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Ultimate Fan: Broncos’ best chance against the Vikes may be through the air

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A few injuries to the Vikings’ defense means more Brandon Allen to Courtland Sutton may be the best game plan for the Broncos offense.

Cleveland Browns v Denver Broncos Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Annnnnddddd, we’re back!

Following a much-needed bye week - after a very much-needed win before that - the Broncos will be on the road to take on one of the best teams in the NFL this season, facing a top-tier defense and an extremely effective offense.

But helping us break down this Minnesota Vikings game is Satan’s Cry (if you want to know how he got his name, it involves alcohol and writing an a capella heavy metal song), a Broncos fan since Super Bowl 32 with perhaps my favorite story so far as to his “favorite Broncos game ever.”

But before we relive the glory days, we do have to consider this game on Sunday. The 7-3 Vikings will host our 3-6 Broncos, and John Elway will get to see his old pal and Super Bowl winning head coach Gary Kubiak. If only Kubes could have worked the QB magic in Denver that he seems to be wielding in Minnesota right now.

But I digress...Perhaps Vic Fangio’s defense can stymie this Vikings offense a little bit and the Broncos offense can find a few more big plays...

Week 11: Broncos at Vikings

MHR – Before we get to the Vikings, what were your general thoughts watching the Broncos beat the Browns two weeks ago? (side question - what do you think would have happened if Myles Garrett had tried the same stunt against Brandon Allen that he did against Mason Rudolph?)
Satan’s Cry: Baker Mayfield is one of the more hateable players in recent memory for me, so I thoroughly enjoyed that win, although I would have liked a few more sacks. Allen is a bit smaller than Rudolph, so I don’t know if it would have been a good matchup for him, but I hope someone like Garrett Bolles would have made himself useful and played the Pouncey role.

MHR – There’s no question the Vikings team is much more of a threat than the Browns - especially the defense to our inexperienced QB. What kind of offensive game plan would you advise Rich Scangarello to scheme to mitigate the damage this Front 7 and the Vikings safeties can do?
Satan’s Cry: I want to preface this by saying that while I consider myself pretty objective about the state of the Broncos, it may come off as overly critical and negative. Additionally, the Vikings are one of the few non-Broncos team I enjoy watching, and I think they have quite a bit of talent. I’m not a Broncos hater, or a Vikings fan. Just want to get that out there.

Anyway, I think the natural tendency for coaches with inexperienced quarterbacks against good defenses is to get more conservative and try to rely on the running game, but I would try to attack through the air. Linval Joseph is out, which means the Vikings’ interior pass rush will be a little depleted and hopefully will allow Allen to sit in the pocket for a little longer or use his mobility to escape the inevitable edge pressure from Everson Griffin and Danielle Hunter. Trae Waynes has been injured, and may not be 100 percent, so I think it’s important to force him into match-ups with Courtland and see if you can have some success. It’s never a bad idea to get the backs involved in the passing game either.

MHR – Two of the Broncos’ touchdowns last week came on “big plays,” which some have argued won’t be enough to win again. Yet Scangarello made a great point that you hope and need big plays in the NFL because it’s hard work getting into the end zone. Can Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant repeat as stars for Brandon Allen this week?
Satan’s Cry: They are going to have to if the Broncos want a chance to win this game. The Vikings’ defense is no joke. I don’t know that there will be a lot of big plays out there due to Minnesota’s excellent safeties, but I hope that Scangarello dials up some opportunities because I think it’s going to be tough sledding for the offense Sunday. The Vikings’ corners usually stick to one side of the field, and don’t shadow receivers, so I think getting Courtland match-ups against Waynes would be ideal. Fant will likely see a lot of Harrison Smith in coverage, but if the Broncos can get him some matchups against linebackers, he could be an X-factor.

MHR - The Vikings defense has allowed an average of 18.2 points per game and has given up just 20 touchdowns in 10 games - only two of those have been on the ground. How effective do you think Phillip Lindsay and even Royce Freeman can be this week?
Satan’s Cry: I worry about their effectiveness on the ground this week. I think the Vikings’ defense will have a similar game plan to last week, where they effectively bottled up Ezekiel Elliott, and I think most of us would agree that Dallas’ offensive line is a bit of an upgrade over the Broncos’. I’d like to see the backs heavily involved in the passing game, and hope they can beat Minnesota’s linebackers in coverage.

MHR – One of last week’s “UFGers” commented that the running backs are not utilizing Andy Janovich enough. Would you agree? Is he the key to getting this run game going against a tough Front 7?
Satan’s Cry: I think Jano is an excellent fullback, but I think there are some running backs that like being able to see and have the additional time to react. But if Freeman and Lindsay are on board, then I don’t think it can hurt. Any kind of schematic advantage to get the running game going would be helpful.

MHR - Speaking of good defenses, the Broncos are just a tad behind the Vikings when it comes to points allowed per game (18.9) but ahead on touchdowns allowed - only 15 in 10 games. Will those stats hold up against this Vikings offense that includes Dalvin Cook, Kirk Cousins and Stefon Diggs?
Satan’s Cry: I’ve really been impressed with the defense’s turnaround this year, especially with the lack of depth at corner. I think this is a good test to see how far they’ve come. Kirk Cousins is not a good quarterback, but the Vikings have done a better job as of late minimizing his ability to throw away games. They use a lot of play action, and let their playmakers do their thing. The Broncos are catching a break with Adam Thielen likely missing another game. I am very excited to watch the CHJ/Stefon Diggs matchup. Ultimately, I see this as one of those games where the defense plays pretty well for a while, but eventually wears down due to the offense being ineffective. If the offense doesn’t turn the ball over and give the Vikings good field position, then I think the Broncos’ defense is certainly capable of keeping them in this game.

