Broncos are looking to end a two-game losing streak and a three-game second-half slide when they host the Cincinnati Bengals in primetime on Monday. So before we breakdown that exciting matchup, let's give j-man a chance to tell us why he was right to worry about the Steelers:
Denver at Pittsburgh
Broncos did not adjust in the second half and Big Ben got hot. I knew we needed at least 7 more points at half. This is a coaching loss - 90 percent on Kubes and 10 percent on Wade for no taking Brown away or putting Aqib Talib or Bradley Roby on him to mix it up. Kubiak is like me on Madden sometimes - for him its offense and for me defense. It's a two-game season now; hopefully we can focus and finish - j-man.
If the Broncos do prove they can handle both tasks, the Orange and Blue team should come away victorious, but draco1986 is going to tell us an improved running game this week is A) going to exist and B) going to be effective.
(*and for the record, draco just might have the most extensive superstitions list of any Ultimate Fan, so you may want to pay attention and adopt a few yourself!)
Denver v. Cincinnati
MHR - For the second game in a row, the Broncos offense fell apart in the second half. Which entity deserves the most blame for this problem - coaching, execution, QB limitations - and how do the Broncos overcome it this week?
draco1986: Against Oakland I really felt the issue had been more on execution than coaching. Guys were open, but too many mental mistakes lead to drops. This week, though, I think the issue tilted more to coaching. The Steelers were covering our receivers very tight, and our routes over the middle weren't there like they had been in the first half. As a staff, you've got to find a way to get guys off the line cleanly and help give them a step, especially with an inexperienced starter at QB and a bad run game.
This week I would look at some different formations to help get guys open, and to not be afraid to experiment if the Bengals do start countering us. We have not seen almost any real bunch looks, and with Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders really pressuring teams' corners, we could use them to sneak someone like Virgil Green out to hurt the Bengals underneath.
MHR - The offensive line is what it is, but the Cincy defense is possibly the best the Broncos have faced/will face this year. If you were coach this week, how would you approach this mismatch to mitigate it (especially guys like Carlos Dunlap, Geno Atkins, etc.)
draco1986: Probably an answer that's going to make a lot of folks here groan, but the bubble screens, I think, might be something to exploit. The Cincinnati defense has the best DVOA against deep passes, according to Football Outsiders, but they rank just 21st against short passes. They've also dealt with their corners being a little banged up the last few weeks, so we can possibly wear them down with some physical play to start the game. In the run game, it's likely going to call for some big sets and some more misdirection than we're used to seeing from Kubiak's scheme. Geno and Carlos are great penetrating linemen, so we can use that to our advantage some, I think.
MHR - Brock is the starter once again this week. Aside from all the reasons the Broncos need him to play well to win, is his performance critical for whether he or Manning may start come Week 17 and beyond? Or is Brock's place as starting QB set in your opinion?
draco1986: Unless he completely craters out this week, I think Brock will remain the starter going forward. He's had his shaky moments, but he's gotten better each week I've thought. Manning just hasn't been himself this year, and with how poorly our line has played, I don't think setting him back there is going to vastly improve things. It's also a luxury, I think, to have Manning to potentially come off the bench in case of emergency.
MHR - Despite the running game hitting 104 yards last weekend, the commitment to it was still rather inconsistent (about a two-thirds passing to one-third running ratio). How important (or not) do you think it is to keep at it?
draco1986: I think it's important to find a good balance. Our three drives to start the second half lasted 2 minutes, 50 seconds and just over a minute. That puts a lot of pressure on the defense, especially with it being shorthanded. It also puts the offensive line behind the eight ball as teams can just focus on rushing the passer. We've got to be less obvious on those drives (first down pass, second down run, third down pass) to make sure we're having successful downs and making the running game more effective.
As for our strongest back, when healthy it's C.J. He runs with good power and has the ability to stay up past contact. But it's not nearly such a big gap between he and Ronnie, because if Hillman catches a seam, teams will have a tough time catching him in the open field. Our backs actually have a better running back yards score than adjusted line yards, indicating it really comes down to the big guys up front to play better to open up holes for our talented backfield.
MHR - What offensive stat would you like to see be awesome for the Broncos in this game?
draco1986: The obvious answer is rushing yards, but I'm also going to hope for zero drops this week. Drops the last couple of weeks have been just as bad as the stagnant running game in determining the outcome.
MHR - Which player do you expect to stand out from the Broncos offense this Sunday?
draco1986: I think it's going to be C.J. and Ronnie. The Bengals are good against the run, but I think we're going to make a commitment to it. The Bengals also have given up a lot of receiving yards to guys out of the backfield, and both of these guys have shown some good ability in that respect.
MHR - What is the highest number of points the Bengals can score on Monday that our offense will be able to keep up with and beat?
draco1986: think 21. The offense has been shut down in the second half two weeks in a row, but the Bengals were actually outgained against the Niners this past week. I think our offense can move the ball well enough to put up at least 3 TDs.
