Cleat Geeks

Broncos look to start 2-0


Week 2 of the NFL Season is nearly upon us, and as I will throughout the season, today it’s time to go over news and notes as we preview the coming week’s game. Fortunately for the Broncos the past few weeks have been quiet. The team hasn’t been dealing with major injuries or controversy, and got off to a strong 1-0 start at home.

With the division-rival Raiders coming to town on Sunday, the Broncos are looking to start 2-0 and remain in the playoff conversation. And given what we saw on Monday night, as the Raiders fell 33-13 to the Rams, the Broncos have to be feeling good about how they might match up. The Raiders, meanwhile, started flat in the second Jon Gruden era and seem to be looking for a spark. After spending a third round pick to trade for Martavis Bryant during the NFL Draft, the Raiders cut him prior to the start of Week 1.

After getting beaten by the Raiders and looking flat offensively, the Raiders have re-signed Bryant to hopefully lift the top off opposing defenses a bit. But will it matter Sunday in Denver? Let’s break down the match-ups.

Challenging Denver’s Defense

Sure, the Raiders lost by 20 points at home Monday, and will be limping into Denver on a short week. But the Raiders did some good things. They jumped out to an early lead, led at the half and were actually tied 13-13 in the third quarter before the wheels totally came off the bus. In that game, the Raiders also seemed to find something with tight end Jared Cook, who created match-up problems for the Rams and caught nine of his 12 targets for a team-leading 180 yards. That has to be troubling for Broncos fans who saw the team’s woes against the tight end continue in Week 1 as they allowed little known Will Dissly to catch three passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. Likely the Broncos will focus on trying to contain Cook, but that has been a weakness for the team for a while.

If you’re a fantasy owner that lost Delainie Walker or Greg Olsen and you’re looking for an upside fill-in, I think Cook could be a solid play. The Broncos probably won’t solve a problem that’s plagued them for years in the span of six days. And Cook was one of the few pieces of the passing game that really worked for Derek Carr and the Raiders in Week 1.

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Elsewhere, the Raiders have talked about getting Amari Cooper going, but I’d expect Chris Harris to be on him, so that will be an interesting match-up. Jalen Richard caught nines passes for 55 yards on 11 targets, too, but the Broncos’ defense did well against Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny coming out of the backfield for the Seahawks, so I think they’ll meet that challenge.

Conversely, the Rams’ front struggled with Marshawn Lynch early, but he was held to just 41 yards on 11 carries. The Raiders will likely try to get him going, but the Broncos will need to be stout up front. Carr struggled in the opener, tossing three interceptions. The Broncos’ defense posted six sacks and grabbed two picks off Russell Wilson in Week 1, so I think Carr could be in for a long day.

Exploiting Matchups Offensively

In looking at the Rams, slot-man Cooper Kupp thrived on Monday night, grabbing five receptions for 87 yards and a touchdown on eight targets. That bodes well for the Broncos and Emmanuel Sanders, who has been sliding into the slot when Courtland Sutton is on the field. Sanders exploded in Week 1, catching 10 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown. Look for him to keep it going in Week 2.

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On the ground, rookie Phillip Lindsay was the star in Week 1, even getting nominated for the best Week 1 Rookie Performance by the NFL. But it might be fellow rookie Royce Freeman who shines brightest on Sunday. Todd Gurley is an otherworldly talent, but seeing his 102 yards on 20 carries suggests a vulnerability from the Raiders’ rush defense. Freeman showed his power and ability to pound defenses in the fourth quarter, racking up 37 yards on four carries during the team’s four-minute offense. If the Broncos can build a lead, or get into the Red Zone, look for Freeman to play the role of battering ram. I think he finally gets his first touchdown as a Bronco this week.

Predicting the Match-up

Division games are always tough and unpredictable. Gruden brought some intensity to the Raiders early in Week 1 as they scored a touchdown on the opening drive and led in the first half. But the team faded quickly against a talented Rams team and made too many mistakes.

The Broncos made their own fair share of mistakes in Week 1, but they also looked explosive throughout the game on both offense and defense. Being at home, I expect them to bring a lot of intensity again. I think the Broncos’ defense is too much for the Raiders to handle, and I think Case Keenum and the Broncos offense is continuing to grow and find a groove.

I believe the Broncos will hold serve at home, sending Gruden to an 0-2 start. I predict a 27-13 final score.

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