At long last, hope springs eternal.
All thanks to ... Brock Osweiler? That’s what it’s come to for the Denver Broncos following Trevor Siemian’s pitiful performance over the last three-five weeks. Now the confidence is smoldering again for the Broncos offense and the team may benefit from the spark it creates. If you predicted this when Osweiler left for the Houston Texans a few weeks after the Super Bowl 50 win, you need to head to Las Vegas and take me with you. I’ve always believed life comes full circle, but this is freaking nuts.
The task is far from simple as Denver (3-4) completes the final leg of its three-game road trip against the Philadelphia Eagles (7-1). For some historical perspective, the Broncos have never fared well in the City of Brotherly Love. In the all-time series, they are 1-5 in Philly. Not that it matters, but the last and only time Denver beat the Eagles in Philadelphia was Sept. 21, 1986, when it won 33-7.
Now the Broncos will try to accomplish on Sunday what they haven’t in 31 years. At least Osweiler is the one who will take a stab at defying history, as opposed to Siemian.
Philadelphia: Sixth in overall offense (371.8 yards), fifth in rushing (129.3), 11th in passing (242.5) and fourth in points (29).
Denver: Fifteenth in overall offense (341.7 yards), 10th in rushing (123.4), 18th in passing (218.3) and 24th in points (18.1).
Philadelphia: Fourteenth in overall defense (327.1 yards), first in rushing (70.4), 26th in passing (256.8) and 10th in points (19.5).
Denver: First in overall defense (261 yards), Second in rushing (72.9), sixth in passing (188.1) and 13th in points (21).
Here are our keys to the Broncos getting a win and thus ending their three-game losing streak.
Let the No Fly Zone loose
As Adam Malnati and I said on the latest MHR Radio Podcast, Carson Wentz and Philadelphia’s offense love to stretch the field with big plays. The Eagles take advantage of Wentz’s arm and his talented crop of receivers. Denver defensive coordinator Joe Woods needs to let his secondary man up those wide outs and dare Wentz to beat the No Fly Zone.
Now that Shane Ray is back for his second game, the pass rush will continue to get better when coupled with Von Miller and Shaquil Barrett. The Broncos front seven will need to continue its dominance, but let the No Fly Zone loose. Let those guys do what they do best — play fast and aggressive. The rest will into place. - Ian St. Clair
Protect the football
The Broncos have coughed up the ball 17 times themselves so far, putting their turnover differential at -11 for the season. Winning is really, really hard if you keep turn the ball over. On the other hand, Denver has won a franchise-record 31 consecutive games (dating to 2012) when winning the turnover battle — the longest active streak in the NFL.
So the Broncos need to win the turnover battle (which has only happened once so far this season) if they want to win the game. The coaches shouldn't hog tie Osweiler and the offense, because they need to get back on their feet and create some momentum, but they do need to be careful about it. - Taylor Kothe
Denver’s front seven needs to dominate
The Broncos will have an unexpected battle to win on Sunday. The Eagles went out and traded for Jay Ajayi. He will bring an element to the Philadelphia offense that the Broncos defense may not have been prepared for. Once again, it will be on the big guys in the trenches to hold the Eagles offense in check. If Denver can limit the running attack it will open up some big play opportunities for the No Fly Zone, as Ian pointed out. This will go a long way to helping the Broncos end their three-game losing streak. - Adam Malnati
Psst, Broncos offense, don’t lose another game
Denver’s defense can win this game, plain and simple. The defense needs to show up, play lights out, and the Broncos can win this game. The real key to this game will be the offense not losing this game. To put into context how horrific Denver’s QB play has been: Tim Tebow won more games with less offensive and defensive talent. And although Siemian has better stats (typically) than Timmy, he was hurting, nay, killing the Broncos as a team with his turnovers and picks/fumbles returned for touchdowns.
But he's benched. Osweiler is in. And I HOPE that he is in only until Paxton Lynch is healthy enough to take over and gain much needed experience to find out if Denver needs to address the position in the offseason. So Osweiler’s ability to not turn the ball over will be the real key to this game. Take care of the ball, get the Broncos into scoring positions, and take advantage of the talent around you. - Pete Baron
Red Zone efficiency
The Broncos offense has been about as bad in the red zone as a team could get over the last month. This must change if they hope to beat the best team in the NFL in the Eagles.
Siemian had been completely exposed by NFL defense’s to the point where his mechanics regressed along with his decision making. Brock Osweiler has been around the block and likely gives the team their best chance to win, but let’s not forget that the Houston Texans broke him too. He may just be keeping the seat warm for Paxton Lynch. - Tim Lynch