Denver Broncos (5-0)
Cleveland Browns (2-3)
How long is long enough when looking for patterns? Does five weeks constitute enough time to draw conclusions about this year’s iteration of the Denver Broncos? If so, here is the glass half full conclusion – the defense is championship worthy. Here’s the glass half empty conclusion – the offense is one of the worst in the league and will lose more games than it wins. The truth? I’m not sure it’s in the middle – because the defense is that good – but the offense absolutely has to get better.
The Broncos beat Oakland last week the way they’ve been willing games all year – on the leg of Brandon McManus and the strength of the defense. This was a game, much like the Kansas City game in Week Two, wherein the Broncos’ opponent must have thought “if we’re not going to beat them now, when are we going to beat them?” The Broncos were on the road, against a division rival. They were sporting an offensive that did almost nothing during the game. The Raiders had to believe they were about to take the next step and beat the Broncos.
It didn’t work out that way.
Though the Broncos offense was terrible, they won. Though the entire offense looked slow and lethargic, they won. Though Peyton Manning is putting up painful, Tebow-like performances, they won. Though Manning looked bad, mortal, beatable, they won. I’ll take the win.
Here’s a pattern: Denver has owned the Cleveland Browns for 25 years. Manning has owned them for the better part of the last 20. Does that change Sunday?
I’ll believe that when I see it.
KEY MATCH UP
Until further notice, the key match up is the Denver defense versus whatever offense they are playing. Though I still believe the offense will get it in gear (it has to, right?), the defense will continue to win games until that happens. They are a force, creating turnovers, sacking quarterbacks, scoring points. They are performing at such a high level, it seems they can dictate the flow of any game. They are stout against the run. They are incredible against the pass. They have speed and aggressivity. They are strong. Hey, they’re the best defense in the league. I simply don’t believe the Browns can score enough against the Broncos D to win this game. As I said, I’ll believe it when I see it.
Demarcus Ware, who has been nothing short of amazing this year, is out of this game. Let’s not kid ourselves – that’s a significant loss. My guess is that, if this were the Green Bay game, he’d be in the line up. However, the Broncos have chosen to sit him out. Again, it’s a big deal: he’s been the best defensive lineman in the league this year.How much of a drop off, then, are the Broncos are likely to suffer? Perhaps not as large as one might think. Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett will combine to take over Ware’s reps. They’ve played big parts on this dominant defense. I look for them to continue their coming out parties Sunday and have big games against the Browns. I think that’s almost a certainty.
With a win Sunday, Denver can head into its Bye Week undefeated and work for a couple weeks on getting the offense on track. With a big win, they can go into their off week feeling very good about themselves. The Chargers are at the Packers. That’s likely a loss for San Diego. The Chiefs have a tough Vikings team. If both those teams lose and the Broncos win, Denver will have a 3.5 lead in the AFC West (the Raiders have a Bye Week). Wow.
The pattern that continues Sunday is the Broncos winning. Let’s see the Broncos offense come to life Sunday. Let’s see some solid rushes on first down. Let’s see the offense score 30.
These things are going to happen. The Broncos will go into their Bye Week 6-0 and in command of the AFC West.