The Denver Broncos cruised to a victory in Week 1, but now they must travel to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars in a sneaky-important matchup.
Sure, it’s not the NFL game of the week, but the fact the Jaguars look to be the worst team in all of the football makes this a must-win for the Broncos.
How can the Broncos ensure they bring home a victory and what missteps could lead to an upset? Let’s take a look before ultimately predicting a final score.
How the Broncos beat the Jaguars
Make Trevor Lawrence uncomfortable: The Jaguars have very little going for them outside of generational quarterbacking talent Trevor Lawrence, and even then, Lawrence is playing in just his second NFL game. With Jacksonville so reliant on their young gunslinger, reining him in, and baiting him into poor decisions could completely cripple Jacksonville’s attack, providing Denver’s offense with plenty of cushion to coast to a victory. Quarterback guru Tim Jenkins suggested dialing up disguised pressures and coverages to baffle Lawrence on this week’s Manely Broncos Podcast.
Attack porous Jacksonville offensive line: The Jaguars’ complete lack of protection had Trevor Lawrence almost constantly running for his life in his first career start. Although he was only sacked once, his 13 pressures (one pressure shy for accounting for a quarter of Lawrence’s dropbacks) led to turnovers and other negative plays for the offense. Guard A.J. Cann allowed seven pressures, fourth-worst among all guards, and the tackle tandem of Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor combined to allow five. That came against a Houston Texans pass rush that projects to be one of the worst in football, while the Denver Broncos project to have one of the best. Cann, in particular, should be a nice matchup for Dre’Mont Jones.
Establish what should be a dominant ground game: Last week against the New York Giants, the run game was not there for the Broncos, especially when compared to what we all expected to see from it. Melvin Gordon’s 70-yard gallop was awesome, don’t get it twisted, but the Broncos gained just 76 yards the other 24 times a running back carried the football. A lot of that has to do with New York stacking the box and having Dexter Lawrence and Leonard Williams on the roster, but Denver will need a strong ground game to compete for a playoff spot, and Jacksonville’s front-seven is so weak that there’s no excuse for struggling again in Week 2. Time for Gordon and Javonte Williams to put the league on notice.
How the Jaguars upset the Broncos
Harsh environment overwhelms Broncos: It is hard to draw up a scenario where the Jaguars beat the Broncos on Sunday. One thing all those scenarios have in common is the Denver Broncos struggling with an early east coast kickoff and Jacksonville’s hot and unforgivingly humid climate. That might sound stupid, and it is, but it’s a major factor in this game because the Broncos have historically struggled in Jacksonville, and west coast teams historically struggle with early, east coast kickoffs. For the talent-poor and awkwardly-coached Jaguars to beat the talent-rich Broncos, they’ll need some intangibles outside the gridiron to help them level the playing field.
Laviska Shenault torches Denver D: Outside of Lawrence, the Jaguars have one other dynamic offensive threat that could put the Broncos in a bad situation. Former Colorado Buffalo Laviska Shenault is a special talent, and easily the most dangerous Jaguar with the ball in his hands. This Denver defense is so talented, that Shenault shouldn’t provide much of a headache, but he has the ability to score from anywhere on the field, which could potentially flip this game on its head.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were thoroughly dominated by a Houston Texans team that is going nowhere fast. This came as a shock to many, including yours truly, but we really should have expected it. The Jaguars are a bad team and they were atrocious last year. After an odd, fluky win over the Colts in Week 1, they lost 15 consecutive games to close the season.
Sure, they have Lawrence now, but Gardner Minshew was not the reason this team was going 1-15. It was everything around Minshew that held this team back, and now a lot of those pieces are returning to surround the prodigal son, Lawrence.
Mix that poor talent in with a coach that clearly doesn’t want to be there and who operates in a style that fails to win over NFL adults, as opposed to college kids, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.
Meanwhile, this Denver defense looks incredibly legit — especially after how good New York’s offense looked against the Washington Football Team — and the offense was more promising than anyone could have thought. Both units should have much easier matchups this week.
Frankly, it would be a disappointment if the Broncos didn’t roll in this one.
Final Score Prediction: Broncos 38, Jaguars 10.