It’s another two-for-one week here on the Ultimate Fan Guide because we know how much you crave insightful as well as entertaining analysis on our favorite team.
And this UFG combo definitely fits the bill - draco1986 joins us for a second year and pdx_mustang is piping in for the first time, and both have some excellent thoughts on what the Broncos need to do for the next must-win game. And better yet, these two are life-long fans who have no delusions of grandeur for this year’s team but have in no way given up on them to get back to the playoffs, even as the division winner if all goes well. Get your Snickers, OrangeAndBluesBros, this is a good read :)
Undoubtedly, the two big questions for the Broncos this weekend will be - can it establish a run game and will it stop the Titans’ own ground effort? Neither will be easy as both are weak spots for the Broncos. And with Marcus Mariota and DeMarco Murray combining as a dangerous offensive threat behind a strong Titans offensive line, the defense will not be able to slack.
"Marcus, he’s a great quarterback. He doesn’t really give up a lot of sacks. He’s able to evade defenders and run," Von Miller said Thursday. "Usually when you get a scrambling quarterback, he doesn’t have a good offensive line [and] that’s why they scramble, but he has a great offensive line and he is still able to make plays. It’s going to be a tough one."
Tough for the Broncos, definitely. But not for our Ultimate Fans who are up for the challenge and believe the Broncos will be too.
Week 14: Denver at Tennessee
MHR – What were your two top takeaways from the Broncos-Jags game Sunday?pdx_mustang: 1) Arm strength continues to be the most overrated QB trait. Paxton Lynch has a cannon, but it means nothing with poor footwork, which results in poor accuracy. It’s a little disappointing that these guys are not cleaning up their fundamentals in college due to the proliferation of spread offenses. That being said, I’m not going to call the guy a bust after two-and-a-half games. I think he has a ton of potential, and I think Greg Knapp is a solid QB coach who can show him a lot. Here’s to a strong competition in training camp next year!
And 2) Chris Harris Jr. needs some more love. He might not make the "flashy" plays like Aqib Talib, but he continues to amaze. Last week he just allowed three catches, with only one going for more than five yards, and added a pick and pass break-up. Bortles had a 2.8 passer rating when he targeted CHJ. I was also impressed with how he performed when matched up on Allen Robinson, given the height disparity, as that seems to be how teams try to attack him. I’ll be forever grateful to him for taking that hometown discount to stay here and still performing like the best cornerback in football.
draco1986: The two things I took away seem to be the continuing themes we've seen on MHR – Paxton Lynch needs quite a bit more seasoning and that the offense continues to put the D behind the 8-ball. On Lynch I think he'll develop this offseason as he continues to work with the starters and get his overall footwork into better shape. His deep ball didn't lack strength, just overall timing. His feet in the pocket definitely need to improve though to get those 10-yard out throws to be somewhere our receivers can catch it.
MHR – It’s not clear which quarterback will be playing Sunday, but if Trevor Siemian is not 100 percent, is it a good idea to play him over Paxton Lynch and risk hurting him for the possibly "more important" games? Or are the chances of winning with Lynch so low Broncos need to put Siemian out there? Or… Austin Davis?
pdx_mustang: Not to be overly-dramatic, but I really think this is a must-win game for the Broncos if they want to get back to the playoffs. Looking at our remaining schedule, this is likely the easiest game left, and so I think they need to pull out all the stops and get a win. I guess it really depends on how close Siemian is to 100 percent and if they think he can be effective, but I think they need him out there if possible. HE played pretty great in that game against the Chiefs, and I think having him in there moves our offense from "atrocious" to more of the "pretty bad" level. I trust Gary Kubiak to make the right call, at least in this regard.
draco1986: I think if Trevor is at that 85-90 percent level you go with him. No one at this point is 100 percent, and this is a game we should be able to win. If we win here, a loss to the Pats hurts but doesn't kill us. If Trevor can't go, I do think you roll with Lynch and try to continue to do things to emphasize his mobility and ability to look deep, because that's the best chance this offense has is chunk plays .
