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Ultimate Fan: At least the rookies are exciting to watch

Denver Broncos v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

When the going gets tough in sports, you call on your veterans to be real with you and help motivate to pull you through - and that’s what we’re doing in the Ultimate Fan Guide this week!

the_prodigal_fan is a Broncos’ lifer who isn’t afraid to take off the orange & blue glasses and be critical of his favorite team. Mathematically the Broncos are still in the playoff hunt, but after their performance last week against the Niners, it’s debatable whether the team knew that.

All hope is not lost, however, because the Broncos still have a “winning season” to fight for plus some franchise pride in not letting an 11-game win streak for the Broncos over the Browns come to an end.

Let’s hope Vance Joseph decided to show this team some clips from John Elway’s iconic wins over the Browns, because if “The Drive” or “The Fumble” don’t inspire you to play your asses off until the clock is 0:00, then this pro game isn’t for you.

Week 15: Browns at Broncos

MHR - Wow. What happened last week against the 49ers?
the_prodigal_fan: What happened is a Vance Joseph-coached team regressing to its mean. We lost a game to what is probably the worst team we have faced this season. It wasn’t because of talent that we lost. Yes, we are ravaged by injuries, but so are they. I STILL have no idea who the hell their QB was. As bad as our personnel situation currently is, the Niners have it worse. This loss was due to terrible preparation and THAT is due to coaching. So, long story short, what happened? Vance Joseph happened.

MHR - I’ve been asked this question a lot this week, so let me ask you - which part of this team has you more worried (related to winning games THIS season) - the offense or the defense?
the_prodigal_fan: Currently, it’s the defense. Does anyone have any idea who is suiting up at CB this week? Roby and who? Yeah, with all of the injuries, this defense is a sieve.

MHR - We knew the loss of Emmanuel Sanders and Chris Harris Jr. would be big. Do you think some of the issues last week were because of not having two of our best leaders out on the field? Or was it more just not having their All-Pro production? Or both?
the_prodigal_fan: It’s a combination of the two, without question. These two guys are not merely veteran leaders. They are also the best players we have at their respective positions. Losing all of that hurts in a major way. I think the more visible of the two losses is that of Sanders. We simply don’t have anyone we can rely on to catch passes. All of our TEs are out, DT is gone, what guys we have are inexperienced, and Keenum is pedestrian.

MHR - How much confidence do you have in Joe Woods and Bill Musgrave to have their units prepared (good film study, good scheme comprehension) as well as a good game plan for the Browns?
the_prodigal_fan: None whatsoever.

MHR - Which “match-up” will be the toughest this weekend for the Broncos to overcome - Myles Garrett v. Garett Bolles & the O-line? Bradley Roby/Tramaine Brock v. Jarvis Landry? Von Miller/Bradley Chubb v. Baker Mayfield? David Njoku v. the linebackers? Vance Joseph v. the challenge flag?
the_prodigal_fan: Roby and Brock vs. Landry. Roby is a serviceable corner, but he loses that match-up every time, and he’s a lot better than Brock. That has the potential to result in a very long day for the Broncos.

MHR - Mayfield has gotten his Browns’ team fired up to play aggressive, throw caution to the wind and do whatever it takes to win - or “playing with House money” as Phil Milani noted earlier this week. How does that compare to how the Broncos are playing and what would you do in practice this week to be ready for this team?
the_prodigal_fan: It doesn’t compare at all. Mayfield does what Keenum does not, which is take risks and push the ball down the field. Of course, he has raw talent that Keenum can only dream of, so there’s that. The Browns have suffered for a long time with a never-ending turnstile at the QB position. With Mayfield, it looks like they’ve finally found a bonafide star to lean on.

As far as what to do in practice, I think we need to throw the kitchen sink at him in order to have a chance. Blitz him on virtually every play. If we can put consistent pressure on him and get him rattled, he will make rookie mistakes. He also tends to be a gunslinger, so he is susceptible to being baited into forcing throws that he shouldn’t. As Mayfield goes, so go the Browns.

