Later this afternoon, the Broncos head east and play in the early slate of games against Derrick Henry and the Tennessee Titans. They are currently 5-3 and at the top of the AFC South while the Broncos are fighting for their postseason lives at a disappointing 3-5 record.
The Broncos are coming off a victory in London against the Jacksonville Jaguars before they head into their bye week. Now, coming off their bye week, how will they respond and can they turn their season around and make a postseason run? We shall find out after today’s game.
With that said, here are five things to watch during today’s game between the Tennessee Titans and the Denver Broncos.
1. How do the Broncos look after the bye?
Players are disappointed, coaches are disappointed, fans are certainly disappointed, and most importantly, the new owners who spent over $4 billion dollars to purchase the Broncos are disappointed. These people do not like being embarrassed publicly. and the Broncos have become the laughingstock of the NFL during the first half of the season. Now, with them coming off a bye, will things change?
Broncos CEO and owner Greg Penner were asked if Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett would remain the coach for the remainder of the season, but he did not have the most supportive answer. He said the NFL is a “week to week” business, so a disappointing loss coming off a bye would not be a good look.
“We’re never going to go into those kind of things, again I’m supportive of Nathaniel and really want him to succeed here. [But] as you guys know this is a week-to-week sport and we’re always evaluating things and our goal is to win as many games in the second half as we can.”
We need to see the Broncos' offense turn things around. If they continue looking as they did, they’re not going to win many games and Hackett likely will be fired. So, that obviously, is the most important thing we need to see. I want to see better play-calling, fewer penalties, and continued better game management. If not, and the Broncos fall to 3-6, three games under .500, we potentially could see some changes sooner rather than later.
2. No Bradley Chubb, no problem?
Prior to the NFL trade deadline, the Denver Broncos sent former fifth-overall selection, edge rusher, Bradley Chubb to the Miami Dolphins for a package that included a first-round pick. Chubb played in the Dolphins' victory over the Bears last week, but this will be the Broncos' first game without their star edge rusher.
Chubb was the Broncos' best edge defender and run defender. Now, they are missing that at a position already decimated by injury. So, could we see some chinks in the Broncos' armor in this one? Or will their defense remain dominant despite his loss?
I lean, the Broncos will be missing Chubb a good bit in this one. They are down him, Randy Gregory is still hurt, as is Baron Browning and that leaves Jonathon Cooper, rookie Nik Bonitto, and recently acquired Jacob Martin to take over for these three pass rushers.
Good luck guys.
3. Stopping Derrick Henry
The Titans have one identity, and that is handing the ball off to bruising running back Derrick Henry early and often. After an injury-shortened 2021 season, Henry is back to his dominant ways. Through eight games, he has 183 carries for 870 yards and 9 rushing touchdowns. He’s coming off back-to-back two touchdown games where he totaled 115 yards and 219 yards on the ground in those games as well.
The Broncos are hoping they’re not the next team Henry runs all over, but they should be fairly concerned. In their last games vs. the Jaguars, starter Travis Etienne ran for 156 yards and 1 touchdown. He averaged 6.5 yards per carry in that game as well. If Henry has similar success or surpasses that total, the Broncos could be heading to a 3-6 record.
As I just noted as well, the Broncos are down multiple edge rushers including the recently traded Bradley Chubb. Also, veteran Justin Simmons has been ruled out for this game as well. So, the Broncos' defense could be in for a long day
4. Both defenses are down key players
While the Broncos are dealing with their own injuries on the defensive side of the ball, the Titans are as well. They will be without their best defensive player in Jeffrey Simmons, along with edge rusher Bud Dupree and inside linebacker Zach Cunningham.
Titans’ HC Mike Vrabel ruled out Jeffery Simmons, Amani Hooker, Bud Dupree, Zach Cunningham and Josh Thompson for Sunday’s game vs. the Broncos.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) November 11, 2022
This will be key for a struggling Broncos offense. The Titans' defense has been solid under Head Coach Mike Vrabel but could be vulnerable without some of their key players. The Broncos offense needs to take advantage of this and move the ball consistently against the Titans' defense.
Without Simmons being disruptive in the middle and Dupree off the edge, the Broncos need to run the ball consistently and be effective in the play-action game. However, if they continue to struggle against a weakened Titans' defense, it will be difficult to trust them to turn this thing around by the end of the season.
5. Will the offense finally look good?
I have touched on this already, but will we ever get the offense we were promised or hoped we were getting? They showed some flashes against the Jaguars and hopefully were able to regroup and fix whatever issues they had during the bye week.
We need to see quarterback Russell Wilson return to his Pro-Bowl form and begin moving this offense as he did in Seattle. With that said, whatever he and Hackett were doing in their previous eight games cannot continue. We need to see some new looks, and better play calls and Wilson needs to see the field better. Just show some damn life on that side of the ball.