Broncos have had a nice mid-season bye week to get ready for what was once going to be a much bigger matchup. Instead of what we thought in July was going to be a major AFC showdown in November, now the Broncos are just hoping to continue a small winning streak, and the Bills are going to be anxious to get back to playoff relevancy after a disappointing AFC loss last week.
No matter the stakes, though, it’s exciting to think about cheering for a team that just might pull off an upset and claw its way into a decent season.
And as always it will be the ultimate fans who should enjoy that the most. Johnny G certainly will as his UFG is the perfect read leading into our primetime game Monday.
Week 10: Broncos at Bills
MHR - It’s been two weeks since the Broncos’ biggest win in years. Were you the kind of fan who ran naked through the streets after the KC victory or the kind who could pick apart what the Broncos still did wrong? Where are you now…have you come back to reality either way?
Johnny G_627: I don’t tend to stay grounded with my initial reactions. I lead with emotion and I was so friggin happy after that win! I can’t imagine how Justin Simmons and Garrett Bolles must’ve felt. I took my time enjoying that one and I sincerely hope all of Broncos Country did too. After coming back down from that high we all needed, the reality we’re faced with is unclear to me. It was a great win over a good opponent, but is this type of performance repeatable? I sure hope so, but it’s awfully hard to reconcile that with the 70 burger.
MHR - Looking at the season schedule back in July, I picked this Monday Night Football game to be the toughest on the schedule (nearly tied with playing KC at Arrowhead, but given that this one was in November, it won out). Given how things have played out so far for both teams, how does this one stack up on the difficulty scale?
Johnny G_627: I thought this game would be a great measuring stick against a Super Bowl contender. Obviously we get SB-level competition from the Chiefs, but division games aren’t exactly the best way to measure a team due to the familiarity. So, I looked to this game for that. Unfortunately, the Bills defensive roster has enough Os, Ds, Qs and IRs to fill a bowl of alphabet soup right now. The Bills are still a good team and will probably be in the playoffs, but I wouldn’t call them a Super Bowl contender. The Lions game at this point is looking like the toughest game of the season.
MHR - Payton said earlier in the week that it was the coaches’ jobs to figure out a way to get Marvin Mims more involved in the offense (along with every other skill player who wants the ball). How much more would you like to see him involved and in what ways?
Johnny G_627: Let him fly! Mims is at his best streaking down the field. That’s where he’s been able to make teams pay this year and that’s what he did in college. The few targets he’s gotten the past few weeks have been shallow routes where the defense has been able to close quickly and make the play. Get those tough yards on the ground and then hit them with the play-action bombs.
MHR - Payton also said Jerry Jeudy was a dynamic player and they have a lot of plans for him in the offense. Meanwhile, Courtland Sutton is having kind of a quietly great season. Can Payton and Wilson get all these dynamic playmakers involved enough to their liking while also developing some identity on offense?
Johnny G_627: I know Payton can. I have to question Wilson on this, though. Jeudy can be a threat, but his best usage might be in the middle of the field, which isn’t frequently schemed for some reason (sarcasm font). Sutton has had some absolute bad-ass catches this year. Hopefully we get to see a lot more of those. I think a lot of this hinges on Wilson. He can make the throws. I just don’t think he trusts himself enough, or maybe he doesn’t trust the receivers. Whatever it is, I want to see him take a few more chances. The defense isn’t as terrible as it looked the first 3 weeks. Trust yourself and your team and just try to make some plays.
MHR - Von Miller told the media this week, “one thing that will never change is my love for Broncos Country.” How much do you miss having Von here? Do you see him ever coming back to the Broncos (even if just for a day to retire a Bronco)? How many sacks to Russell Wilson do you anticipate?
Johnny G_627: Good Gawd, I miss Von! Having a marquee player on the edge is so critical and we haven’t had that since he was traded (though I’m hopeful Browning can develop into that). Besides that, he was so much fun to watch and always upbeat. I’m so happy he was able to get another ring, though. He deserves it, especially having not been able to be on the field in SB48 (I don’t do Roman numerals). Von will definitely be back for a day to retire as a Bronco. I don’t see him ever playing again in Orange and Blue, though.
Despite taking a while to generate pressure, the Bills are tied for 8th in sacks per game at 3.2, while the Broncos are giving up 3.3. I’m gonna take the over on that and go with 4 sacks on Russ.
This needs to happen. It's the only way. https://t.co/vHoBog2AO6— Doctor of Words (and tights) (@docllv) November 9, 2023
MHR - In the win over the Chiefs, Sean Payton seemed to figure out that running the ball was a good idea. Is that the best way to beat the Bills at Buffalo on MNF?
Johnny G_627: Of course it’s the best way to beat the Bills. They’re giving up nearly 5YPC to opponents and our OL is built to run. I’m glad Payton seems to have finally remembered that’s why he brought in Powers, McGlinchey, Perine and McLaughlin. Beyond that, the strength of this Bills team is now clearly their offense. Keep Josh Allen and Stefon Diggs off the field as much as possible. Against the Chiefs, though, the key was getting Javonte going. I think Payton needs to lean on Jaleel more heavily this weekend. Despite a losing effort, Devon Achane logged 8 carries for over 100 yards and 2 TDs against this Bills defense in Week 4, while adding 3 receptions for 19 yards. McLaughlin is a similar type of player to Achane in my opinion, and I think Payton should be looking to him to fulfill that Joker role in this one.