MHR - The Broncos defense was solid the first half of the game against Pittsburgh but got beat too often - or at too many critical times - in the second half. What accounts for this - being tired from being on the field, having backup backup safeties, not calling the best scheme?
draco1986: Certainly all three played a role this past week, with the lack of secondary depth making things worse for guys being tired. I also do put a lot of it on Wade for not doing a little more to try and shake up our coverage schemes some. Big Ben was able to find a lot of passing room over the middle late because we were bringing extra guys. Mixing in some zone and dropping back 8 every now and again I think would truly disrupt some passing games since it's not something they plan for. And Malik Jackson and Derek Wolfe are good enough pass rushers to create some pressure on their own.
MHR - If you were Wade Phillips this week, how would you go after the Cincinnati offense that is working with its second-string quarterback while Andy Dalton is out with a thumb injury?
draco1986: I think being aggressive early is going to be key. The Bengals rank 14th in Adjusted Sack Rate, so you can get to their QBs. Like I said before, I'd also throw some real mixed coverages at him. Cincy has some talented receivers, so making sure McCarron is off balance will be key. We're also going to have to be excellent at covering backs in passing routes because Giovanni Bernard is a very underrated weapon.
MHR - The Bengals won handily against the fledgling 49ers last week but with McCarron instead of Dalton, do you think the Broncos defense will overpower this offense - even it has A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert?
draco1986: I think so. They manhandled the Niners behind a 4-1 turnover battle. There is also now film on McCarron, and Green left last week's game with a minor back injury. Wade I think will put together a game plan that limits the effectiveness of Jeremy Hill and forces the Bengals into much more of a pass heavy offense than they'll want to be.
MHR - What defensive stat would you like to see be awesome for the Broncos in this game?
draco1986: Rushing yards is again the obvious choice, so I'll take zero missed tackles. With injuries at safety, we saw what happened last week when we weren't able to bring down good receivers on the first hit. It's going to be just as important this week with Hill and Bernard running the ball as well.
MHR - Which player do you expect to stand out from the Broncos defense this Sunday?
draco1986: I think Chris Harris has a huge bounce-back game. I think he's going to get a pick, and he'll be instrumental in helping shut down the running game by continuing his physical play from the corner spot.
MHR - Brandon McManus has missed several field goals lately. Kicking at home this weekend, do you think he'll have a big game? Does he need to for confidence-sake?
draco1986: I'm hoping all Brandon has to kick this week is extra points. I think he's missed a few tough kicks, so hitting a few at home to boost the confidence cannot hurt. But I don't think anything is wrong besides him just leveling out a bit from that great run he was on earlier this year.
Stats for Osweiler? Os continues his solid work: 21 of 32 for 270 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Number of yards rushing for the Broncos? I think we're able to get things going, and end up with 140 yards
Which receiver gets the most yards? DT is going to have to step up this week, and I think he finds a way to do it.
Number of sacks to Osweiler? I think Os does take a bit of a beating this week and ends up going down 3 times.
Number of sacks on A.J. McCarron? I also think the Bengals' signal caller takes a beating, going down 5 times.
Broncos player with the most sacks? I'm going to go with an upset pick, Derek Wolfe. He's been close to several more the last few weeks, and I think Cincy slides to stop Von and Malik more often.
Broncos player with the most tackles? Brandon Marshall. Cincy is going to try a lot to get that run game going, and Marshall will also likely have plenty of coverage duties.
Number of penalties? Sadly I'm guessing were still on the roughly high side with 9 this week.
Field goals by McManus? I'll go with 1. We're scoring touchdowns this week.
Final Score? Denver 38, Cinncy 21. We take the biggest step left to lock up the first round bye.
- Favorite Broncos game ever? Very tough one to pick. I'm going to go with the AFC championship game against the Patriots. I got to fly home for the game and go with my grandfather. And we beat the Pats, a team I despise.
- Least favorite Broncos game ever? The last game of the year against the Niners in 2006. Knocked us out of the playoffs, and of course was the tragic precursor to D-Will's loss.
- Favorite game this season? Beating the Pats. Huge statement game and was an exciting game. And the OT was done early, so I wasn't dead at work the next day.
- Team you hate to lose to the most? The Chiefs. I live in East Kansas and work with a bunch of Chiefs fans.
- Team you love to beat the most? The Pats. Just hate that Dynasty story.
- Favorite Broncos uniform combo? I really am a big fan of the blue jerseys and white pants. Not as much history as the Orange tops, but I think the look is sleek, and we're 2-0 in Super Bowls with it.
- Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? David Bruton. Even before this last week, he was a guy who always gave a maximum effort and was super versatile.
- Favorite Broncos player of all time? Matt Lepsis. He was a guy that really exemplified the late 90s teams in that we were doing more with guys that no one thought could do it. And he was tough as nails coming back from a pair of ACL tears.
- Superstitions on game day? Oh, I've got a lot that drive my fiancée a little crazy: Drink from an orange cup first thing; Broncos comforter on the top of the bed; Elway jersey most of the day, half hour before kick off the old school flag goes up; and I put on my game-day jersey, blue sweatpants, and Orange and Blue Chucks.
How did you become a Broncos fan?
You could say I was a lifer. My grandparents were season ticket holders, and I grew up watching games every Sunday.