Ever since the debacle in Seattle week 1, the Denver Broncos have managed to embarrass themselves and their fan base in each consecutive week (yes, that includes the wins) through their 2-4 start, leading to the weekly question, “How can things possibly get any worse?”
Rather than try and answer that, though, because it seems the team is always willing to be ready to hit the buzzer there, whether it be injuries, drama, etc., why not ask a different question? Why not ask, “Why might things actually get better?”
Yes, that’s right. No need for a double take, as yes, this writer is daring to do the unthinkable with this team: show a bit of unearned optimism.
To think the Broncos can turn this around at this point, given just how bad they’ve looked offensively each week, has essentially transitioned from logical assumption to fairy tale mythology, and the team has earned that along the way. The Nathaniel Hackett-Russell Wilson offense has inflicted more damage onto themselves than Tom Hanks in The Money Pit.
But here’s the thing: for one half of football, or more accurately one quarter and some change of football, the Denver Broncos actually moved the football. They did it. They showed a brief glimpse that yes, they can actually move the chains and avoid constant three-and-outs and zero-yard drives. Now, of course, they went back to doing just that after Wilson’s 10-for-10 start, but they showed they can actually operate an offense. Now, Hackett and Wilson just need to show they can operate it when adjustments are to be made.
The Chargers are a good offensive football team, even without Keenan Allen, and the stout Broncos defense shut them down. The New York Jets, on the other hand, are not a very good offensive football team.
The Jets rank 17th in total offense, making them statistically the worst offense the Broncos have faced outside of the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans. Zach Wilson is not exactly setting the world on fire behind center, either, as he’s completed just 56% of his passes with 1 touchdown, 2 interceptions, and a 47.7 QBR. Justin Herbert he is not.
The team has decent, not great wide receivers with Corey Davis leading the way thus far, but there has been some recent off-field drama with that position, as former second-round pick Elijah Moore has requested a trade.
Running back wise, rookie second-round pick Breece Hall has given the offense a huge boost the past two weeks, but he shouldn’t (key word) give the Broncos front 7 fits in the way a guy like Josh Jacobs did, and given the group was able to hold Los Angeles RB Austin Ekeler to just 36 yards last week, they should (another key word) be up to the task of keeping Hall in check.
TL;DR - the Jets offense won’t be expected to put up points, so Russell Wilson (or even Brett Rypien if Wilson can’t go) should be able to give themselves a comfortable cushion if they can just do what has seemed impossible the past 6 weeks: score 20 or more points. Hell, 17 may be doable.
Therein lies the issue, though, for while the Jets offense isn’t expected to explode, the defense is top 10 in the league, and defensive tackle Quinnen Williams has 5 sacks on the season (the Jets have 14 total). Quincy Williams and CJ Mosley are two of the better linebackers in the AFC, and rookie cornerback Sauce Gardner is having a Pat Surtain II-like first-year impact.
The Jets defensive unit held Aaron Rodgers’ Green Bay Packers to just 10 points last week, so anyone reading this to this point is probably already ready to break out the, “If Rodgers can’t score on them, how can we expect this hapless offense to?”
A valid question indeed, but one thing the Broncos possess that the Packers lack is skill players who can be difference makers. That’s not to say the Broncos backs and receivers should be getting any pats on the back for their performances thus far, but it’s probably fair to say Rodgers would prefer players like Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and KJ Hamler to the likes of Robert Tonyan and Allen Lazard.
The most obvious thing for the Broncos to do to win this game is to take the film from last week to heart, execute the necessary adjustments in practice, and then do it on game day.
No one probably expected the Chargers to be so successful rushing Wilson without Bosa, but they were. Quinnen Williams getting in the backfield is an obvious scouting report bullet that no one would over look.
Wilson may have felt too comfortable in the pocket (or too uncomfortable to scramble, given his hamstring). He should see on film that throwing outside the pocket and on the move is where he was finding success.
Then there’s also the intangible effect that strikes NFL teams so often: the “trap game”.
It’s funny. During the preseason, it would not have been a bold assumption to pencil in the Broncos at 5-1 at this point and the Jets 2-4 and pinpoint this as a trap game for the Broncos.
Instead, we have a Jets team riding high on confidence and emotion ready to face a team who needs a win more than any other team in the league.
Maybe, just maybe, the Broncos do what they haven’t done all season: play like a professional football team on offense and get a win.
Or maybe this glass is just half full of bourbon. We’ll find out Sunday.
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