But this wouldn’t be the Ultimate Fan Guide if we thought like Vegas, so we’ll continue reviewing and previewing this team with a critical-yet-not-pessimistic eye (yes, it’s possible).
And helping us do that is a true veteran of both this blog and this series. SaguaroBronco lives where the peppers are hot and his fandom is even hotter - just read what he has to do to catch the Broncos games these days! (Also, Saguaro, you and I have the exact same “fan development” - growing up with this team as it came of age...so thanks for coming back another season to show Broncos Country how to keep that fandom alive no matter the record!)
So here’s to SaguaroBronco providing the heat that will hopefully light a fire under our beloved 3-7 Broncos and get a win in a cool 40-degree Buffalo Bills’ stadium!
Week 12: Broncos at Bills
MHR – Ryan Edwards on KOA Radio said the 2019 Broncos were a “Rorshach Test” - you can see whatever you want when you look at them. Some see a good team with young talent; some see a team that can’t stop making mistakes. What do you see?
SaguaroBronco: I see all of those elements in the team. There is a lot of young talent on the squad, but they also seem to make an inordinate number of mistakes. However, it does seem like they have been learning from their mistakes, which gives room for optimism that the team will continue to grow and improve.
MHR – In the first half of the Vikings game, the offense scored 20 points but easily left another 7-11 points on the field after getting only three points out of two quick trips inside Minnesota’s 17-yard line. Then at the end of the game the Broncos were on the 4-yard line but couldn’t punch it in. What is wrong with our red zone offense?
SaguaroBronco: I wouldn’t put a whole lot of stock in the end of the game situation as being an indicator of their red zone proficiency. The clock situation (that admittedly the Broncos put themselves in) removed much of the playbook from consideration there. At the end of the second quarter, though, they had the chance to lay the hammer down on the Vikings and blew it. I don’t know if it was a situation where they were content with being up big in a game that no one gave them a chance in and lost focus, they were in a funk due to the loss of Jano, or that they haven’t completely learned from their red zone failures earlier in the year.
MHR – There were reports last week about “divisions” in the locker room, players being upset with the head coach. Then after the team arrived back from Minnesota, Von Miller hosted a team dinner. There was of course a lot of speculation about what that gesture by Von “means” - how did it come across to you?
SaguaroBronco: I’d say that Von is functioning like the team leader that DeMarcus Ware mentored him to be. I also don’t put a whole lot of stock in anonymous sources hyping up divisions behind the scenes.
MHR - Rich Scangarello dialed up a lot more Noah Fant last week, who was for the most part successful. What did you like from Fant, and what would you tell him he needs to improve upon? How much do you expect to see him contribute on Sunday?
SaguaroBronco: I think Fant has a lot of potential and we’ve seen glimmers of that this season, along with typical rookie mistakes. He’s playing a position with one of the largest learning curves moving from college to the pros. Even though he’s a first-round draft pick, I wasn’t expecting him to be a Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kielce in Year 1. I’m excited to see how he develops over the next few years, though.
MHR – Andy Janovich is done for the season with a dislocated elbow. How much will our run game suffer without him on the field - especially against the Bills’ top five D?
SaguaroBronco: I think it’s a significant loss. One of the things that this offense needs is a good fullback, and Jano has the skills and demeanor to be a great one. I think timing of Jano’s injury and the change in momentum last Sunday may be more than coincidental. However, he hasn’t been used as an every-down player and the rest of the offense will just need to step up and keep the run game moving forward.
MHR - Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick both showed up big on Sunday. Do you feel confident going into 2020 with those two as WR1 and 2 (fun fact: they are the only 1-2 duo to both be 6-foot-4).
SaguaroBronco: It’s been nice to see Sutton stepping into the WR1 role and looking the part this year compared with the end of last year after DT was traded and Sanders got hurt. I’m a little more cautious about Patrick - he had a good game Sunday, but I’d like to see him develop a little bit more of a track record than one game before anointing him our long-term #2 and deciding that we don’t need to consider other potential options.
