Woo hoo! Broncos made it through the Bye Week getting healthy and gaining ground - can’t beat that. And this week as we reflect on all the things we are thankful for, we can add Sterno74 to our list of all the Ultimate Fans we are grateful to for making this series a highlight each week as they preview the upcoming matchup. Thank you to Sterno74 and all UFGers!
Among Sterno74’s best attributes (he knows a good TD celebration when he sees it and he’s a fellow Cubs fan), he also loves a player who can lay the wood - something he’s hoping to see a lot of from the Broncos come Sunday night.
As we all are, so let’s get rolling on this prime-time rivalry now that we are rested and ready just like our team.
Brandon McManus (@thekidmcmanus) November 20, 2016
Week 12: Denver v. Kansas City at Mile High on Sunday Night Football
MHR - Broncos escaped the Big Easy with a not-so-easy win just before the bye week and now have some key players back - Derek Wolfe, Aqib Talib, Andy Janovich. How are you feeling overall about this team heading into the final six-game stretch?
Sterno74: I feel like the bye week ended up coming at a perfect time for us. We get an extra week to get those injury bugs cleared up, but more importantly I think it gives the team a little time to really focus on execution, particularly for the offense. In the end I think the outcome of this season is going to come down to whether the offensive line can perform better. They don't need to be elite with this defense, but just a few less holding penalties and a few more good run lanes, and this team is a serious playoff contender.
MHR - What weaknesses are you expecting to have been addressed and improved over the past two weeks before we face the Chiefs?
Sterno74: The core of this team's problems begin at the offensive line. The Kubiak system just doesn't work very well when the run threat isn't taken seriously. If we can own the line of scrimmage and regularly open up some room for Booker and Bibbs to grind out yards, then we can give Siemian a little more room and get the passing game going.
To be fair, it's not all on the line, and I'm hoping that they are working with Siemian on his drops and where he's standing in the pocket. While I have concerns about his tendency to hold onto the ball too long, etc, if he can just get out of the habit of dropping too far back in the pocket and making life harder for the line it would be a huge help.
MHR - The Chiefs' defense has been pretty stout (despite allowing the Buccaneers over 440 yards total on offense last game). With Justin Houston knocking off a little rust last week in his first game back this season, and Marcus Peters probably back in the lineup, how do you think our offensive line will hold up against the pass rush, and how will our offense in general be able to move the ball?
Sterno74: Every team has an off-game, so I'm not going to read too much into that loss to the Buccaneers. I think our offensive line can get the job done in this game, but only if we set them up for success. If we run the ball early and often, and avoid getting into must-pass situations, then I think they'll be fine. If we get a few too many 3rd-and-longs or end up in a situation where we have to come from behind, then it's going to be another game with a lot of sacks and holding penalties.
MHR - Related to the above question, what will be the key play calls for the Broncos offense to neutralize this Chiefs defense, which is probably the best defense Broncos will have faced thus far?
Sterno74: I'd love to see the Broncos come out and play heavy smash mouth running out of the gate. Get Janovich in there, Green on one side of the line and Derby on the other side. Broadcast to the Chiefs that we are going to run the ball and we will keep running the ball until they find a way to stop us. Once they start stacking the box, the bootlegs start rolling, and we let DT win some of the one on one matchups deep.
MHR - Tight ends have not been used nearly as much as we all anticipated by the Broncos' offense this year, but A.J. Derby showed some promise last week and appears to be catching up to the playbook, etc. How could he and Virgil Green be an asset this week against the Chiefs' defense?
Sterno74: I was so confident that Virgil Green was ready for his breakout year this season. I added him to my fantasy team figuring it'd be a late steal and I'd look like a genius. Related: I'm not very good at fantasy football.
Our tight ends aren't getting used much, but it comes down to two factors. First, our offensive line has been struggling so we end up using the tight ends for blocking more than we do pass catching. Second, other than Green, we haven't had a good tight end pass-catching option. I'm cautiously optimistic about Derby, but I can't imagine the Patriots would trade him to us if they thought he was really going to solve a problem we had. That said, he can't do worse than Heuerman has.
I don't really see our tight ends being a big factor in this game, but given a few more games, maybe between Derby and Green, we can get a couple new twists in the offense ready for a playoff run.
MHR - What kind of damage do you expect the Broncos defense to do against Alex "Captain Checkdown" Smith and the Chiefs' offense - which, by the way, has scored two fewer touchdowns than the Cleveland Browns this season?
Sterno74: The Chiefs have had this weird habit the last few years of seeming like they are a good team until they play us. Then we crush their souls and restore order to the universe; I expect no different here. I don't think it's going to be a big turnover fest like we saw last week just because of how Smith plays. They'll probably run the ball a lot, trying to exploit the one weakness this defense has. Cairo Santos will almost certainly be their leading scorer.
The Cleveland Browns, who have a QB carousel, have 20 offensive touchdowns this year. The Kansas City Chiefs offense has 18.— Chiefs Central Prod. (@ChiefsCentral) November 22, 2016
MHR - No doubt the bigger threat to the Broncos defense will be running back Spencer Ware and tight end Travis Kelce. What kind of game plan from Wade Phillips would you like to see to keep these two from burning the defense all game?
Sterno74: Anytime we are playing a team with a good tight end I worry a little bit. It's a matchup nightmare, and I know at some point during the game I'll be irritated with T.J. Ward for not covering Kelce better. In the end, though, if you come into Mile High with only one or two good receiving targets, we shut it down, no matter how bad the mismatches are.
As for Ware, I think Captain Checkdown will help us there. Since we can largely ignore the deep threat, we can bring Ward up in the box to do run support. If Smith gets an occasional one-on-one deep shot against Harris, Talib or Roby, I'm not too concerned about how it turns out for us.
