Ok, some of y’all guys will be familiar with my post, and I am glad to be back to share with you some random football thoughts and hopeful feelings for our beloved Broncos. Different than last season though, I have found no access to the full videos of the games in my old source (You Tube, if some of you in Broncos Country living abroad happen to stumble upon the channel and point me there, I will be eternally grateful!). Therefore, my columns will be a shorter read for your weary eyes.
Other than that, expect most regular sections as last season, and my very personal, stats-leaning-spiced-up-with-an-utterly-untrained-eye-test perspective of all things Broncos, around the league, and beyond.
Now, please enjoy (with moderation)!
Link to the full game video:
Giants: (working hard to get it, guys!)
On Sep 23rd 2018, the Broncos enjoyed a record above .500, falling to 2 W – 1 L after a 27-14 loss in Baltimore. One week earlier (Sep 16th, ’18) was the last time the Broncos sat on the top position in the AFC West division, with a 2 – 0 record, tied with the Chiefs.
Today, for the first time since then, the Broncos have a winning record AND are leaders in their division.
At the same time, (check this out!) the Broncos are tied in last place of their division, same place they have been dwelling since the end of week 15 of last year, when they shared a 5 – 9 record with the Chargers. After that, the Chargers went on to win out for the rest of the season. The Broncos went on to lose out.
After a categorical victory over the (we now know, not-so-humble) Giants to start the season, the Broncos still have not moved much. Or they have made a great achievement. It depends on how you want to see it.
The Good: The World! The Universe! EVERYTHING!
So many good things to mention from the Giants' game! But let’s focus on a little-mentioned few: contrary to last season, good ol’ Vic is showing signs of growing up as head coach ("about time!" the sarcastic in me would quip), taking daring challenges on the offense, fully confident now that Shurmur has all the pieces in place to take the burden off the weary D. The result? 35:08 time of possession, 5th best in the league, with only the Bolts’ (36:03) having a better time out of a winning effort. The question is: will Broncos Country be patient and understanding when those gambles backfire even once?
I would gush over Teddy The Bridge’s 115.7-rating performance (11th best in the league) to no end, but here is my biggest take away: he is capable to deliver even when his O-line is not at their best (see The Bad, below). He made some plays both with his arm and legs (3 rush/19 yds, 1 1st-down) that extended plays, resuscitated broken ones, and made something out of nothing (that TD to Albert O and that throw across the body to complete a 1st-down to KJH were poetry in motion). You could hear the groans of disappointed NYG fans after those miraculous plays all the way to the Rockies, very much in the same way as (dare I say?) Denver Broncos fans suffer through games vs the Chiefs and their untamable QB. Did we stumble upon one of our own, finally?
The Bad: That O-line
Ok, few seem to dare mentioning it, but that O-line definitely did NOT have the best of days vs the Giants’ front 7 (FLASH NEWS! Tonight, the reigning NFC East champions, the WTF! offense just scored 30 points on the same Giants’ D at home, allowing a single sack. Please remember that this is the same WTF! offense that finished 30th last season, was forced last week to field their backup QB, and ended up scoring mere 16 points vs the Chargers). I know that Glasgow is a favorite of many, but I still need to see justification for his remaining $25M salary + $17.5M dead cap. One of the sacks that The Bridge had to take was all his. Glasgow seems sufficient vs lesser defenders, but he has repeatedly proved not to be enough to stop D-linemen who are average or superior.
Both Albert O and KJH had a couple of disappointing plays, but both rebounded nicely to make key plays, with Albert making a great play with brains, legs and body to score on a crucial diving TD out of an entirely broken play. KJH owes us a big TD, though!
The Ugly: No Vaccine yet against the Injury Bug
Jeudy fell prey of the ugly New Jersey turf, and an uglier tackle. Darby mostly fell victim of the former.
Around the league
With tonight’s game, we now have a better context of our victory against NY. Although their D caved in at the end, the Giants is certainly no pushover right now: they took the heat to DC, a team that is regarded as a contender in the (decidedly weak) NFC East. The Giants just put up 29 points and nearly 400 yds (163 yds/rush) on the vaunted WTF! defense (2nd best last year), using the same weapons that barely scored 13 points (60 yds/rush) on the Broncos in 60 mins + 1 sec. Washington needed all they had (and a late flag, and a last second FG) to steal the W from those pesky Giants.
So, the entire AFC West won their corresponding games (heck! The ENTIRE WEST won their corresponding games!). The Broncos, nonetheless, was the only team to not require last-minute heroics to check off their W (for full disclosure: the Broncos were also the only AFC West team not to face a 2020 playoff team). Elbowing your way out of this crowd and into the playoffs will not be easy task. Still, with 3 wildcard berths in the air, the possibility of an entire division making it to the playoffs is wide open. My 2021 fever dream? Making it to the playoffs (as a wildcard, please), then proceeding to knock out each of our divisional opponents: Raiders first in the wildcard round, followed by the Chargers in the divisional, and finally capping it off vs the cocky Chiefs in the Conference Championship. Sweet, huh? Now, let’s get to work!
