Halfway through the season it already appears over as Brandon Allen is starting and the Broncos rest at 2-6. Fortunately for them, they get to play host to the 2-5 Browns in the middle of a Baker-Mayfield-fueled media storm.
Even though the Browns have underperformed this season, it’s impossible to deny the talent of the roster; they can find a way to win on any given Sunday.
Do the Broncos stand a chance with Allen and what does Denver need to do to bounce back from their losses to the Colts and Chiefs?
Brandon Allen: Minshew or Peterman?
The greatest determining factor for the Broncos on Sunday is how well Brandon Allen plays in relief duty.
Does he look more like Gardener Minshew, who took the league by storm this season after being drafted in the sixth round of this year’s draft? Or does he look more like Nathan Peterman, who threw five interceptions in his first-ever start?
Odds are he’s closer to the latter considering he hasn’t thrown a pass that mattered since he was at the University of Arkansas, but this Browns defense has played well below their talent level this season like the rest of the Cleveland operation.
Although the defense possesses arguably the best front line in the league, an excellent young cornerback duo and a Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Myles Garrett, it ranks among the bottom 12 teams in total defense, scoring defense, and run defense. Pro Football Focus also grades them in the bottom 10 in overall defense, run defense and coverage.
The only way the Broncos win this game is if Brandon Allen plays well above expectations.
Battle of the Garett’s: Myles vs. Bolles
Garett Bolles is the least-popular Bronco by a healthy margin due to his poor blocking performances and near-constant holding penalties.
After the worst game of his career came against the Bears, Bolles had been playing better, though that’s a low bar to clear. However, against the Chiefs and Colts, that went out the window as Bolles reverted to his old ways, drawing more than five penalty flags over the two games.
Now, Bolles will be tasked with arguably his toughest matchup of the season, reining in Myles Garrett. Garrett is one of the game’s elite pass rushers, a freak of nature athletically and he’s currently tied for the league’s most sacks with 10.
The odds of Allen leading the Broncos to victory are long enough without him constantly having to run for his life from Garrett, or having the offense derailed by an ill-timed holding penalty.
Injury-battered Denver secondary vs. Browns’ weapons
The Broncos are down two of their top three corners with De’Vante Bausby and Bryce Callahan out again. Yet despite missing the two corners for a combined 11 games, the Broncos still have the league’s third-best coverage unit as Davontae Harris and Duke Dawson have more than held their own.
Denver’s pass defense is the league’s fourth-best, and according to PFF, their coverage is the league’s third-best behind only the undefeated 49ers and Patriots.
That unit will have its work cut out for them though as they go up against the Browns’ arsenal of offensive weapons. Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins all present a threat to a shallow Broncos secondary.
Can they measure up to their toughest test yet?