentially entering the fourth week of the schematic change to the pistol formation, so its time to start seeing some improvement in the run game.

Pass protection has improved enough to the point where a strong focus on the running game should be the point of emphasis for Gary Kubiak and the coaching staff all week long. The Browns have a porous run defense, so this is a prime opportunity for the Broncos to head into the Bye week with some positive momentum.

Strength against weakness

Here are some of the bigger match-ups to watch in this week's game between the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos that we'll need to keep an eye on.

Broncos' running attack vs. Browns' run defense

The Browns defense is being gashed for nearly a league-worst 5.0 yards per carry. Kubiak and the Broncos absolutely must game plan for success against a unit that is struggling so badly in that department. For a little perspective, three of the five teams the Broncos have faced have held opposing teams to less than 4.0 yards per carry. Only the Detroit Lions (4.3) and Minnesota Vikings (4.7) have been worse against the run, which bodes well for this Broncos team as they continue to try and find success on the ground.

A heavy dose of C.J. Anderson, Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson is a must. Let Manning be in charge of picking up third downs and moving the chains, but it needs to be about ball control offense in this one. It might be a good idea to limit Owen Daniels' time on the field, so we don't see any more of these kinds of running plays on Sunday. In fact, a few of these kinds of running plays would be really nice.

Orange Rush vs. Browns play action

The Browns have an atrocious running attack, not unlike the Broncos own, but the play action has been a thing of beauty from McCown. The Baltimore Ravens bit on it hard, but I expect much more from the Broncos defense. They have proved to be quite disciplined in their individual responsibilities on most plays, so play action fakes like this one below should result in a sack for Von Miller or another Broncos defender, not a 50-yard game changing pass play.

Quality pass rush will negate their play action so fast, that the entire Browns offensive game plan could be in ruin by the second quarter. The Broncos defense proved it could generate pressure against the best pass protecting offensive line in football (surprisingly the Oakland Raiders) and the Browns line is the fifth best, according to PFF.

No Fly Zone vs. Josh McCown

McCown is starting to play the best football of his career right as the Broncos and their No Fly Zone come to town. It's going to fall on Aqib Talib to recover from a not-so-good two-game stretch, for Chris Harris Jr. to keep his 28-game streak going of not allowing a touchdown pass against a guy he's covering, and for Bradley Roby to keep excelling in that third cornerback role.

The key is going to be the defense working together to create pressure, which then creates ill-advised throws from McCown. The Denver Broncos defense is on an incredible historic run through five games. According to PFF, the Broncos are on pace to earn the best defensive grade ever in their rankings history. Not only that, an original Orange Crush defender, Tom Jackson, has also been singing their praise.

Suffice to say, there is no reason a journeyman quarterback like Josh McCown should be able to have any measure of consistent success against this defense. The Broncos should beat this spread and win this game handily, but then again, I've said that before haven't I?

The bottom line

The bottom line is that the Broncos defense has been on the field way too much over the last two games, and it has been hurting the defenses ability to keep teams at bay. Even Supermen get tired after a while.

If the Broncos offense can control the ball and keep it for at least half the game, then this defense will remain fresh and able to attack the Browns all game long. Otherwise, they'll be forced to revert to the bend-but-don't-break style of defense until a big play can be made. That's not as fun and not as sustainable.

This should be a win for the Broncos, but how "easy" of a win will depend on how successful the Broncos offense is in this game. So far, we have seen very little to suggest that will happen in this game, but success has to start somewhere, and it would sure be nice to enter the Bye week with a solid team win in dominating fashion.