Denver Broncos: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 7

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Denver Broncos: What You Need to Know Heading into Week 7
Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 35-19 in Week 6, and the team extended their franchise record of 16-straight regular-season victories.

The Broncos offense was more balanced against the Jaguars. Running back Knowshon Moreno ran angrily and racked up three rushing touchdowns on the day. His fire and energy were infectious for his teammates after the Broncos came out a bit flat against the winless Jaguars.

Peyton Manning failed to throw for over 300 yards for the first time this season, but he was close with 295 passing yards. His 2,179 passing yards this season are the second most in league history through six games, trailing only Kurt Warner in 2000 (2,260).

He’s still on pace to throw for over 5,000 yards for this season for the first time in his career. With an average of 282.1 yards passing per game for the rest of the season, Manning will surpass that mark.

After six games Manning has thrown more touchdown passes (22) than anyone else in NFL history. The team’s point total (265) is also more than (262) the 2000 Rams compiled over six games. This is also tops in NFL history.

The Broncos offense is making history every week. However, their defense is a different story.

They are ranked first against the run, only allowing 69.8 yards rushing per game. They are at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to passing defense. The Broncos rank 32nd against the pass, allowing an average of 337.7 yards passing per game.

If Denver wants to make this a championship season, then defensive improvements must be made.

This week the Broncos travel to Indianapolis for a game against the Colts on Sunday Night Football. This will be the first time Manning has played against his former team. The entire nation is going to be focused on Manning versus the guy who replaced him, Andrew Luck.

It’s no doubt going to be an offensive showdown in Week 7.

 

Division Standings

The Broncos sit atop the AFC West after six weeks. There are now only two undefeated teams left in the NFL, and they both reside in the AFC West.

The Chiefs beat the Raiders in Week 6, and they also have a 6-0 record. This is only the second time the Chiefs have been 6-0 in their franchise history and first since 2003.

This season also marks the second time in league history that two teams in a division each started 6-0. The last time that happened was 1934, when the Lions and Bears of the NFL’s Western Division did so.

The Chargers were able to get a big win over the Colts on Monday Night Football in Week 6 and are now sitting at 3-3. The Raiders bring up the rear in the division with a 2-4 record.

 

Injury Report

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Franklin suffered a knee and ankle sprain in Week 6.

The Broncos lost a big piece of their offensive line when right tackle Orlando Franklin suffered a left knee injury. The team already has been playing with a makeshift offensive line since left tackle Ryan Clady was lost for the season after the Week 2 game against the Giants.

There is no word on the severity of Franklin’s injury. On Monday, John Fox discussed what is now being called a knee sprain—and an ankle sprain—for Franklin:

No real update on the injuries. I know I mentioned [T] Orlando Franklin last night with ankle and knee sprains, and [DT] Sylvester Williams, neck sprain. We’ll have no new updates and keep you posted with the Wednesday injury report.

Fox also commented on how the team could move forward if they didn’t have Franklin in the lineup:

“I think I’ve said all along, it’s a strength of ours. We lost some good guys – obviously when a guy like Orlando goes down, it does cause shuffling. We did put Chris [Kuper] in then move Louis [Vasquez] out to right tackle. Our offensive line coach Dave Magazu does a terrific job of rotating guys. We do that a lot during training camp and even during the season. I don’t think it phased us whatsoever when that occurred.

In addition to losing Franklin, the team also saw rookie defensive tackle Sylvester Williams get hurt. The team is now calling this a neck sprain. It was an unfortunate injury, as Williams was finally making impact plays in the Jaguars game. The first-round pick has failed to make much of an impact, and he’s developing slower than some people expected.

The Broncos could be getting center J.D. Walton back soon. He was placed on the physically unable to perform list at the start of the season, and the veteran is eligible to return if he’s healthy.

Fox talked about Walton for the first time in a long time on Monday and said, “I haven’t seen him practice in quite some time, so I think healing wise, he’s doing well. We’ll see how that goes starting Wednesday.”

 

What Must Improve

The Broncos have a few things to clean up before the postseason gets here. There are problems on both sides of the ball that need to be addressed.

Ball security is still a problem with the Broncos. Against the Jaguars the team fumbled three times, losing two of them to the opposition.