MHR – Kubiak said Justin Forsett is ready to go and will share snaps with Devontae Booker. Do you like this signing, and do you think Forsett will bring something new or be more of the same?
pdx_mustang: I like the signing at this point in the season given our depleted running back depth. Forsett is on the wrong side of 30 and hasn’t looked that great since 2014, but I like having a veteran around to take some pressure off of Booker and help him learn this offense. My expectations for the run game are low overall due to the state of this offensive line, and the fact that Tennessee is decent against the run, but I don’t think it’s a bad signing by any means.
draco1986: I do like this signing. Forsett is a good runner who has excelled in Kubiak’s schemes before. He was having a good season in 2015 until he broke his arm and then bounced around a bit this year. I'm not expecting a big change in the run game though, because I think a lot of those issues are on the offensive line and its inability to create space for our backs to get to the second level.
MHR – Our offense is atrocious overall, but is all this doom-and-gloom realistic or way too negative for what this offense really can do – especially with DT and Emmanuel Sanders in the lineup?
pdx_mustang: Not at all too negative. To me, it starts and ends with the offensive line. With the exception of Seattle, and maybe Minnesota, I feel comfortable saying this is the worst offensive line in football. DT and He-manuel put on an impressive display of route-running last week, which unfortunately went mostly to waste, but I’d still take our WR corps against anyone’s. Despite the heart-breaking ending, I thought Siemian played tremendously well after the switch was made at RT. The offensive line is the key here. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but if they can find a way to give Trevor some time, I’m becoming more and more confident that he can make the throws. Overall, I think a lot of the pieces are in place. We just aren’t seeing their full potential because of horrendous line play.
draco1986: I think it is realistic given our current offensive line. Football Outsiders ranks us at 25th and 30th when running to to right side of the line, which is absolutely killing our ability to keep the D guessing. The tackle position has been a disaster in pass protection for the most part.
MHR - Following up, how would you fix this offense short term (as in, the next four-plus games!) What would you do in the long-term (offseason for 2017)?
pdx_mustang: It’s been harped on a lot around here, but short-term, I would love to see some more creativity in the play-calling. I was a little encouraged last week with the rollouts/deep shots Lynch took. I thought the plays were well designed, but obviously lacking in execution.
If Siemian is healthy, I think he is mobile enough to roll out, and I have confidence he can make some of those throws. Overall, I’d like to see Kubiak and Dennison start to stretch the field horizontally (i.e. New England), rather than vertically. I like Kubiak’s leadership ability, but I sure do miss Adam Gase’s creativity. Both DT and Emmanuel and excellent in the open field, so it’s been frustrating to see them not be able to utilize their talents accordingly.
Long term, the answer is to invest in the offensive line. For all the great work John Elway has done, ignoring the line for the last few seasons has been incredibly frustrating, especially after hiring Kubiak. When you decide to make a change to a more run-based offense, you have to invest either draft capital or money in free agency in your offensive line. To me, it seems like he keeps trying to find bargains by using late round picks, or signing guys off the scrap pile. It’s great when this works out like with Matt Paradis, but that is the exception, not the rule. Our QBs are making relatively nothing for the next few years. It’s time to use that extra cap space to solidify the trenches.
draco1986: In the short term there just isn't much to do to fix it. I'd like to see some more quick screens to both the running backs and receivers to help create some space in the middle and get those safeties looking to move up to open up some over the top stuff. We're 27th in passing plays over 20 yards. A lot of that has to do with protection issues, but I think we can help get receivers open with some more combo routes and some more early lateral passing game plays to get the defense shifting down.
For the future I think the line needs a huge infusion of talent. In the draft and free agency it must be a priority.
