Denver Broncos Week 17 Stock Report
The Denver Broncos got back on the winning track in Week 16 by defeating the Cincinnati Bengals in overtime 20-17. The victory moved the Broncos to 11-4 with one game left to go in the regular season.
By beating the Bengals, the Broncos put themselves in position to have a first-round bye in the first week of the playoffs. In fact, there is a scenario where they finish as the top seed in the conference.
Head coach Gary Kubiak knows that facing an opponent a second time will present a challenge for starting quarterback Brock Osweiler. This will be the first rematch for him as a starting quarterback in his NFL career. He last played the San Diego Chargers in the beginning of December, helping Denver win 17-3.
“It's a challenge because they've played us and obviously, they're going to have an opinion on how they think that they should play him," Kubiak said. "We have a lot of respect for the Chargers, but really I think our focus right now has been very good on ourselves.
That's what we're going to try to do here. Like I said, the biggest challenge right now is getting everybody good and fresh before we go on Sunday. We'll get started on that here this evening.”
As with every week, there are players who are on the rise. There are also players who are struggling for various reasons.
Here is the stock report for the Broncos as they head into the season finale against San Diego.
Stock Up: QB Brock Osweiler
Osweiler has started six games for the Broncos so far this season, and he seems to be getting more consistent with his play in recent weeks. He has won four games and lost two as the starter, and he is now throwing for about 300 yards per game.
In the last game against the Chargers, Osweiler had a season-low 166 yards passing (as a starter). The Broncos got off to a good start, but they failed to move the ball consistently and did not score in the second half. They won 17-3 that week, but a defensive touchdown bailed them out in the first quarter.
This time around, it would be nice to see Osweiler march the offense down the field more consistently. With more experience as the starter, he might be more able to do that.
Kubiak likes Osweiler’s mindset as the starter.
“He's stepped in for a first ballot Hall of Famer in a tough situation, but with a good football team," the coach said. "He's played some really good people and he's done a hell of a job for us as I've said over and over again.
“I think he's hardened up and he's toughened up. That's part of being in his situation because there is always going to be noise and things said. He's just tried to stay within himself and do his job.”
The team has confidence in Osweiler, and his confidence on the field is growing. He was able to execute a comeback against the Bengals using a hurry-up offense. That system is unlikely to be the base set for the Broncos, but using tempo as a weapon is a nice asset for the team’s arsenal.
Stock Down: LB Brandon Marshall
The only reason that Marshall’s stock is down is because of an ankle injury that could keep him out of action Sunday. He passed the 100-tackle mark this year for the second time in his career. The Broncos' 3-4 design funnels a lot of the action toward Marshall, and he’s more than capable of cleaning up.
Marshall talked about the play against the Bengals when he got injured: “It was a 3rd-and-2. They spread out [Cincinnati running back] Giovani [Bernard] and then they motioned him back and pitched it to him. I made the play, but somebody just landed on my ankle.”
The veteran linebacker would not reveal whether or not he would play this weekend. “We’ll see,” Marshall said succinctly, although he does admit that his ankle is “feeling good.”
The Broncos defense is better with Marshall in the lineup. If he can play against the Chargers, it would help the Broncos lock down an offense led by quarterback Philip Rivers. The Chargers aren’t going anywhere—although they may move from San Diego—but they would love to beat up on the Broncos before their division rival makes a postseason run.
Stock Up: TE Owen Daniels
When the Broncos went to the hurry-up offense, tight end Owen Daniels became an important target for Osweiler. He had two late fourth-quarter grabs that helped the offense move the chains on key situations. Daniels even came through in overtime with a catch that helped the team get into field-goal range.
Daniels likes what the team did against the Bengals.
“We felt like we got some stuff going at the end of the half doing that uptempo stuff," he said. "It looked like they were getting a little tired and they weren’t moving quite as fast when we were doing it. We stuck to it and got some good things out of it.
“It was a nice change-up. We didn’t plan on doing that, but it’s good to know that we can adjust.”
This was the fourth game of 2015 where Daniels had five catches or more. His 70 yards receiving was the second-highest total the veteran tight end has produced this season.
At 33 years old, Daniels is nearing the twilight of his career, but he’s proved throughout this year that he’s not quite done yet. If the team falls behind—or wants to use tempo as a weapon—then expect Daniels to be involved quite a bit.
Stock Down: TE Vernon Davis
While Daniels became a big part of the offense in Week 16 when the team needed to make a comeback, tight end Vernon Davis barely played against the Bengals. After playing a total of 102 snaps in the previous two games, Davis played only six snaps Monday night.
After the Bengals game, Kubiak revealed why Davis didn’t see the field when the higher tempo was used: “Brock [Osweiler] will handle the team, we let [Daniels] O.D. and Virgil [Green] play because Vernon [Davis] hasn’t been with us as much doing that type of stuff.”
Davis has been disappointing this year since the Broncos traded for him earlier this season. In addition to being left out of the offense, when he has been more involved, he has dropped too many passes.
He has 38 catches for 395 yards receiving with zero touchdowns. He began the year with the San Francisco 49ers and has 20 of his 38 catches with the Broncos. Davis has talent, but he continues to underachieve based on his natural ability.
We’ll see if he can turn it around and start producing when the team gets to the postseason.
Stock Up: QB Peyton Manning
It looks like Peyton Manning is going to be healthy enough to be a backup behind Osweiler this week. That’s progress, and that’s why Manning’s stock is on the rise.
It’s been more than 20 years since Manning has been a backup quarterback. He’s never been a backup in his 18-year pro career, and you have to go back to his first season at the University of Tennessee when he wasn’t the starter. That didn’t last for long as the starter went down in Manning’s first college game. He took over for the Volunteers, and the rest is history.
Manning discussed his current situation Wednesday: “It's been a frustrating injury, but I had a good week of rehab last week. It was a good week of work on my own in the indoor facility. To get back on the practice field, participate with the team and to be out there Sunday, just the help in any way that I can, I'm glad to finally reach that step.
“It sure beats being in the indoor kind of by yourself and being in street clothes.”
The Broncos want to make a deep run in the postseason and have to be ready for anything that may unfold during that time. Having a future Hall of Fame quarterback like Manning as the backup is a fantastic asset in case something happens to Osweiler.
All quotes and injury/practice observations obtained firsthand. Record/statistical information provided via the Broncos' media department unless otherwise noted. Advanced stats via ESPN's employees-only database.