In the picture below Ronnie Hillman loses the ball as he’s spun to the ground. Fortunately, Eric Decker was right there to recover the football.

Hillman fumbles for the first time since the preseason.

These next two pictures show bad snaps that Manning fumbles. Jacksonville was able to recover both of these.

The first of two fumbled snaps against the Jaguars.
A low snap leads to another fumble, this time near the end zone.

After the game on Sunday, Fox commented on his concern with these fumbled exchanges:

I was really concerned when we gave it to the other team. It’s all a concern and something we’d like to address and work at. We practice it every day, but we’ll have to practice it a little bit more every day.

Another area the Broncos need to work on is dropped passes. Lapses in concentration can lead to dropped passes that bounce to the other team, or fall to the ground to stop a drive.

In the picture below we see an early drop by Demaryius Thomas. This pass could have been intercepted as Jacksonville was swarming to the football on most plays.

Broncos receivers will get tight coverage when an opponent blitzes.

This picture shows Eric Decker drop a pass over the middle with tight coverage. This was a catch that could have moved the chains. Instead, it was incomplete, and on the next play Manning threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown.

Decker usually makes up for his drops later.

The picture below shows one of two drops by rookie running back Montee Ball. This pass bounced off his shoulder pads and was nearly intercepted. Later in the game Ball dropped another pass where he was clearly thinking about running after the catch before securing the ball.

Ball almost gets this pass picked off.

On defense, the Broncos need to do a better job of wrapping up. Yards after the catch can build big plays that an opponent will use to gain momentum.

This picture shows wide receiver Justin Blackmon breaking away from Champ Bailey for a 23-yard gain. Blackmon did this regularly against the Broncos secondary on Sunday.

Denver will take chances defensively, the secondary needs to wrap up to prevent big plays.

Denver needs to clean this up if they want to be able to take chances with the pass rush. Blitzing leaves the secondary with one-on-one coverages they must maintain throughout an opponent’s route.

The Broncos finished with only two sacks on Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne even though he attempted 42 passes. Like Tony Romo the week before, Henne had plenty of time to scan the field and make a play with his arm.

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
The Broncos need Miller to make an instant impact.

The Broncos are hoping the return of linebacker Von Miller will boost their pass rush. Miller has been suspended the first six games of the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

On Monday, Miller spoke to the media about his mindset:

I’ve definitely made mistakes in the past. Like I said before, it wouldn’t do anybody any good it certainly wouldn’t do me any good to go back and defend stuff from the past. All I can ask is judge me for my actions going forward. If we can do that—I know it might be hard, but I know if we can do that—I’m positive that I [can] gain everybody’s trust back.

 

Summary

The Colts are going to be playing on a short week after losing to the Chargers on Monday night. They will be licking their wounds, hoping that a return home can help them get back on the winning track.

The Colts currently have the 31st ranked rushing defense in the league, allowing an average of 132.0 rushing yards per game. We saw the Chargers rack up 147 yards rushing on 37 carries against the Colts. The Broncos may choose to employ a similar strategy and give Knowshon Moreno a big role once again.

The opportunity is there for both Hillman and Ball to get a few more touches this week. Hillman needs to hang onto the rock if he wants to keep the trust of the coaching staff. Ball needs to be more creative as a runner when the holes aren’t huge. He also needs to stop dropping passes in order to earn the trust of Manning.

The Broncos' passing game will face a challenge against the league’s fifth-ranked pass defense. Manning will be motivated to play well against the team he became a legend with. That alone should be enough to get him at least two touchdowns and over 300 yards passing on the day.

Denver needs to get a better pass rush, and getting Miller back will be a huge boost. They need to work hard to make Luck uncomfortable every time he drops back to throw. The secondary should also get a much-needed boost if the pass-rushers can get the job done.

The Colts have three dangerous weapons in the passing game to slow down. Covering Reggie Wayne, T.Y. Hilton and Coby Fleener will be of the utmost priority for the Broncos. After the catch, the Broncos need to make sure they bring down their opponents quickly with sure tackling.

The Broncos are unlikely to slow down in Week 7. This game could be a playoff preview of things to come later in the year. Denver wants to prove they’re the best in the league. Indianapolis wants to prove they belong in the conversation.

Get your popcorn ready football fans, this should be one wild game.

 

All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record information provided via email from the Denver Broncos.

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