MHR – The Titans had a bye last week and share a three-way tie in the AFC South for the No. 1 seed. How dangerous is this combo for our team headed on its second road game out East in a seven-day period ?
pdx_mustang: Coming into this season, I kind of laughed this game off and put it in the win column, but I’ve become more worried the last few weeks as the Titans have been playing some pretty good football. They’re going to have plenty of motivation given both teams’ position in the playoff chase, and it’s going to be a knock-out, drag-out kind of game. I think Tennessee will have a similar game plan as the Raiders and will try to run it down our throats. I’m hopeful the improved run defense will hold up given the importance of this game.
draco1986: This is going to be a slog fest. The Titans have been playing solid football, but they have not faced a pass rush like ours. Their run game, though, does pose a huge issue in that they get lots of big plays. They have 54 runs of at least 10 yards, and rank ninth overall in open-field yards. This is where our defense has struggled, giving up big runs.
MHR – Marcus Mariota has thrown for 2,998 yards, 25 touchdowns and only eight interceptions – a passer rating of 101.9 that ranks fifth in the league. How much of a threat do you think he’ll be for Von Miller plus the No Fly Zone?
pdx_mustang: Mariota has had a pretty nice year thus far. He doesn’t scare me as much with his arm as he does with his legs, so it’s important for the Broncos to keep contain and not overpursue on the pass rush. Bortles had a few runs last week after the pay broke down, so I’d like to see that cleaned up. While I’m confident that Harris and Talib can lock down the outside receivers, Delanie Walker is an underrated TE, and our safeties and linebackers will need to have solid games in coverage. Demarco Murray is also a decent receiving threat for a running back, which has given us some problems this year, so the defense should be aware of that as well.
draco1986: Through the air I think we'll be able to contain Mariota. He's developed into a very smart player, and he loves to hit Delanie Walker. We've struggled with that, but the rest of their receiving corps is not great. We'll need to watch him in the pocket though to keep him from hurting us with his legs.
MHR – Arguably the biggest problem for the Broncos on Sunday will be Tennessee’s running game behind DeMarco Murray, second in the NFL for yards. On the road and likely in bad weather, would you "buy or sell" the Broncos’ run defense this weekend against the Titans?
pdx_mustang: As ridiculous as Mike Mularkey’s "exotic smashmouth" offensive scheme sounded coming into this season, they’ve actually kind of made it work. Tennessee has a solid offensive line, headed by their two Pro-Bowl caliber tackles, Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin, and Demarco Murray has had a nice comeback year, while being spelled occasionally by Derrick Henry. I think the Broncos’ run D has improved since the Oakland game, but this is likely the best line they’ve faced since in terms of run-blocking. The fan in me wants to buy, the cynic in me wants to sell. If the Broncos want to win this game, the run D had better show up.
draco1986: It's a reluctant buy. We've played the run very well the last two weeks sans a couple of hiccups. Nelson is going to have to srep up in a big way though, and play lights our like he did last week.
MHR – Do you think the added time on the field and extra pressure to win these games is going to wear down the Broncos’ defense for the final quarter? Or do you see the defense sucking it up down the stretch?
pdx_mustang: It’s a concern for sure. I’m praying that this offense somehow can find ways just to stay on the field to give those guys a break. I’m not even necessarily asking for points here, just a few third conversions to eat up some clock! The nice part about our defense is the tremendous depth that Elway has assembled, especially at outside linebacker and safety. Hopefully, we can find effective ways to rotate to keep everyone fresh.
draco1986: It does of course wear the defense down. But these guys are experienced vets and all of them have a huge amount of pride in the fact that this is a top-tier D. I think they find that little bit extra when we need it.
