Good morning, Broncos Country!
Sunday’s highly anticipated matchup between the Broncos and Cowboys is going to be a good, old-fashioned football contest between two teams with some obvious opposing strengths - Cowboys’ offense against Broncos’ defense - and some revealing weaknesses - Broncos’ off...well, you get the idea.
And the winner will not necessarily be the team who plays better but rather the team whose weakness is less exposed.
The million-dollar question to be decided in two days is whether Broncos’ improving-but-not proven-offense can score enough on the Cowboys’ no-name-but-hard-playing defense and will that be more than the Cowboys’ disciplined offense can muster against the Broncos’ paralyzing defense?
Lucky for us, such philosophical questions can be answered in a very concrete way - on the field. There’s little question as to the importance of solid play from both sides of the ball for the Broncos to help tip any scales in their favor - especially on the lines.
But there are five players/groups I think will be absolute key for the Broncos to pull out what many believe would be an upset on their home field.
#5. Trevor Siemian + DT/Sanders
Obviously the quarterback generally needs to have a good game for the team to win, but given the main strength of Dallas’ defense is linebacker and ball-magnet Sean Lee - a player who easily neutralizes a team’s run game and middle-of-the-field yardage play - Siemian will not be able to rely on his running backs and tight ends so much and will instead need to take advantage of Playmaker 1 and Playmaker 2 - Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.
And he’ll need to do this with some on-the-money tosses because DT and Sanders are not likely to be in one-on-one matchups all day. But given DT’s size and strength and Sanders’ speed and agility, both should be able to take advantage of a much less-experienced Cowboys’ secondary.
#4. Pick your O-line player, but start with Menelik Watson
The clear weakest link in the chain needs to have a big night to give the Broncos’ offense a fighting chance. Denver’s defense will keep Dallas from putting up too many points, but they will put up points, and if the Broncos are going to score more points (the secret to winning all games, of course), then Watson in particular needs to improve real quick at pass protection.
Watson, who was completely overpowered against a very athletic Melvin Ingram last week, could find himself in a similar predicament against Cowboys’ DeMarcus Lawrence, who demonstrated great speed and power against the Giants last weekend, resulting in five tackles and two sacks.
Without the services of former Cowboys lineman Ron Leary, this Broncos’ line will struggle unless each player steps up a notch or four from last week.
#3. Aqib Talib/Bradley Roby
Mr. Cool (the chain ripper himself) doesn’t need to do anything different than he already does, but since he will be up against Dez Bryant, Talib will need to be on his usual A-game, preventing the big play and even getting inside Bryant’s head early on with physical play. I don’t see any problem with Talib winning this one.
Roby, who could also be matched up against Bryant on occasion, needs to stay disciplined in his coverage and not allow the star-but-declining receiver (yeah, I said it) to get in his head when he starts complaining for a PI call.
Chris Harris Jr. has the game plan for his cornerback crew of the No Fly Zone: “You have to come out starting fast. Like Coach said in our meetings, ‘Everyone has a plan until you hit them in the mouth.’ We just have to go out there and start early and start fast and get after them and shut that run down.”
#2. Adam Gotsis
Zeke Elliott. Zeke Elliott. Zeke Elliott.
The embattled Cowboys running back is cleared to play for at least another week while his possible six-game suspension hangs in the balance, and that spells trouble for the Broncos’ defensive line.
Elliott’s league-leading 1,631 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns and 91 first downs last season are likely to be repeated if not improved upon this year, and second-year defensive tackle Adam Gotsis will be along the first line of defense pushing Elliott back.
With Zach Kerr just coming back from injury, Derek Wolfe recently back from injury and Jared Crick still out for an injury, the young Aussie’s strength and power will be a necessary weapon for holding down one of the league’s most productive running backs.
Defensive coordinator Joe Woods had some good advice for his defense regarding Elliott: “It’s about discipline. He’ll take it to the right, cut it the whole way back. He’ll hit it anywhere in terms of what their zone-scheme run game is. That’s what we’ve been preaching to the guys all week. Just be accountable in your gap, fit your gaps and just know that he is going to bounce the ball and get back.”
#1. Von Miller
In so many ways this is a no-brainer because Miller is such a force to be reckoned with that obviously he’s key to any win.
But in other ways, given how much No. 58 is accounted for by opposing offenses, a solid argument could be made that the real “key player” might actually be Miller’s counterpart, Shaquil Barrett.
Yet the fact that Miller has to be accounted for like he is - and not with just one player but two or three - is exactly why he’s the No. 1 key to the game even if he’s not making tackles or getting sacks.
“Hurricane Miller” will barrel toward his target, spinning and bending whichever way he must to make his path to the quarterback. And that requires at least a couple, often several, first responders who are leaving a gap elsewhere on the field.
“I think Von affects the game all the time because of who he is,” said coach Vance Joseph. “If they double chip Von, the coverage has to take over and make [the quarterback] hold the ball so Von can get there. Or we knock the ball down or pick the ball off—we still win. It doesn’t matter how many sacks we got, we still win. ...If they’re going to take Von away, we’ve got ways to win third and second downs. That’s what’s important.”
That’s why Von being Von will mean the No Fly Zone can be the No Fly Zone. And the NFZ being the NFZ will mean the defense will be The Defense. And the defense being The Defense will mean the Cowboys will be the losers.
Cowboys’ head coach Jason Garrett knows it could happen.
“He’s one of the best players in the league,” Garrett said. “He is just fantastic in every aspect of the game. He’s quick, he’s fast, he’s explosive. He’s got great instincts for rushing the passer. He’s so disruptive and he makes play after play after play each week. And he’s getting a lot of attention from opposing offenses, so we have a real respect for him.”