MHR - We have two rookies contending for (even if unlikely to get) Rookie of the Year in Bradley Chubb and Phillip Lindsay. How big is that for the rest of those units to see two rookies lighting it up on the field?
the_prodigal_fan: I’m sure it’s simply huge. These guys are the future of our team, and as bad as the present seems, the future looks bright. That means a lot, especially in the midst of what is essentially a lost season.

MHR - How worried are you about David Njoku this week? Do the Broncos even have the personnel to stop a strong, fast tight end and still be ready for Nick Chubb or Jarvis Landry?
the_prodigal_fan: I’m frankly terrified of every TE we face, because TEs are our kryptonite even when our defense is playing well. Njoku could very easily have a huge day against us.

MHR - The Browns’ defense does a lot of disguises to confuse opposing offenses. How much of a problem could it be for Case Keenum and this streaky O-line and young receivers?
the_prodigal_fan: That depends on how smart Vance Joseph is. If he is smart, he’s going to lean very heavily on Lindsay and Freeman. The running game is really the only strength we currently have on offense. If we play to that strength, we can limit the effects of the Browns’ defensive disguises. Basically, we need to run it down their throats. We don’t have the talent right now to get cute with the game plan. Smash mouth football is the order of the day, on both sides. On offense, run the ball; on defense, blitz A LOT.

MHR - Vance Joseph was off the hot seat following those three big wins after the bye, but it’s getting hot again after the loss to the Niners. What should be John Elway’s play here for the team in the offseason regarding coaches - and does the outcome of the season still play into it or should it already be decided?
the_prodigal_fan: I’ve maintained all along that Joseph should’ve been fired at the end of LAST year. I’ve seen nothing to change my mind on that. If Elway doesn’t fire Joseph at the end of THIS year, he will have made a massive mistake.

MHR - What is your hope for the Broncos and the three remaining games - win out? Lose out? Play well? Just get these rookies some more experience?
the_prodigal_fan: Get the young players experience. The fact of the matter is, we’re not a factor in the postseason. The only way we could get there is to win out (unlikely) and get a TON of help (even more unlikely). So winning and losing doesn’t matter anymore, except for pride or draft position. As such, I want two things - I want our young players to get some solid experience, and I want the team to play entertaining games.

MHR - Al Wilson is going to be an honorary captain on Saturday. What did he bring to the Broncos defense in the early 2000s, and why should be in the in the Broncos’ Ring of Fame?
the_prodigal_fan: He was simply an underrated presence on our defense, an excellent player who doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he wasn’t as flashy as some of his contemporaries. He was a lunch-pail, blue collar type of player who just got the job done. He definitely deserves to be in the Ring of Fame, and merits at least some consideration for the Hall in my opinion, but there is small chance he will ever get that consideration.


Stats for Case Keenum? 180 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INTs

Stats for each Broncos RB? Lindsay: 90 yards rushing, 1 TD; Freeman: 60 yards rushing; Booker: 30 receiving yards

Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? Ummmm….. 5 yards?

Longest FG for McManus? 45 yards

Number of sacks to Keenum? 3

Number of sacks to Baker Mayfield? 5

Broncos player with the most tackles? Justin Simmons

How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 1

How many challenge calls will VJ miss? 5. Which is amazing, since he only gets 2.

How many penalties will the refs get wrong? 4

Final Score? Browns 34, Broncos 31

The Favorites

Favorite Broncos game EVER? Super Bowl 32. If we’re talking non-Super Bowl games, the 2011 playoff game against the Steelers

Favorite Broncos win over the Browns? It’s definitely the 2015 game when Manning came back in OT. I was too young to remember the other two when they happened (though I have watched recordings of both multiple times), and I was actually able to attend the game in 2015, so that makes it easy!

Team(s) you hate to lose to the most? Currently, the Chiefs

Team you love to beat? See previous answer

Favorite game this season? The game against the Steelers

Toughest game (left) on the schedule? Against the Chargers

Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Miller

Favorite Broncos player of all time? John Elway

Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Lindsay/Chubb, can’t pick one

Superstitions on game day? Always have my Broncos necklace on.

Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Phil Simms

Favorite sports cliche? “Defense wins championships.”

How did you become a Broncos fan?

I was born to it. My whole family, on both sides, is Broncos fans. The first game I remember watching was the travesty that was Super Bowl 22, and I still chose to follow the Broncos. They are my team.