The first big test for the Denver Broncos is on the desk.
Will the Broncos get another passing grade? Or will they get their first fail of the 2021 season?
At 3-0, there is definitely excitement in Broncos Country. But there is also trepidation as to whether this is real.
Come Sunday afternoon at Mile High against Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, Denver will get their answer.
Baltimore: Fourth in overall offense (424.7 yards per game), first in rushing (185.3), 18th in passing (239.3), 11th in scoring offense (27.3 points per game).
Denver: Fourteenth in overall offense (387.3 yards per game), tied for seventh in rushing (127.3), 12th in passing (260.0), 12th in scoring offense (25.3 points per game).
Baltimore: Twenty-fourth in overall in defense (393.7 yards per game), ninth in rushing defense (79.0), 30th in passing defense (314.7), 26th in scoring defense (28.3 points per game).
Denver: Second in overall defense (221.7 yards per game), second in rushing defense (59.3), third in passing defense (162.3), first in scoring defense (8.7 points per game).
Here are the MHR staff’s keys to Sunday’s game.
Control the line of scrimmage
Both the defensive line and offensive line for the Broncos needs to have great games. From an offensive standpoint, if Denver is able to run the ball that sets up the rest of the offense. Teddy Bridgewater has been great utilizing play-action. That also will keep Jackson and the Baltimore offense on the sideline. On the defensive side of the ball, this is tall ask (just ask the Kansas City Chiefs). But if the Broncos can limit the big runs, they have a chance. — Ian St. Clair
Contain Lamar Jackson
Head coach Vic Fangio likened Jackson to a Barry Sanders at quarterback. Some on Twitter tried to make that into a “Fangio thinks Lamar Jackson is a running back” controversy. What Fangio likely meant was that Jackson can do things at the quarterback position that just makes your jaw drop, much like Sanders used to do as a running back. Jackson is going to be tough to defend and will stress this Broncos defense to the maximum. Keeping him contained will be a major part of Denver’s chances in this game. — Tim Lynch
Contain Lamar Jackson II
Can Lamar Jackson get COVID three times? Because not having to play him is our best chance. — Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann
Create mismatches vs Baltimore’s secondary
As a group, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, and Eric Saubert are all 6-foot-4 or taller. The Broncos need them to step up and give Bridgewater physically dominant targets to match up against a Ravens secondary whose starting DBs are almost all 4+ inches shorter than the guys they’ll be asked to cover. — Taylor Kothe
Denver’s offensive line
This is especially true if Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow can’t play. The Broncos pass protection needs to give Bridgewater time. Don “Wink” Martindale is among the savviest coordinators in the league. He does a fantastic job scheming up advantageous looks for his defense with simulated pressures, overloads, blitzes, and the kitchen sink as far as coverages. — Joe Rowles
Disciplined Broncos defense
Denver needs to be disciplined in both its pass rush and zone defense to keep the Ravens offense bottled up. If the Broncos can find a way to keep their excellent secondary facing the QB instead of having their backs to him, Jackson’s options will be limited and, hopefully, frustrating. If the edges keep contain and the line holds the inside gaps, we’ll see the Ravens offense ground to a halt. It won’t look that dominating ... Jackson is a special talent and the Ravens are well coached. That’s the key though. — sadaraine
Keep pace with the Ravens offense
It’s safe to assume that the Broncos defense will have their hands full with Jackson. While Baltimore has major issues in the passing attack, with some poor wide receiver play, it still has a better offense than any of the three teams Denver has already beat. The Broncos have played well on offense, but this will be a much larger task. If they continue to score more than 24 points, they should win, but this will be a much closer contest. — Adam Malnati