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Ultimate Fan: Broncos need to capitalize on strengths, minimize weaknesses going forward

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Seems obvious, right? But as we have witnessed all season, easier said than done.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

What a week for the Broncos. A disappointing loss on Sunday night, followed by news Wednesday that starting quarterback Trevor Siemian had to wear a boot and rookie fullback Andy Janovich was headed to IR.

Now three days later, Paxton Lynch is tapped for his second NFL start, hoping for a much better showing against the Jaguars than his debut against the Falcons.

But Ultimate Fans are up for any challenge, and this week’s game in Jacksonville will definitely be one even though the Jaguars are sitting in the basement of the NFL with a dismal 2-9 record. Poised to play spoiler, Lynch and the Broncos are going to need to play near mistake-free football to get out with the win.

And that is exactly what our Ultimate Fan - mad horses - is aiming for this week - smarter football from the offense (or, the offensive coaches) and back-to-the-usual relentless defense.

A regular commenter here at MHR, mad horses - like Khalif Raymond - has been promoted to the active roster and provides yet another outstanding read as we consider what the Broncos have in store in Florida (and if they’re smart, they’ll take mad horses’ advice to heart).

Week 13: Denver at Jacksonville

MHR – Ugh. So the loss to Kansas City was deflating to say the least, but what is more of an issue in your mind – that offense still sputtered early, that the defense sputtered late, or that special teams had some big mistakes?
mad horses: The outcome of the KC game was hugely disappointing, considering that Denver played very hard and left it all on the field. Some key mistakes on special teams, and a coaching gamble that backfired, made the difference. Kansas City matched up well … the difference in the game being that they did not have the costly mistakes.

MHR – Gary Kubiak has said he will continue to play both Donald Stephenson and Ty Sambrailo despite Sambrailo’s obvious troubles Sunday night. Do you agree with this tactic or would you do something different?
mad horses: The fan base has been very critical of the play at RT. Justifiably so, I think. I have yet to see any performance out of Ty Sambrailo to suggest he should be starting, or even splitting the snaps for that matter, but obviously Coach Kubiak sees something that is not so evident to the rest of the world. My response is that, considering the lack of depth at the position, Denver should bring in a sixth lineman or a TE to help solidify the line of scrimmage and adjust its game plan accordingly.

MHR – In a perfect world and in your opinion, how should Kubiak handle the offensive game plan for this team the rest of the season?
mad horses: Denver’s offensive play calling should be tailored to best suit the strengths of the team, while minimizing the obvious weaknesses. Denver is lacking creativity and resiliency. Most of the opposing teams have figured this out and are themselves making adjustments to attack Denver’s weaknesses. And it’s working.

Coach Kubiak needs to make some adjustments to the game plan and start utilizing some plays that will offset the opposing team’s defensive strategies. Denver is stuck in a rut and not willing to change things up.

We saw this last season with PFM at the helm. Manning was continuously tasked with playing under center when it was obvious he was more effective in the gun, calling out adjustments at the line.

MHR – How do you feel about the rookie starting this weekend? Has he grown from his last experience and is this the perfect scenario if ever there were one (2-9 Jags) or do you anticipate a big struggle for Lynch?
mad horses: It is not clear just how banged up Siemian is, but recent history would teach us that things may be worse than we think. The injury to his shoulder was downplayed, but it clearly affected his ability to perform. So I am not confident he is healthy enough to be in the game, and it may be time for the change. I state this even though I have been in the camp that believes Siemian is our better option at QB, at least in the immediacy of things.

MHR – Without Andy Janovich, how can the Broncos get better blocking for the run game this weekend?

mad horses: This is a good reason to again note that Denver’s game plan needs to be altered to best meet the team’s strengths. Our starting RB is out, our starting FB is out, and the OL is not at the level it needs to be to have an effective running game under a zone-blocking scheme. Denver is going to have to make some serious adjustments. Why aren’t we seeing more screens, bootlegs, slot passes, and pitch-outs to the RBs in space? Denver is clearly not going to win the battle in the trenches.

MHR – Malik Jackson is looking to make a statement this game, proving to Denver he was worth the money. Do you expect him to be the problem he says he’ll be?
mad horses: I totally fear what Malik Jackson could do in this game.