.@Broncos @SuttonCourtland is there anything on a football pitch that he can’t do. @BuffaloBills will certainly matchup @TreWhite16 most of the game. Looking forward to the contest. #SMU @SMU_Football #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/fKOHJPzstg— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) November 23, 2019
MHR - Now for the obligatory quarterback question ;) What have you liked about Brandon Allen’s game so far? Do you want to continue to see Allen regardless of what happens with the W-L record, or do you think it would be good for the team to at least see Drew Lock in some live action this season?
SaguaroBronco: It’s been a clear improvement over Flacco, but I don’t know that this is as much due to his skill set as it is to his attitude. He’s been taking care of the ball for the most part (although the pick he threw to Sendejo right before halftime changed the momentum and arguably prevented the Broncos from being able to kick a FG to win the game at the end rather than have to score a TD) and taking what’s available.
But Allen hasn’t been a lights out obvious franchise QB either, so it would be nice to see what we have in Lock at some point this year (although if he “redshirted” the whole year and we didn’t see him competing for the starting spot until 2020 training camp, it would meet my pre-season expectations for him).
MHR - The defensive line had a great game against the Vikings, but the Broncos’ patchwork secondary got exposed by a no-huddle, Kirk Cousins air attack that was too much for our cornerbacks, including Chris Harris Jr. Is there a risk of that happening again with the Bills... John Brown is having a big year so far after all.
SaguaroBronco: There’s always a risk, but I’m not hugely worried. I expect that the Bills (and maybe other teams through the rest of the season) will try to run some no-huddle to try to exploit that weakness, but I am also hoping that the coaches and players will learn from what went wrong and make adjustments to make that weakness harder to exploit.
MHR – Josh Allen’s TD:INT ratio is pretty amazing the last six games - 10 TDs to 1 INT. He’s also scored four rushing touchdowns. But the teams they’ve beaten have been the Jets (x2), Dolphins (x2), Browns, Redskins and Bengals. So how do think he’ll fare against the Broncos rush/pressure?
SaguaroBronco: Real “murderer’s row” of opponents there, isn’t it? It’s one of the reasons that the Bills are so hard to evaluate this year. I think that the Broncos’ rush can pressure Allen and hopefully reverse the trend of that TD:INT ratio - for this game anyway.
MHR - Von Miller doesn’t have the sacks, but he has been extremely important for the rest of the defensive line being able to get to the QB. He’s also been pretty darn good stopping the run and even dropping into coverage. Are you worried at all about Von’s production? What kind of game do you expect from him on Sunday?
SaguaroBronco: I’m not one who looks to stats, or especially one stat in particular, to determine a player’s worth to the team. As you indicate, he’s contributed in run defense and even pass coverage in addition to the pass rush. It’s also important to consider that pass rush is a team effort and things that don’t make the stat sheets, like drawing double teams, maintaining containment, and cutting off dump off throwing lanes contribute to the success of a defense.
MHR - If the defense is able to contain Josh Allen, Frank Gore and John Brown, how many points do you think the Broncos’ offense will need to get to beat the Bills?
SaguaroBronco: If all three are contained (and assuming fluky stuff like multiple defense/ST scores or some unknown player having a career day don’t occur), the Broncos first-half production against the Vikings should be enough to pull out a win. I don’t want them to take their foot off the gas when they hit 20, though.
MHR - Kareem Jackson has been doing a segment every week called “KJackTV” where he interviews teammates on silly topics, so I’m going to start my own version and ask you a bunch of ridiculous questions too:
Which Bronco would best be able to land the plane if the pilot needed help? Jano seems to have the can-do personality needed in a situation such as that, although it will be harder with only one arm.
Which Bronco probably makes the best chili? I’ll go with Mike Purcell - big guy, local product (Highlands Ranch and nearby Wyoming), and well traveled. He’s got to have picked up some chili-making skill somewhere along that line.
Which Bronco could eat a serano pepper whole? Derek Wolfe has the combo of tough and crazy to pull that one off.
