Riding high into their Week 2 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-1), the Denver Broncos (1-0) need to be aware of two important variables, weather and overconfidence.
The former, which looks like a torrential downpour for most of the game, can’t be controlled. The latter, however, is all up to how well head coach Vic Fangio, aka, the “mad scientist,” had the team back in the lab and refocused.
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There’s a 70% chance of precipitation for the September 19 matchup, including possible thunderstorms, and the Broncos will be playing its first inclement weather game since the end of the 2020 season, so they’ll need to be extra careful with ball control and steer clear of turnovers. Bad weather and turnover differential are always the great equalizers when two teams heading in opposite direction play each other.
As for the latter issue, the Broncos may be riding high following their convincing win over the New York Giants (0-2), the previous week, but here’s a friendly reminder that Denver was 5-11 in 2020 and have no reason to come into any contest overconfident and looking past anyone — even if the Jaguars, 37-21 losers to fellow also-ran Houston Texans in the opener, figure to be among the league dregs again in 2021.
Sure, the Broncos should beat a team that features a rookie quarterback (Trevor Lawrence) and a neophyte NFL head coach (Urban Meyer), who are both making just their second professional appearances, but like the mantra goes, “on any given Sunday.”
Don’t Underestimate Sneaky-Good Weapons
The Jaguars have big-play talent at wide receiver with D.J. Chark and former University of Colorado star Laviska Shenault, Jr. The former will likely draw rookie Patrick Surtain, Jr. in man-to-man coverage. Surtain II will be making his first-career start, after only seeing 16 snaps a week ago, and will have his hands full against a former Pro Bowl wideout, who is coming off a solid performance (three catches for 86 yards and a touchdown) against the Texans. There’s no more learning curve for the rookie who was burned by Sterling Shepard for a 37-yard touchdown in the opener, so he’ll need to keep constant tabs on the savvy Chark.
Shenault, Jr. is the wild card, as he lines up at practically every position that requires ball handling. The former Buffs star has been seen out wide, in the slot, and in the backfield as the ‘Wildcat’ quarterback. He’ll also take handoffs on reverses, so the Broncos will need to always know where he is.
Teddy Bridgewater was the steadying influence that the Broncos have missed under center since Peyton Manning retired following the 2015 season. Bridgewater, who made franchise history with his start against the Giants, completed 77.8% of his passes in New Jersey (highest mark in the AFC), for 264 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Backup Drew Lock may have more natural talent, but that only takes a quarterback so far. What Bridgewater possesses is a calmness about him and leadership qualities that can’t be taught.
Maybe comparing Bridgewater to Manning was a bit of hyperbole, but Broncos Country gets the point. Bridgewater has the full confidence of the locker room.
Hold the Line
Right guard Graham Glasgow is likely out for the Jaguars game, meaning second-year player Netane Muti is in line for his second-career NFL start. Muti, out of the University of Utah and a sixth-round pick by Denver in 2020, is raw but talented.
Muti will line next to new right tackle Bobbie Massie, who will have his hands full against Jacksonville’s premiere pass rusher, left end Josh Allen. The right tackle position has long been an issue for the Broncos, including three different starters in 2020. Massie, who came over via free agency, seemingly has a solid grip on the spot, but it won’t be an easy Sunday morning for him.
Allen is an athletic force, and is starting to come into his own as a pass rusher. He’s finally healthy, after missing big chunks of 2020 due to injury (just seven starts), but if his rookie campaign was any indication (10.5 sacks and a Pro Bowl) he has the talent to be a game disruptor.
Any Given Sunday
Yes, it’s true that no NFL matchup is a “gimme game,” as Zack Kelberman of Mile High Huddle likes to say, but Kelberman’s assertion is also true that the Jacksonville Jaguars is inarguably the worst opponent that the Denver Broncos will face this season.
That being said, the Broncos have a big talent gap at every position, and even an advantage at head coach, so look for a beautiful Orange and Blue Sunday.
Follow Tony Williams on Twitter: @TBone8