MHR – The defense let a lead uncharacteristically slip away last week. What would you expect from them this week energy-wise and production-wise?
mad horses: The defense should be very energized. I expect a high-caliber performance, and if our offense can gain yardage like last week, Denver will be in good position to win. Absent, of course, the ill-timed mistakes. One slip-up last week resulted in 9 quick points by KC. They don’t get more costly than that.

MHR - Over at the Jags' site on SBNation, the writer said this about playing the Broncos: "The Broncos offense isn’t much to write home about, but their defense is going to pressure Blake Bortles into turnovers. A lot of turnovers." Agree?
mad horses: I foresee good pressure on Bortles and Denver needs to contain him. He rushed for some yardage against Buffalo. The Broncos should play the Jags like a lot of teams are playing the Broncos - stack the box and defend the run, and force Bortles to pass the ball. Bortles will NOT outplay our secondary.

MHR – Which Broncos defensive player NEEDS to be this week’s star?
mad horses: Well we know what Von can do (and what he likely will do!), so it would be nice to see another player make the storylines. It needs to be in the form of turnovers, so I will go with Aqib Talib for a pick-six. Why not?!

MHR – Which Broncos offensive player NEEDS to be this week’s star?
mad horses: Demaryius Thomas. DT has been playing solid ball but needs to have one of those amazing games. He is due.

MHR – How did you feel after the 1996-97 playoff loss to the Jags and how did you feel the following year after the Broncos’ curb-stomping of the same team to begin their Revenge Tour?
mad horses: I remember that game well. I can’t print how I felt after the loss … but just use your imagination. The Revenge Tour was epic, and it will forever be regarded as one of the best seasons for Denver.

MHR – Does this game feel like a must-win, not just from a record standpoint but from a morale-going-forward standpoint?
mad horses: Most certainly it does. Denver must play lights out to make the playoffs, and they still have an excellent shot. Morale wise, I have to think that there is enough solid leadership on that team to not let the team get too down on itself. They just need to have a complete game and get back into a winning mode.

MHR – How do you feel about this season? Is it impossible to get back to the playoffs/season-is-over feeling? Is it a "we just won the Super Bowl, let’s relax about this season" feeling?
mad horses: I feel that Denver has had a good season considering the change, the new QB, and a very rough schedule. Let’s hope that they cap it off with a playoff berth. No time to relax. Carolina can relax. Denver is in the mix.

Predictions

Stats for Paxton Lynch? 21 completions for 300 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT.

Rushing yards for Broncos? Booker dominates, rushing for 80 yards and a TD.

Receiving yards for Broncos? Demaryius Thomas scores both passing TDs. Total yards between DT and Sanders = 220.

Number of sacks to Lynch? Four

Number of sacks to Blake Bortles? Six

Broncos player with the most sacks? Von. Was this a trick question? (*editor’s note: the cool thing is that it wasn’t!)

Broncos player with the most tackles? Brandon Marshall

How many turnovers for the Broncos D? Three, including a pick six

Final score: Denver by 10

The Favorites

Favorite win you’ve watched the Broncos accomplish? Playoff game with Houston Oilers (Warren Moon was QB). I was in the south stands. It was rocking.

Favorite Super Bowl win? Green Bay

Team you hate to lose to the most? New England. Hate ‘em.

Team you love to beat? New England. Same reason.

Game most looking forward to this season? New England. Call me predictable.

Game most worried about this season? Ummm, see the previous three answers.

Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Big fan of #10. Sanders is my pick.

Favorite Broncos player of all time? John Elway.

Superstitions on game day? If I am not wearing something orange and drinking beer, they will likely lose.

What song could be the Broncos’ theme song this season? "Get Back" by the Beatles.

How did you come up with "mad horses" for your MHR handle? It just seemed fitting ... and because "Pissed Off Horses" is just not politically correct.

Favorite Broncos jersey color combo? Orange and white. Never gets old.

How did you become a Broncos fan?

Started even prior to the John Elway era, mostly because Denver practiced in Greeley, and I was in Fort Collins … we used to go watch them.