Looking forward: JAC Jaguars
Next opponent: new season, big new names! Same disastrous results. Gone is QB Gardner Minshew (banished to the NFL dungeons called Philadelphia), along with his much-respectable career 62.9% comp rate, 37 TD-to-11 INT ratio and 93.1 rating. LB Joe Schobert, the Jags’ 2020 leader in tackles (solo and total), INTs, and forced fumbles, is gone to the other Pennsylvanian team. Former HC Doug Marrone, who once took a surprising Jags team to the AFC Championship in his first full season, only to fall short against the Evil Empire and, in the process, to be cursed for the rest of his life, is gone too. After his loss to the Mad Monk and Dorian Grey, Marrone accumulated a deplorable 13 – 37 record in the next three years, including a franchise-worst 1-15 last year.
In their stead, let me introduce you to that college wonder boy you might have heard of, some Trevor Lawrence guy, and college wonder coach Urban Meyer, both holding a combined 219 W – 34 L in their yesteryears in NCAA football. Nonetheless, after a pretty lackluster showing against a presumably even lackluster-er opponent in the Texans, both now have a 0 – 1 record in the Pros, with talks already that Urban may pull a Bobby Petrino on the Jags and hi-tail it back to Easyland where he came from. With the extremely simple task of improving upon Marrone’s achievements, such rumors are difficult to entertain (for now).
Other than TL at the helm, the offense saw few other changes from last year, with RB Carlos Hyde being an import from SEA, and WR Marvin Jones, who remains loyal to feline-themed uniforms (after being a Bengal and a Lion in an 8-year career), being the highlights. Relevant incumbents include RB James Robinson, who broke the 1K-yd barrier last year; WR DJ Chark who led the receiving corps with a modest 706 yd effort, and 2nd-year favorite (at least for me) WR Laviska Shenault, who managed to be team leader in completions (58) with far fewer targets than the other two top receivers (Chark and the now-NY Jet, Keelan Cole).
The Jags O is currently ranked 15th in total yards (395 yds), and 19th in points (21), resulting from three TDs by TL, spread evenly among Chark, Jones, and new-implant TE Chris Manhertz (Fun Manhertz Fact 1: he is ALSO a Cat-only NFL player, being a Panther for 5 years… Fun Manhertz Fact 2: at the end of Game no. 1, he single-handedly scored half the total TDs that the ENTIRE Jags’ TE corps scored in the ENTIRE 2020 season -two-). Of course, not everything was glory in that Texans game: Wonder Boy mistook uniforms three times while releasing the ball (BTW, Fun Texans’ 2ndary D Fact 1: of just 17 INTs recorded in Week 1, the Texans accounted for 3 of those, best in the league… Fun Texans 2ndary D’ Fact 2: at the end of Game no. 1, the Texans now amass as many INTs in 2021 as they did for the ENTIRE 2020 season -three-).
Many new faces on this side of the ball. Besides the big loss of Schobert, the Jags also lost their leader in passes defended and 2nd highest INT-maker, CB Sidney Jones. Behind remain mostly LB Myles Jack, 2020 1st-round pick CB CJ Henderson, and S Andrew Wingard, who are supported by new additions DT Malcolm Brown (from NO), LB Damien Wilson (from KC), CB Shaquill Griffin (from SEA), and S Rayshawn Jenkins (from LAC).
Of course, after facing an offensive juggernaut as the Texans (sans Deshaun Watson, no less), the undermanned Jags’ D is showing awfully poor stats at the moment: 29th in total yards (449) and points against (37), 28th in rush yds (160, only 5 yds fewer than the Broncos’ victims, the G-men), and 21st in pass yds (289). The good news? The Chiefs are even worse in total yards (457, good for league’s 2nd worst)!
The result of the Jags' ST hard toil and effort last week: Out of three punts/kicks returned, the Jags netted one yard. ONE.
For the first time in eons, we are facing a team that has a worse TO ratio than us!!! Lawrences’ 3 INTs leaves the Jags with a minus-3 (tied at the bottom of the league with their Florida neighbors, the champions Bucs)
The Broncos have far superior stats (and personnel) in each of all sections analyzed above.
Broncos are (for all valid reasons provided by the Jaguars’ recent history) Las Vegas favorites (no, not talking about their much despised team – unless you are Laurie, OBVIOUSLY! -) for this game by 6 points, the highest favorable margin since I started this column... actually, the first time the Broncos have ever been favored by the odds reported in this series. The Broncos will more than cover it this time.
POLL (HEY WHERE DID THEY PUT THE INSERT POLL OPTION?)
Ok, here it goes anyways, put your answer in the Comments below
When will the Broncos first loss in 2021 come?
Week 2 @ Jacksonville
Week 4 vs Ravens (did you REALLY think vs Jets was an option?)
Week 5 @ Pittsburgh
Week 7 @ Cleveland (nope, Raiders is not an option either, Laurie!)
Loss? Loss???!!! 20-0 till we ain’t, baby!!!
Shasta (Other – which? Please share in comments)