MHR - The defense has been gradually getting better (though that’s not saying a ton considering where it started). But aside from the Dolphins, this may be the best offense they have faced - with Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis and James Cook. Do you think our defense is up to the test?
Johnny G_627: I think so. James Cook has underwhelmed, along with the rest of the Bills offensive backfield. Allen is the biggest threat. The challenge of course will be to keep him from extending plays and beating us with his legs. I’m not sure they’ll be able to have a spy on Allen much with Dalton Kincaid looking better as the season progresses, so they may have to play contain, which is frustrating to watch as fans, but it might be the right move here. Looking forward to seeing what VJ dials up. He’s had a solid plan the past three games and I hope that trend continues.
MHR - Kareem Jackson will have to sit this one out again. Are you confident in the young DBs to handle Stefon Diggs & Co?
Johnny G_627: I am. P.J. Locke has played well when called upon. Surtain will certainly have his hands full with Diggs, but I’m sure he’s been doing a ton of homework during the bye for this assignment as has Simmons. I think Simmons will be able to make them right and I’m willing to bet he’ll bait Josh Allen for a pick in this one. Gabe Davis is a very underrated WR2 for the Bills in my opinion. He’ll be a much bigger challenge for Moreau in this one than he faced against KC, but the veteran CB does seem to have taken well to VJ’s defense.
MHR - The Bills are the best in the NFL at converting on third down, and the bend-don’t-break defense of the Broncos have struggled getting off the field on third downs. But two weeks ago the Broncos held the Chiefs to just 30% on third down. Who wins this battle on MNF - the Bills offense or the Broncos defense?
Johnny G_627: I definitely think the Broncos are going to have a much harder time getting off the field on 3rd down this week than they did against the Chiefs. Buffalo’s converting an eye-popping 52% at home on 3rd down, while the Broncos are allowing a lousy 44% 3rd down conversion rate on the road. The key really will be forcing as many third downs as possible, which I believe they are up for. If the Broncos can hold them under 50% on third downs the averages begin to tilt in their favor on 4th down. On the road, the Broncos defense has allowed opponents to convert on just 28% of 4th down tries, good for 5th in the league. The Bills have converted on 60% of their 4th downs at home, but the majority of that was converting 3 of 4 against the Raiders. My gut tells me this will be a tight game all the way through and I’m thinking our defense gets a turnover on downs in this one.
MHR - How would you grade Sean Payton? Do you believe he is the right man for this team? Did your opinion change on him over the course of the season so far?
Johnny G_627: I would give Payton a C+ so far. I think the slow start was due to some miscalculations on his part about the quality and strengths/weaknesses of the roster. However, he seems to have recovered somewhat and is on his way to helping this team establish an identity. I do believe he can bring this team what it needs right now more than anything and that is stability in the coaching staff. I’ve had a tough time forming an opinion of Payton. I’m not gonna lie, I found his candor in the interviews over the off season refreshing. However, not being able to back that up the bravado with quality play on the field had me second-guessing those choices. I think I just need more time to form an opinion.
MHR - Fun fact, The Broncos and Bills have only met once in the playoffs, the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 12, 1992, in Buffalo. Denver lost 10-7. When do you think the next time is that these two teams will meet in the playoffs?
Johnny G_627: Looks like it happens about once every 30 years or so, so I’d say we’re about due for that. I’ll say 2026.
MHR - Which players would be your midseason MVPs on offense? Defense? ST?
Johnny G_627: I really can’t argue with Nick’s midseason MVPs. Well, I could but I wouldn’t believe in my arguments. So, I’ll add a little bit here with who I hope to see emerge as the second-half MVPs. On offense, I’m going with Marvin Mims. If Payton unlocks those ST playmaking abilities on offense, this kid could really be a difference-maker for the Broncos. On defense, I would like to see Browning stay healthy and show up as that premier edge defender we’ve been missing for so long. Finally, on ST, I’m going with Mims again. Let’s see another return on the back nine!
MHR - The Bills rank fifth in the NFL in points per game with 26.7 points. Would you bet the over or under on the Bills scoring more than 27 points on Sunday?
Johnny G_627: I’m taking the under. The Bills haven’t scored more than 25 points in a game since week 4. The Broncos have a solid rushing attack to keep that offense on the sidelines and I think they’ll be able to keep them under again this week.
MHR - How are you feeling about this team - its coach, its owners, its GM, its QB? Is the team moving in the right direction? How long before a winning season?
