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How do the Broncos match up with the Lions?

I spoke with Pro Football Focus and Michigan Football Analytics’ Tej Seth to find out on this week’s Cover 2 Broncos.

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

There’s painfully little time for the Broncos to lick their wounds after a 12th straight loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

In week 14 they host a Detroit Lions team playing better than their record. To get an idea of what’s in store for Vic Fangio and company, I reached out to Pro Football Focus and Michigan Football Analytics’ Tej Seth for this week’s Cover 2 Broncos. A brief rundown of the topics covered is below.

The Open

  • Shortly before we met to record, a report that the Seattle Seahawks Russell Wilson would consider waiving his no trade clause to join the Broncos in 2022. Seth and I discussed the risks involved that go beyond the 2021 injury.
  • While the Lions are 1-10-1, four of their losses came by a combined 9 points. Is this a better team than the record suggests?
  • Is this a trap game for the Broncos?

Lions’ offense vs Broncos’ defense

Key matchups

Hockenson vs. Broncos LBs

Sewell vs. Reed/Chubb

Decker vs. Cooper

Lions iOL vs. Jones, Harris, etc. on Broncos IDL

Fangio vs. Goff

  • T.J. Hockenson has 84 targets on the season and there’s no doubt he’s Jared Goff’s top option in the passing game. The Broncos are currently a top 10 team against opposing tight ends by DVOA, but they rank among the 5 worst teams in the league defending the middle of the field. With so many strong DBs, it could still make sense to feed the tight end.
  • The Broncos have had issues against teams with the personnel to run the ball between the tackles all season, while 84% of the Lions carries have been between the D gaps this year. With Jamaal Williams quietly good once they get into the open field, will Campbell try to establish the run?
  • What will Fangio do against Jared Goff? By Pro Football Reference charting he’s been under pressure on 25.3% of his snaps this season. He has issues diagnosing where to go with the ball once he starts to get hurried and games cause issues for the young offensive line. The Lions’ QB has seen a lot more C3 than the average NFL quarterback. Part of this is because Detroit lacks the boundary weapons to threaten corners 1v1. Broncos typically run less C3 than average, however.
Opposing coordinators use more cover 3 and 6 against Jared Goff than the typical quarterback.
Ryan Weisman / The Kneeldown

NOTES / Extra Points

Of the remaining 17% of snaps, most came in 21 (run 55% of time). 22 is the only other personnel group that’s been utilized more than 10 snaps.

Lions offense By DVOA

  • 30th by passing
  • 22nd rushing
  • 6th in variance (consistent)

Adjusted Line Yards

  • 21st by ALY
  • 64% power success (14th)
  • Stuffs on 18% of runs (21st)
  • Top ten team on 2nd and 3rd level.

Adjusted Line Yard ranks by direction

  • 31st off left end
  • 2nd off left tackle (17%)
  • 23rd mid/guard (50%)
  • 14th off right tackle (17%)
  • 22nd off right end

Broncos’ offense vs Lions’ defense

Key matchups

Every WR vs. “Not Amani Oruwariye”

Akim McNeil vs. Lloyd Cushenberry

McNeil and Levi Onwuzurike vs. Broncos interior OL

Alex Anzalone in general

  • After a pretty strong start to the season, Bridgewater’s had a couple of stinkers and an injury marred win over the Chargers across his last three games. The Chiefs caused issues by denying the Broncos boundary receivers outside releases and making Teddy hurry his process through games, blitzes, as well as the threat of both. What will Aaron Glenn do?
  • Teddy Bridgewater faces more C3 shells than the average QB in part because teams are willing to risk him taking shots against isolated corners. Meanwhile the Lions play more C2 and less C1, 3, and 4 than average in part because of the injury to Jeff Okudah. What they do to try and slow down Courtland Sutton and Tim Patrick could have a huge impact on the outcome.

NOTES / Extra Points

  • The Broncos play a little less 90% of their snaps out of 11 or 12 personnel. The next most used grouping is 13, but they dabble in 21, and 22 and could use it in this game.
  • Broncos have a ton of issues with allowing stuffs, but they’re good in power situations and a top 5 rushing team at the second and third level. If they can get Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon past the LOS they could be running for awhile.
  • Detroit plays more C2 than average and less C4, C3, and C1 which may be due to their personnel limitations.

Lions defense by DVOA

  • 28th pass
  • 23rd run
  • 4th in variance (consistent)

Adjusted Line Yards

  • 26th by ALY
  • 65% power success (14th)
  • Stuffs on 15% of runs (21st)
  • Right around league average defending 2nd level
  • 7th vs. open field runs

Adjusted Line Yard ranks by direction

  • - 31st off left end
  • 30th off left tackle
  • 13th mid/guard
  • 26th right tackle
  • 12th right end

DVOA Rank Vs. Assignments

  • 23rd vs WR1s
  • 17th vs WR2s
  • 17th vs WR3+
  • 22nd vs TEs
  • 31st vs RBs

DVOA Rank Vs. Pass directions

  • 30th on passes to left
  • 21st passes to middle
  • 18th on passes to right
  • 30th vs deep passes
  • 20th vs short passes
The Lions use more cover 2 and 6 than the average NFL defense.
Ryan Weisman / The Kneeldown

Special Teams

Closing thoughts

  • Detroit and Denver are in a similar boat as to their quarterback room heading towards 2022. What will the Lions do with (presumably) the first pick in the draft? Should they use their second first for a QB? Barring a Wilson or Rodgers trade, what makes sense for the Broncos?
  • Does it make sense to trade a ‘22 first to get a second first rounder in 2023?

Who will win?


Will the Broncos beat the Lions?

This poll is closed

  • 71%
    They better
    (480 votes)
  • 17%
    Nah, they’re hopeless.
    (117 votes)
  • 11%
    Lions going to leave Denver 1-10-2 aren’t they.
    (77 votes)
674 votes total Vote Now