MHR – Which Broncos defensive player NEEDS to be this week’s star?
pdx_mustang: Jared Crick, Sly Williams, Derek Wolfe - take your pick. Even if they aren’t the ones making the plays against the run, it’s imperative that they eat up blocks, so our linebackers and safeties can come in and clean it up. I’ve been hard on Crick this season, but I will say that he has shown some improvement since the Oakland fiasco. He’ll need to continue this week.
draco1986: Sly Williams. His play the last couple of weeks has been much better I've thought, and we'll need him to really help muck up the middle of the field. A close second would be Crick, since the Titans have found great success in running at the edge all season.
MHR – Which Broncos offensive player NEEDS to be this week’s star?
pdx_mustang: Whoever is QB1 this week (hopefully Siemian). Tennessee lacks a solid edge rusher, which means they shouldn’t abuse our tackles like our past opponents have. Whoever quarterbacks should have more time and needs to exploit the Titans’ subpar secondary.
draco1986: Lots of choices, but I'm going to go with Donald Stephenson. He's struggled in all phases of the game this year and we could use a big boost from him. Being able to shift Daquan Jones or pick up Brian Orakpo will make or break us.
Predictions – draco1986
Stats for Paxton Lynch/Trevor Siemian? 20/28, 232 yards, 2 TDs
Rushing yards for Broncos RBs? Booker, 62 on 19 carries; Forsett, 34 on 10 carries.
Receiving yards for Broncos? The group of Thomas, Sanders, Green and Derby combines for 200 yards in the rain, with Derby catching 66 and a TD.
Number of sacks to Lynch/Siemian? 3
Number of sacks to Marcus Mariota? 4
Broncos player with the most sacks? Von and Wolfe each get 1.5
Broncos player with the most tackles? Von with 9
How many turnovers for the Broncos D? I think the No Fly Zone gets a pair of picks that set us up in short field position.
Final score: I think we get a hard-fought win on the road, outlasting the Titans 17-14.
Predictions – pdx_mustang
Stats for Paxton Lynch/Trevor Siemian? 20-35, 275 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INT
Rushing yards for Broncos RBs? Booker, 50 yards; Forsett, 35 yards.
Receiving yards for Broncos? Thomas, 100; Sanders, 85; Green, 55; Derby, 35. I have no idea!
Number of sacks to Lynch/Siemian? 3
Number of sacks to Marcus Mariota? 2
Broncos player with the most sacks? Von Miller
Broncos player with the most tackles? Todd Davis
How many turnovers for the Broncos D? Let’s go with 1 pick, and 1 fumble recovery
Final score: 20-17 Broncos.
The Favorites – draco1986
Favorite win you’ve watched the Broncos accomplish? The Super Bowl this year. I told several folks the week of it felt like the week before the Green Bay Super Bowl. No one have us a chance, but you could feel they just didn't know what they were talking about.
Favorite all-time playoff win? The win over the Pats in 2014. I got to go to the game with my grandfather.
Favorite Super Bowl win? SB50 for the reasons above.
Favorite sack dance? I'm not big on dances. Although I do like Wolfe's primal scream, and I enjoyed Neil Smith’s home-run swing back in the day.
Favorite end zone celebration? Mile High Salute. As if there were any other.
Team you hate to lose to the most? The Chiefs. Here in south central Kansas, it's Chiefs fans everywhere that disappear any time they lose but love to talk when they win.
Team you love to beat? The Pats. Just a team I dislike and love to always hear people spin it as if it was a rare occurrence.
Game most looking forward to this season? It had been the Chiefs game on Thanksgiving. I got to go home and participate on the field during the flag ceremony for that game. It was extra special since it was the salute to service game. Coming up it’s the Pats game. I think if we drop that game, we might be out of a playoff spot. Do or die.
Game most worried about this season? The Christmas Chiefs game. Another must-win, but it's in Arrowhead in December.
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Derek Wolfe. The man plays with intensity and loves to play here.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? Matt Lepsis. Great toughness, and an unervalued player.
Superstitions on game day? They haven't changed any from last year, except now my grandfather got the dogs some jerseys to match.
