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Horse Tracks: “Experts” don’t think the Broncos can buck the Cowboys

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Sure, go ahead and put a chip on Von Miller’s shoulder. I dare you.

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Oakland Raiders v Denver Broncos Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

Every week various groups around the NFL media landscape put out articles picking the winners for each matchup. I’ll highlight two groups: SB Nation puts together a nine voter panel of seven regular contributors, the OddsShark computer, and a guest panelist. Likewise, Pro Football Focus fields a nine person panel.

So far both panels have taken an entirely too familiar course for Broncos fans after this offseason: doubting the Broncos in favor of larger market opponents.

It could have been worse in Week 1, with only 6 out of 9 SB Nation panelists taking the Chargers over the Broncos, along with 5 out of 9 PFF panelists. But that’s what buying into offseason storylines gets you. The Chargers were utterly outmatched by the Broncos and reached their last second attempt to tie the game only by virtue of an incredibly fluky interception and two egregious missed calls by the refs on blatant penalties.

So now, entering Week 2, it’s not surprising that the Broncos won’t get as much credit as they deserve for a game that, by rights, should have ended in a 24-7 blowout at minimum.

And yet, it seems like just a bit much that 7 out of 9 SB Nation panelists and 8 out of 9 PFF panelists are taking the Cowboys to beat the Broncos in Denver on Sunday.

The Cowboys are a strong team, no doubt about it. They’ve got an exciting young combo with quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. Dez Bryant is always a competitor, and Jason Witten is somehow still chugging along. The offensive line is still strong, if not quite the league-leading unit that built its reputation in 2015.

Perhaps the O-line will make the difference, but the considerable talent Dallas boasts at QB and the skill positions is not significantly greater than what the Broncos’ defense just shut down Monday night. By the same token, while Dallas certainly has its share of playmakers on defense, the Chargers arguably have more and better on that side of the ball.

One of the biggest advantages the Broncos will have Sunday is that the Cowboys’ pass rush is a pale shadow of what Denver’s offensive line just faced in Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram. Combine the extra time that will give Trevor Siemian in the pocket with the fact that the Cowboys will likely be without starting CB Orlando Scandrick’s services (or, at best, he’ll play with a club) and I think we might see a good day for Broncos like Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and AJ Derby.

If the Broncos can slow down Dallas’s offense like they just did Los Angeles’s, I think the Cowboys’ defense doesn’t have what it takes to keep 15 out of 18 panelists from regretting their choice.

Before we get to the Tracks, let’s take a peek at Peyton Manning’s latest antics:

Horse Tracks

Ron Leary in concussion protocol, questionable to face former team - ESPN
Right guard Ron Leary did not practice Wednesday and remains in the league's concussion protocol.

QB Index, Week 2: Sam Bradford, Alex Smith show out -
After the opening week of the 2017 season, Gregg Rosenthal reassess his QB hierarchy, with Sam Bradford and Alex Smith receiving a deserved bump.

Andrew Luck's agent denies speculation by ESPN host that Luck wants out of Indy
ESPN host Mike Greenberg cites a sense that 'we could be seeing ... the end of the Andrew Luck era in Indianapolis.'

The O-Line Calamity Index - Who's in trouble up front? - ESPN
They're good football teams -- except for their 1,500-pound blocking problem. Here are the otherwise-interesting teams that are worried about the offensive line.

Prescott reveals he missed pre-draft meeting with Broncos |
The Cowboys' quarterback opens up about the pre-draft process.

NFL kicker of the week: Younghoe Koo, it wasn’t your fault -
Welcome to Gramatica Errors, your guide to everything feet in the NFL.

Best NFL blocks of Week 1: Rodney Hudson knocked down his man TWICE on the same play -
Trent Williams, Mitch Morse, and Hudson did some VERY disrespectful blocking last week. Retired NFL lineman Geoff Schwartz runs down the list.

Which NFL Teams Have the Oldest and Youngest Starting Lineups? - ESPN
The Cardinals have decided to go with veteran leadership, while the Browns are having a full youth movement. Here's how old each team's starters are.

2017 NFL - Biggest injury questions for all 32 teams in Week 2
Will Odell Beckham Jr. be ready in time for Monday night? Could Terrance Williams break his streak of 67 straight starts? NFL Nation reporters assess the biggest injuries across the league.

What to watch for in Texans-Bengals on 'TNF' -
Deshaun Watson is set to make the first start of his career against Andy Dalton and Co. Here's what to watch for as the Cincinnati Bengals host the Houston Texans.

Donald Penn, Raiders closing in on two-year extension -
Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that offensive tackle Donald Penn and the Raiders are "closing in" on a two-year extension that could be finished by the end of the week

Texans' Brian Cushing suspended 10 games for PEDs -
Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing was suspended 10 games by the NFL on Wednesday for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.