MHR - What is your confidence level of the coaching units as we head into the final stretch - Kubiak, Dennison, DeCamillis?
Sterno74: I'm less and less a fan of Dennison. When Kubiak was out and Dennison was left to call the plays, it was a mess. I get that it's usually Kubiak's job and that's just not Dennison's role, but given that our offense has been consistently mediocre the last couple of years, I feel like some of that lands at his door. I really hope he can get Siemian and the offensive line to play a little better, but I'm not optimistic.
Rather than reading what I have to say about DeCamillis, just go back and watch the replay of that extra point block from last week instead. That. That's how I feel about him.
As for Kubiak, the only issue I have with him is that I wish he was a little more creative with his play calling at times. That said, I think adding a tight end who can catch passes and getting Janovich back will help him open up the playbook. Overall, as head coach though, he's done a pretty good job of keeping the teams’ head in the game week to week.
MHR - T.J. Ward believes the defense is rested and ready for the final stretch. What would you like to see in the Sunday night game to give you confidence that this team is ready for the remaining tough games?
Sterno74: I feel like I'm harping on it, but what I need to see is that offensive line getting mean and nasty. I want to see them push the Chiefs off the line, open up some nice holes, and get Booker and Bibbs cranking off 4-5 yards every time. If that happens, then everything else falls into place. Play action becomes more effective, and Siemian gets easier reads to work with in the passing game. We can avoid all the third and longs that inevitably become three and outs.
MHR - Which Chiefs players/units cause you the most concern for our Broncos?
Sterno74: The only thing I'm really worried about with the Chiefs is their pass rush if we get ourselves into a hole. Their run defense hasn't been consistent, and so my hope is that a renewed focus on our run game aligning with that weakness will let us dictate the game. If we can't do that and we get too pass happy, then it's going to be ugly.
MHR - In last year's contests, the Broncos literally "stole" a win from the Chiefs in Arrowhead and then the Chiefs came to Mile High and intercepted their long-time nemesis five times, sending Manning to the bench and going home with a big morale-boosting win. Now they sit above the Broncos in the standings (by tiebreakers) and aside from actual playoff implications and important football things, how much do the Broncos need this win to boost their morale throughout the remaining games?
Sterno74: I see this as a critical game for the whole team, but really what matters in this game is what the offense can do. I see this as a statement game for them. They can continue to let the defense carry this team, much as it did last season, or they can finally take it to the next level. It's a home game, it's after a bye week and we're playing a division rival. If this offense is going to become a contributing factor in a playoff run, now is the time to start. No more excuses.
MHR – Which Broncos defensive player NEEDS to be this week’s star?
Wolfe. I expect the Chiefs to want to run the ball, and we need him to come back and help us shore that up.
MHR – Which Broncos offensive player NEEDS to be this week’s star?
Janovich. Now that he's got two fully working hands, it's time for him to help this offense light things up again. I want to see him rumble to another touchdown this week.
Stats for Trevor Siemian? 17 completions for 230 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Number of carries/yards rushing for Broncos? Booker 23 for 102 yards; Bibbs 10 for 40 yards; Janovich 2 for 14 yards.
Number of yards receiving for Broncos? Thomas – 85; Sanders – 75; Green - 32
Number of sacks to Siemian? 4
Number of sacks to Alex Smith? 3
Broncos player with the most sacks? Derek Wolfe
Broncos player with the most tackles? Brandon Marshall
How many turnovers for the Broncos D? 1 INT, 2 FF, 1 FR
Final Score? Broncos 20, Chiefs 9
Favorite win you’ve watched the Broncos accomplish? I was at the game in New Orleans last week, so I'm mighty tempted to pick that one. Really though it would have to be the Super Bowl win last season. Each year with Manning it felt like we were going to win it all, and we'd get so close and not quite make it. To see it finally come to fruition was amazing.
Team you hate to lose to the most? The Patriots
Team you love to beat? The Patriots
Game most looking forward to this season? The Patriots
Game most worried about this season? The Patriots (sense a pattern?
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? T.J. Ward. I've always loved a good hard-hitting safety, and he's one of the best in the league at it.
Favorite rookie/young guy on the team? Janovich. He's in there doing a lot of hard work, not getting much of the glory, and somehow makes this offense so much better when he's there. Easily my favorite draft-pick this season.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? Steve Atwater. I just loved watching him when I was kid and the huge hits he delivered. Every so often if I need a good chuckle, I'll go back and watch him dish out that crushing hit on Chrisian Okoye.
Superstitions on game day? I'm in Chicago now, and so I usually watch the games with the Chicago Bronco Nation group at a bar here. We got in the habit of doing "magic shots" at halftime for good luck. Since we started doing them, the Broncos won a Super Bowl, so clearly we must be doing something right!
Favorite Broncos jersey color combo? Orange as orange can be. Since I'm not in Denver I want people to be able to see I'm a Broncos fan from a mile away.
Favorite TD celebration? Going to have to step into the way-back machine and go with Gerald Willhite's back flips. Sure there's the Mile High Salute, or you can do a little dance, but doing a back flip is seriously committing your body to the celebration
Favorite Von Miller sack dance? Have to go with a penalty worthy pelvic thrust!
How did you become a Broncos fan?
My dad first got season tickets back in the 60s, and so it's been a part of my life since birth. I only got to go to games occasionally, but being there in person is definitely what got me hooked. It's impossible to explain to somebody the feeling I had at Mile High as a little kid when the roar of everybody stomping started up. So I learned to stomp along with everybody else, and then from my mom I learned to yell - and I was set to make life a living hell for opposing quarterbacks.
Now I'm the guy at the Broncos bar in Chicago who leads the "IN-COM-PLETE" chants. Just as mom would want it :)