Which Broncos-Cowboys matchup will be the most important for a Denver win on Sunday?
This poll is closed
Von Miller vs. O-line
Von Miller/Shaq Barrett vs. Dak Prescott
Gotsis/Peko/Wolfe vs. Ezekiel Elliott
Aqib Talib v. Dez Bryant
DT/Emmanuel Sanders v. Cowboys’ secondary
Von Miller vs. Refs not calling holding
Von Miller sends Old Spice™ gift to Dak Prescott
Miller, Broncos’ premiere edge rusher and Old Spice spokesman, is sending opposing quarterbacks and key offensive players from teams on the Broncos’ schedule a special gift - a "Smell Ya' in the Backfield" kit that includes new Old Spice Invisible Spray, Hydro Wash body wash and more of Von's favorite products.
And of course Miller sent his “friends” a letter:
“It’s a privilege to put my helmet and pads on and take the field to compete with you this season. But the thing is, we’re going to have a few close encounters when you play the Broncos. I want to make sure you smell as good as I do. Let’s be honest, offensive player sweat smells … well, offensive. With that in mind, I hope you accept these pre-season gifts...”
Dak Prescott and Jason Witten received their kits just in time for Sunday’s game.
Hopefully Miller is “smelling Prescott in the backfield” all day - and hopefully the QB remembered to try out his new gift.
Old Spice sent key players who are playing against the Broncos this year Von Miller "Smell Ya In The Backfield" kits pic.twitter.com/X0jflxY0wY— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) September 15, 2017
Horse Tracks - docllv’s pick of the day
Von Miller swears he’s not worried about sackless streak - The Washington Post
Von Miller can’t wait to bust out some of his new sack dances like the “Sexy T-Rex” he introduced after dumping Aaron Rodgers in the preseason.
Horse Tracks - Broncos & Dem ‘Boys
Connor McGovern, in second year, sees expanded role on Broncos’ offensive line – The Denver Post
Since the Broncos’ coaching overhaul in January, McGovern has morphed into a professional do-it-all lineman after playing both guard and tackle during his college career at Missouri.
Broncos prepare for challenge of 'best offensive line in football'
With three All-Pros, the Cowboys' offensive line presents a stern challenge to a Broncos front seven coming off a strong start to the season.
Denver Broncos: 3 Bold predictions vs Cowboys in Week 2
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Talk is about Dak and Zeke. But Jason Witten poses tall task for Broncos’ D – The Denver Post
The attention and questioning has shifted to the Cowboys' young stars, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, who shattered NFL records in Year 1 and began their second season last Sunday in similar fashion.
DeMarcus Ware torn between rooting for Broncos or Cowboys in Week 2 | Broncos WireFormer Dallas Cowboys and Denver Broncos defender DeMarcus Ware will be torn when his two former teams face each other in Week 2 on Sunday.
The Cowboys defense is a bunch of unknown orphans no more - Blogging The Boys
Contrary to popular opinion, the Cowboys have invested quite some draft capital into their defense, and it's about to pay off.
Dallas Cowboys: Ex-NFL scout: Will Denver CB Aqib Talib bring out 'volcano' Dez Bryant in Cowboys game Sunday? | SportsDay
DallasCowboys.com writer and former NFL personnel man Bryan Broaddus joined the Shan & RJ show on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM] Thursday morning to...
Shannon Sharpe breaks down the reasons why Dez Bryant has declined over the last 3 seasons | FOX Sports
Shannon Sharpe breaks down the reasons why Dez Bryant's quality of play has declined over the last 3 seasons, while Skip Bayless disagrees.
That's What They Said: Cowboys HC Jason Garrett, TE Jason Witten
Ahead of the Broncos' Week 2 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys, Garrett and Witten spoke with the Denver media.
5 Key Matchups for Dallas Cowboys at Denver Broncos ⋆
The Broncos’ starting right tackle struggled against speed, power, and played with very bad technique against Ingram. Lawrence played with great speed, power, and technique against Bobby Hart last week.
Cowboys Film Room: Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith proving dynamic
The Dallas Cowboys aren't a terrific defensive team, but Sean Lee and Jaylon Smith give them athletic, aggressive pieces on the second level.
Kiszla: The real Big D? All bragging aside, the Broncos are better at football than America’s Team – The Denver Post
How ‘bout them Cowboys? I’m so old I remember when America’s Team was better at football than bragging.
Takeaways: Texans top Bengals in Watson's first start - NFL.com
So many of the best moments in Houston Texans franchise history have comes against the Cincinnati Bengals. Add quarterback Deshaun Watson's first NFL victory to the list.
Players react to Deshaun Watson's first career TD run - NFL.com
Happy birthday, Deshaun Watson! The Texans rookie QB had his "Welcome to the NFL" moment, scampering through Bengals defenders for a 49-yard touchdown run on Thursday Night Football
Marvin Lewis: Andy Dalton's starting job is secure - NFL.com
Andy Dalton, the Bengals' starting quarterback of seven years, is playing the poorest football of his professional career and is now having his job security called into question.
Five things that'll define Week 2: DeShone Kizer's edge - NFL.com
How is Hue Jackson providing a scheme boost to rookie DeShone Kizer? What's the future hold for Adrian Peterson? Which Packers strength is everyone sleeping on? Conor Orr has the answers.
Saints' Adrian Peterson 'didn't sign up for nine snaps' - NFL.com
Fresh off of a disappointing debut with the Saints that saw him throw more daring glances to his coach than defenders to the ground, Adrian Peterson elaborated on his low snap count.