The Sean Payton era started off with an all-too-familiar outcome for the Denver Broncos: A loss.
For the first time, we’ll see how the Broncos respond and what changes. At least in the preseason, Denver showed improvement from week to week. Can the Broncos do that this Sunday against the Washington Commanders at home in Denver?
DraftKings Sportsbook has the Broncos as a slight favorite over Washington. No doubt the home-field advantage is the main reason for the current line. The total sits at 39 and the trend of last season was on full display on Sunday: play the under. That seems the safe bet again this week.
Washington: Twenty-fifth in overall offense (242.0 yards per game), tied for 18th in rushing offense (92.0 YPG), 21st in passing offense (156.0 YPG), tied for 15th in scoring offense (20.0 points per game).
Denver: Twenty-third in overall offense (260.0 yards per game), 17th in rushing offense (94.0 YPG), 20th in passing offense (166.0 YPG), tied for 22nd in scoring offense (16.0 points per game).
Washington: Fourth in total defense (210.0 yards per game), 17th in rushing defense (96.0 YPG), fifth in passing defense (114.0 YPG), tied for eighth in scoring defense (16.0 points per game).
Denver: Eleventh in total defense (261.0 yards per game), third in rushing defense (61.0 YPG), 20th in passing defense (200.0 YPG), tied for 12th in scoring defense (17.0 points per game).
Here are the MHR staff’s keys to Sunday’s game.
Pressure the quarterback
Whether it was the scheme or lack of depth/talent (or both), the Broncos pass rush was horrible against Las Vegas. Denver registered three quarterback hits and zero sacks. That has to change on Sunday if the Broncos want any shot of winning the game. Somebody, anybody, get consistent pressure on Sam Howell and disrupt/hit him. If Howell has the time that Jimmy Garoppolo had, it’s going to be another long Sunday afternoon in Denver. — Ian St. Clair
Score more than 16 points
The Broncos have lost so many close games over the last two seasons that its starting to drive me mad. Just find a way to score more than 16 and this team will start winning games. Winning games would bring me back from the brink of madness, so I would appreciate that as well. — Tim Lynch
Keep the foot on the gas offensively
It felt like the offense became ultra-conservative in the second half against the Raiders. Not to piggyback off of Tim, but 16 points won’t get it done. But watching the offense in the second half was like watching a completely different team. Don’t let up. Don’t throttle down. Stomp on your opponent’s neck and finish them. — Adam Malnati
Force turnovers and maximize them
Last week against the Arizona Cardinals, the Commanders had three turnovers. If the Broncos can force them to have a few like last week, that would go a long way toward securing the victory. On top of that, the Broncos will need to ensure that those forced turnovers wind up in points on the board. As my friends Tim and Adam alluded to above, 16 points won’t get it done. — Christopher Hart
Make the G#% Da&@ extra points and field goals
Payton noted that most games are decided by one score. While there are many things schematically and tactically the Broncos need to do to beat the Commanders, the most basic one is getting the free points. So FFS, make the G-D field goals and extra points. — Laurie Lattimore-Volkmann
Figure out how to finish
Up 13-10 at halftime and receiving the second-half kickoff, the Broncos had momentum and the opportunity to go up two scores. Instead, they came out of the locker room shaky and conservative on offense and sloppy on defense. The first half was efficient, but football is four quarters. Let’s play all of them this Sunday. — Nick Burch
Don’t be stupid
Hit quarterbacks. Stop drives. Do SOMETHING. — Mike DeCicco