Which Bronco would make the best president? Dalton Risner - seems smart, mature for a rookie, contributor off the field. Actually, he may be overqualified compared with what we usually see in politics today.
Which Bronco probably does yoga in his spare time? Von Miller - he picked up the flexibility for those dance moves somewhere.
Von Miller said “it’s tough” to keep count of all of the quarterbacks he’s sacked— Zac Stevens (@ZacStevensDNVR) November 21, 2019
Didn’t know Cousins was the 50th QB he’s sacked. Credited all of the great teammates & coaches he’s had for helping him.
“There’s no way you can sack 50 quarterbacks without great teammates”
Stats for Brandon Allen? 13/25 - 210 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 2 sacks
Stats for each Broncos RB? Lindsay - 85 yards; Freeman - 45 yards, 1 TD
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? Sutton - 80 yards, 1 TD; Fant - 55 yards, 1 TD; Patrick, 30 yards; Freeman, 20 yards; Lindsay 15 yards; Fumagalli - 10 yards
Longest FG for McManus? 43 yards
Number of sacks to Allen? 2
Number of sacks to Kirk Cousins? 0 since we aren’t playing the Vikings this week, 3 to Josh Allen though. (*editor’s note: lol...leaving in my mistake just so everyone can laugh at me with you ;) )
Broncos player with the most tackles? Alexander Johnson
Who gets the first sack for the Broncos? Shelby Harris
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 2/2/1
How many terrible defensive holding penalties will be called? 3
Which horrible no-call at the end of the game will it be for the Broncos this week? None - our luck’s got to turn at some point, doesn’t it?
Final Score? 27-23 (good guys this time)
Favorite Broncos win ever? Super Bowl XXXII, but there have been lots of favorites, regular season, playoffs, and Super Bowls over the years I’ve followed the team
Favorite Broncos coach ever? Joe Collier (assuming we’re not restricting ourselves to head coaches)
Team you hate to lose to the most? Raiders
Favorite game this season? Chargers - first win of the season, beating a division foe, Phillip Rivers was sad
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Phillip Lindsay
Favorite rookie/young guy on the team? Dalton Risner
Favorite Broncos player of all time? Randy Gradishar (he belongs in the HOF and it isn’t what it claims to be until he’s enshrined there)
Favorite football-themed movie? Probably Remember the Titans, but I don’t watch a lot of football-themed movies because they rarely do the football or the movie well.
Game-day ritual? This year it’s been finding out/knowing the Broncos won’t be televised down here in Arizona (which I usually look up earlier in the week), find out which Sirius/XM channel is carrying the 850KOA feed, pull my wife’s car (which has Sirius/XM) out of the garage and into the driveway (can’t pick up the satellite feed in the garage), and sit in the car and listen to the game on the radio like it’s 1978. (I can’t believe that it’s easier to get a non-pirated stream of my Division II alma mater (11-0 and heading into the D-II playoffs tomorrow) than it is to see a televised Broncos game in a state that, technically, touches Colorado). I’ll be wearing a Broncos shirt and drinking something orange (got to keep hydrated sitting in a vehicle in the Arizona outdoors).
It’s still crazy that 70s middle linebacker Randy Gradishar is not in the hof— Martin Brian Ansah (@DaAnsahonSports) November 10, 2019
One of the finest middle linebackers to ever lace them up.
Knocked out fools. Could cover 4.3 wrs pic.twitter.com/8m7sYQW8fU
How did you become a Broncos fan?
SaguaroBronco: I grew up and went to school/college in the Denver area. I came of age in parallel with the Broncos - elementary school when they started succeeding/developing their defensive identity with the Orange Crush/and getting to their first Super Bowl, college when Elway started his career and dragged the team into the mid- to late-80s Super Bowls, and established in my career when they started winning the Super Bowls. Being a kid in Denver during the magical season leading into Super Bowl XII, I don’t know how you could not get hooked on that team. Even though I’ve been down here in Arizona far longer than I lived in the Denver area, I still consider Denver as my hometown and the Broncos are the only team in any sport that I’m passionate about.