Johnny G_627: The verdict is still out for me, but I’m far more interested to see what happens next than I have been for years. The coaches have this team believing again and that is a good sign. If the team can respond to adversity more often my confidence will continue to grow as theirs will. Ownership has shown a willingness to invest and improve. Whether those investments are paying dividends yet or not, I believe they have the confidence in their decisions to be patient and allow their investments to mature. The GM is simply a head scout and negotiator at this point. I think we likely see a change there at the conclusion of the season. The QB position just kinda is what it is at this point. Russ has shown he can be a reliable game manager, but not much more. Hopefully whatever decisions they make there work out, but I can’t imagine Russ ever playing to the level of his contract. The direction of the team in my opinion will be shown in the coming offseason. Until then I’m not sure how anyone outside of Dove Valley can even say in which direction the team is headed. We could potentially see a winning season this year, but 2024 is probably a tough year as the only outcomes I can see are a team with a rookie QB without much supporting cast, a team with Russell Wilson without any cap space, or a team with a bridge QB with still not much support due to dead cap. I do believe 2025 will be the year this team begins to resurge to a +.500 season and 2026 should be fun.
Bills defense is pretty banged up already and losing Micah Hyde only hurts that unit more.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) November 11, 2023
Broncos offense should have success through the air AND on the ground. https://t.co/lBpzx3HdOp
Stats for RUSSELL WILSON? 18 of 27, 178 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 24 rush yds
Stats for each Broncos RB? Javonte: 13 carries, 57 yards, 1 rec, 8 yards, 0 TD; Jaleel: 10 Car, 69 yards, 3 rec 21 yards, 1 TD (rushing); Perine: 1 carry, 4 yards, 3 rec 19 yards, 0 TD
Number of yards receiving/TDs for the receivers? Sutton: 56 yards, 5 recs, 1 TD; Jeudy: 38 yards, 3 recs, 0 TD; Mims: 24 yards, 1 rec, 1 TD
Longest FG for Lutz? 51 yards
Number of sacks to Josh Allen? 2
Number of times Allen barely misses getting sacked? 8 - For Fox Sake! Get him down!!!
Broncos player with the most tackles? Singleton
Who gets the first sack of the game for the Broncos? Browning
Who gets any sacks? Browning 1, Cooper and Bonitto combine for the other
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Bills D? 0/1/0
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos’ D? 1/0/0
How many penalties between the two teams? 11
Final Score? Broncos 27, Bills 24
Maybe I'm still riding that beating the Chiefs high, but I think the Broncos can beat the Bills.— MileHighReport (@MileHighReport) November 10, 2023
How are we feeling #BroncosCountry ?? Do you think the Broncos can pull off the upset?
Favorite John Elway win outside of the Super Bowls? The Drive - I was hooked for life
Favorite Broncos win ever? SB32
Favorite Elway game against the Bills? Oof, that’s a tough one. Elway didn’t have a lot of great games against the Bills. Probably the 1989 Monday Night game. It was one of Elway’s only wins against the Jim Kelley-led Bills.
Favorite Peyton Manning win? That comeback win over the Chargers was epic! Set the tone for the Manning years.
Team you love to beat the most in the AFC West? Raiders
Coach you laugh at the most in the NFL? Staley
Coach you most want to throw an egg at? McDaniels (who doesn’t wanna see that guy with egg on his face?)
Team you hate to lose to the most in the rest of the AFC? Ravens
NFC team you could cheer for in the Super Bowl? Fly Eagles Fly! - The only team that has two chances every year to defeat most of the teams who have beaten the Broncos in Super Bowls. Plus Randall Cunningham was awesome!
NFC team you want to face more than any other in the Super Bowl? Seahawks. I was at SB48 and I need to get that one erased.
Favorite game looking forward to this season? It had been this one until the Bills started looking so average, so now the Lions. I really want to see how they do against non-division contenders.
Easiest game left on the schedule? Patriots (weird)
Toughest game left on the schedule? Lions (weirder)
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Meinerz. Just watch him play!
Favorite Broncos player of all time not named John Elway? So many greats, but I gotta go with Mecklenburg. He came into my dad’s antique shop looking for a birthday gift for his wife once. I had been cutting the grass in the back with an antique push mower and came in as he was checking out. Of course I was wearing my Broncos hat. I stopped dead in my tracks with my jaw on the floor. He caught a glimpse of me out of the corner of his eye. He asked my dad if he had a felt tip pen. My dad produced the pen and he turned to me and said, “Would you like me to sign your hat?” “Oh yes, please, Mr. Mecklenburg!” I said as I hurried over to him. I still have that hat sitting on a shelf in my office.
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? McLaughlin
Food/Snack you have to eat on game day? I’m not picky. Carbs are underrated.
Favorite game analyst/commentator? Greg Olsen. Love his passion for the game and the players.
How did you choose your MHR handle? It’s my nickname at work and the time I became a dad.
If YOU were giving a tour of the Ring of Fame, who do you highlight? Floyd Little, Randy Gradishar, Mr B, John Elway, Terrell Davis, Tom Nalen and Mike Shanahan - yeah, that 1st SB win is pretty special.
How did you become a Broncos fan?
I’m a Denver native. It’s in my blood, but it had a lot to do with John Elway too. I think that’s why so many of us believe in this team even when the chips are down. No matter how dire things looked, you always knew you had a shot when #7 was in the game. May that spirit never die in Broncos Country!