MHR - Dalvin Cook is a powerful running back. How does this defense stop him?
Satan’s Cry: Stay disciplined. One thing I took away from the Cowboys/Vikings game last weekend was that the Cowboys’ aggressive pass rush would often crash down too far, which left them vulnerable to screens where Cook is especially dangerous. I don’t know that anyone can truly shut down the Vikings’ running game, but I think the Broncos can limit Cook’s effectiveness on the ground if Todd Davis and Alexander Johnson have big games and continue their sure-tackling ways.

MHR – Cousins has been having a lot more success once Gary Kubiak joined the Vikings as an assistant head coach, and Vic Fangio noted how the scheme fits him well. What do the Broncos need to do to rattle Cousins and make him uncomfortable so he makes mistakes?
Satan’s Cry: Interior pass rush will need to be a big factor. The Vikings’ interior offensive line is not a good pass blocking group, so we need to see a lot of Shelby Harris and Derek Wolfe in the backfield. With Thielen out, I’d like to see a focus on taking away easy throws to Kyle Rudolph and Irv Smith over the middle, and make Cousins beat you over the top, which I don’t think he is capable of.

MHR - Is a win for the Broncos going to come down more to the offense being able to score or the defense being able to stop the Vikings from scoring? (with the obvious caveat that of course you really need both)?
Satan’s Cry: I have much more confidence in our defense. I am very concerned about a quarterback making his second start ever going against a great defensive coach like Mike Zimmer, so with that said, we need the offense to show up to have a chance. The Broncos will need it to be an “ugly” game for the best chance of pulling out a win.

MHR - Earlier this week we had a poll asking how many more games you think the Broncos need to win in order to feel confident about this team, so what is your answer to that?
Satan’s Cry: I think it depends on which games they win. I would say 3, but if they can take down the Chiefs in Arrowhead, we should be encouraged. Mahomes and Reid don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, so I think it’s important to show we can compete.

MHR - Kareem Jackson has been doing a segment every week called “KJackTV” where he interviews teammates on silly topics - which is AWESOME! - so I’m going to start my own version and ask you a bunch of ridiculous questions too:

Which Bronco would be the best ballroom dancer? Von is probably the obvious answer due to his Dancing with the Stars run, but I’m going with Courtland Sutton. The guy is just smooth.

Which Bronco probably would have been a KISS fan if he were alive in the 80s? ;) Derek Wolfe.

Which Bronco probably listens to the Zac Brown Band? This has Janovich written all over it.

Which Bronco probably secretly loves Cyndi Lauper? Garett Bolles. I have no reasoning for this.

Which Bronco could best imitate Lizzo? I feel like Von has probably already done this.

Which Bowlen child could survive in the wilderness on his/her own? I don’t feel like I know them well enough to choose. (*editor’s choice: Not. A. Single. One. Although, if Johnny found enough wacky wee)

Which Broncos coach would be the best poker player? Has to be Fangio right? Guy coached with a kidney stone without flinching. You have to think he’s got a strong poker face.

Predictions:

Stats for Brandon Allen? 17-27, 195 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Stats for each Broncos RB? Lindsay 15 carries, 65 yards; Freeman 10 carries, 40 yards.

Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? Sutton 8/95 yards/1 TD; Fant 2/25 yards; Lindsay 3/35 yards; Patrick 3/25 yards; Hamilton 1/15 yards

Longest FG for McManus? 45

Number of sacks to Allen? 4

Number of sacks to Kirk Cousins? 3

Broncos player with the most tackles? Alexander Johnson

Who gets the first sack for the Broncos? Derek Wolfe

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

How many terrible defensive holding penalties will be called? There’s always at least 2 a game.

How many completely non-existent PI calls will be made? I’ll say one. When the Broncos get screwed on these calls, they at least seem to limit it to holding vs. PI ... so considerate.

How many holding penalties for the offensive line? 3.

Final Score? Vikings 27, Broncos 16.

The Favorites

Favorite Broncos win ever? The 2015 AFC Championship over the Patriots. After the Patriots’ failed two-point conversion, I jumped so high I hit my head on our abnormally-low ceiling and ran around like a psycho for 15 minutes.

Favorite Broncos coach ever? Shanahan. I guess.

Team you hate to lose to the most? Chiefs

Favorite game this season? The Browns. I hate Baker Mayfield and undeserved hype (*cough Tom Brady cough*), so that win was satisfying.

Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Chris Harris Jr.

Favorite rookie/young guy on the team? Justin Simmons, if he still counts as a young guy.

Favorite Broncos player of all time? It’s a tie between Champ Bailey and Peyton Manning

Favorite football-themed movie? “Friday Night Lights.”

Game-day ritual? Always have to match the jersey I wear with whatever the Broncos are wearing.

How did you become a Broncos fan?

My dad grew up in Denver, and my parents lived there during Elway’s prime, so they are big fans. My first Broncos memory is watching Super Bowl 32 with them, and I’ve been hooked ever since.