What song could be the Broncos’ theme song this season? I feel like so far it's been "Here it goes again" by Ok Go. So many times things have felt like they were turning a corner to find it back to be another three-and-out in offense. Hopefully, though, this week Trevor can get some things rolling like he did against the Chiefs in the second half.
How did you come up with your MHR handle? I've had Draco as a handle for years. It's Latin for Dragon, which I've always thought were cool.
Favorite Broncos jersey color combo? Still the blue tops and white pants, but I did actually really like our color rush unis as well.
I understand the desire to talk hypotheticals, but the Broncos' next four opponents are 35-13 right now. Keep the focus on the moment.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) December 9, 2016
The Favorites – pdx_mustang
Favorite win you’ve watched the Broncos accomplish? Since Super Bowl/playoff wins are covered below, I’ll stick to regular season here. There’s been so many, even in just the last few years…the 2012 Chargers comeback was great; the shootout in Dallas in 2013 was sweet since I live here and I’m surrounded by Cowboys fans; exposing the Chiefs in 2013 both times as well. But I don’t think I’ve ever freaked out and completely lost it (in a good way) like I did when Bradley Roby returned that fumble for a TD in Arrowhead last year, so I’ll go with that.
Favorite all-time playoff win? I’d have to say last year’s AFC Championship. The fact that it was the Patriots at full strength, that everyone on defense played almost perfect, and the fact that I got to watch Tom Brady get hit 20+ times made me happier than words can describe. The 2006 Divisional against New England (see a theme?) with Champ’s pick is up there as well.
Favorite Super Bowl win? I was only 5 when we won Super Bowl 32, so as much as I’d like to say that, it’d have to be last year’s since I had a fuller appreciation of the accomplishment. It really felt like a culmination of the previous 4 years, and I was glad Peyton got another ring while shattering every stereotype about playoff quarterback play.
Favorite sack dance? Is there any answer besides the Von Miller Hingle McCringleberry?
Favorite end zone celebration? Recency bias at its finest, but the Emmanuel Sanders/Michael Jackson dance against the Chiefs was pretty strong.
Team you hate to lose to the most? Patriots
Team you love to beat? Patriots. I hate their fans, I hate their players, I hate their attitudes, and I hate their families, if they have any, because they’re people who support them.
Game most looking forward to this season? I think Week 17 against the Raiders at home has a lot of potential if we are still in the playoff hunt.
Game most worried about this season? At Kansas City. Arrowhead in December has historically been a house of horrors for us.
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Offense: either Emmanuel Sanders or C.J. Anderson; Defense: Chris Harris Jr.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? I didn’t get to watch a lot of Elway, but I obviously appreciate what he means to this franchise. I’d probably have to say Peyton Manning because of how he made this team relevant again. The on-field success, the sense of professionalism he brought, and the respectability he brought back to the Broncos. And cliché answer aside, I loved watching Al Wilson play as well.
Superstitions on game day? I always wear whatever color jersey the Broncos are wearing that day, and a glass of whiskey on the rocks to celebrate a win.
What song could be the Broncos’ theme song this season? I’ll go with "Get Back" by The Beatles.
How did you come up with your MHR handle? I grew up in the Portland area, and currently am finishing up law school at SMU in Dallas so "pdx_mustang" seemed like the best of both worlds.
Favorite Broncos jersey color combo? Probably in the minority here, but I’m a big fan of the road whites.
How did you become a Broncos fan?
pdx_mustang: My dad went to high school in Denver and actually lived down the street from Mark Herrmann, who would play catch with him and his friends. He was pretty bummed when the Broncos traded him, but I think the return package in that trade more than made up for any disappointment. Anyways, the Broncos were always on when I was young, and after a brief rebellious phase at age 4 where I rooted against everything my dad rooted for, he bought me a Broncos winter coat and I’ve been hooked ever since.
draco1986: I'm a lifer. My grandfather was a season ticket holder, and I grew up in Colorado. I've carried it on with me now.