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Broncos-Cowboys score predictions: Is the Denver run defense for real?

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The Denver Broncos and Dallas Cowboys will both be looking to remain undefeated after Week 2. Here’s how we think this game plays out.

The Denver Broncos (1-0) face their biggest test of the early part of the season as they host the Dallas Cowboys (1-0).

As cliche as it sounds, the game itself will be won in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Collectively, our staff predicts a Broncos 21-17 victory over the Cowboys in this game. Last week, our collective score was a fairly solid 24-16 prediction. A couple of fluky turnovers tightened up that final score.

Here is how we each predicted this game will go:

Broncos 24, Cowboys 20

The game itself comes down to how improved I feel the Broncos run defense is. After giving up a 21 yard carry to Melvin Gordon last week, the Broncos run defense brought me back to 2015 and that is a very good feeling. If you take away that one big run, they held Gordon under a 3 yards per carry game and that is insane.

Of course, Ezekiel Elliot is a different runner - a better runner - behind a better offensive line. I think he’ll get close to 4 yards per carry, but will be held around 80 yards on the ground. That will play into the Broncos defenses other strengths. Dak Prescott only had four interceptions in 2016 and I think he will end up with two of them in this game. - Tim Lynch

Broncos 24, Cowboys 17

I've never in my life seen a quarterback and wide receiver combination with less chemistry than Dak Prescott and Dez Bryant. While they have an amazing running attack, they just aren't balanced enough in all aspects of offense to be more than 13-3 paper champions (their 2016 record). Their defense held the Giants down, but that shouldn't really be of any surprise as the Giants haven't been relevant for a half a dozen years. It's almost as if Eli Manning has forgotten how to play football.

Denver and their defense, led by the No Fly Zone and Von Miller, held the Chargers to woeful numbers until very late in the game where a perfect storm of costly turnovers, botched calls, and blown coverages allowed the Chargers back in the game. On offense, the Broncos seem to have found a wonderful balance with their running attack being respectable once again, and Trevor Siemian being able to sling the ball around and distribute it quite nicely to more than 1 or 2 people, which shows me tremendous growth over last year.

With room to still improve, I like Denver's odds, especially at home. If this were an old school (90's) version of Madden, the checkmarks to which team had the edge would show that the Broncos hold the edge in EVERY aspect of Defense, QB, WR. The Cowboys hold the edge in RB and OL. That's it. Overall, the checkmark we all liked to see in those games would go to Denver. And that's how I see it too. - Pete Baron

Broncos 16, Cowboys 13

My score prediction of 24 - 7 was holding up last week until the wheels started coming off in the 4th. We'll try again this week.

I see a sloggy, low scoring battle on our hands. Dallas is going to try to control the clock and wear down our D, and their D is just improved enough to be a thorn in Trevor Siemian's side.

However, I think Denver's run D will surprise people, especially Dallas fans who think they'll run wild on it. Dak Prescott, an impressive young player, missed some easy throws on Sunday night. I don't think he will have much room for error against the NFZ.

This game will come down to a key turnover, and the legs of two of the best kickers in the game dueling it out. - Jeff Essary

Broncos 23, Cowboys 13

As Ian St. Clair mentioned on the MHR Radio podcast this week, the second game of the season is the hardest to predict. The question is, are you a glass is 3 quarters full kind of fan, or a glass is 1 quarter empty fan. As we sit here in the spring of the football season, hope is a common disease among the faithful, and the first three quarters of the season have infected me with optimism. The Broncos offense seemed to find a good combination with C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles in the run attack. The offensive line is not bad in pass blocking, and will continue to gel. The Cowboys defense is not as strong up front as it is at linebacker, and that gives Denver a chance to control the ball. Trevor Siemian was good in the season opener. He seems to have good chemistry with all of his receivers, and surprisingly, Bennie Fowler may be that third option that Denver has needed. And yes, the Broncos have tight ends to catch the football.

The defense was stiffer up front against the Chargers than anyone anticipated. It was a solid test, but the Cowboys will bring the best offensive line in the NFL to Denver. Behind that line is a wrecking ball in Ezekiel Elliot. The front seven will be facing their most difficult task all season. The No Fly Zone will be essential to allowing the defense to stuff the box. History says they can accomplish that goal, especially against young quarterbacks. Dak Prescott is the beneficiary of a strong running attack, but against the best secondary in the league, he should not find the same success. There won't be any surprises on the scoreboard, but hope springs eternal in this young season. - Adam Malnati

Broncos 23, Cowboys 13

I think it's not coincidence that Denver just brought in defensive lineman Ahtyba Rubin to replace the injured Jared Crick. Crick, who did appear better against the run in preseason than we're used to seeing from him, is still more of an interior pass rusher. Rubin is a guy who's good for one or two sacks a year, but the 320 pounder was more known as an important early down player in the Seahawks' dominant run defense of the last couple seasons.

I think we'll see Joe Woods call up more 4-3 sub packages than we're used to, in order to emphasize stopping Ezekiel Elliott. The Broncos can put four 300+ pound linemen up front, including Tyrique Jarrett and Ahtyba Rubin and build a wall that won't be easy to get through. The Cowboys like to run a lot of zone stretch, though, so how to lock that down too? Von Miller and Shaquil Barrett are both well above average among edge defenders when it comes to stopping the run, and I expect we'll see some combination of Brandon Marshall, Todd Davis, Will Parks, or Jamal Carter flowing to the ball from the middle of the D.

At that point, I think we put Aqib Talib on Dez Bryant with safety help, Chris Harris on Cole Beasley, and Bradley Roby or Justin Simmons on Jason Witten or other receivers and dare Dak Prescott to try and beat the No Fly Zone. I don't think he can do it.

Edit: Oh, yeah. Offense. I think Siemian will surprise a beatable Cowboys secondary, but in balance with an improved run game. It'll be efficient, but probably not spectacular. The main thing will be to sustain drives in order to keep the D rested. - Taylor Kothe

Cowboys 20, Broncos 13

As Adam said in his prediction, stealing my thunder, the hardest game to predict is Week 2. You never know if what you saw in the first game is a mirage or actually real. There is reason to feel optimism after the Broncos season-opening win but the Cowboys are an entirely different beast. As you’ve seen on MHR over the last few days, the only way Denver has a shot is to win the line scrimmage on offense and defense.

The task is a little easier for the Broncos offense, but will aid the defense in a major way if it takes care of business. Even then I’m not sure Denver has enough. Dallas will look at what Melvin Gordon and LA did on Monday, good and bad, and get an idea of how it can have success. If we see what Gordon and the Chargers did in the first quarter against Denver’s defense from Elliott and that offensive line, it will be a long Sunday afternoon for the home team.

Until the Broncos run defense proves it’s real, in the stiffest test of the season, against the best offensive line in the NFL, what we saw in Week One is a mirage. - Ian St. Clair

Editor’s Note:

What are your score predictions for the Broncos-Cowboys game?