After the longest offseason in memory for Broncos Country, football has finally made its welcome turn, as the Denver Broncos travel to the Meadowlands to face the New York Giants.
What must the Broncos do to win this game, and what mistakes could ultimately cost them the season-opener? Let’s take a look, before predicting the final score.
How the Broncos win
Contain Saquon Barkley: Offensively, what do the Giants have outside of Saquon Barkley? Kenny Golladay is banged up and Evan Engram is out for this week’s contest, Daniel Jones seems to be his same turnover-prone self, and the offensive line projects to be the worst in the league. As long as Barkley is reigned in and prevented from gashing the Broncos on massive ground gains, New York’s offense feels just about hopeless.
Force the long drive: The reason “hopeless” was prefaced by “just about” in that prior section, is the G-Men’s two talented vertical threats — Golladay and Darius Slayton. It’s true that Golladay has been banged up throughout camp, and most of the past calendar year, but he and Slayton still present the threat to flip the game with one massive 40-yard reception. The Giants offense’ should be thoroughly outmatched from both a coaching and talent perspective. That means if the Broncos limit the big plays from Barkley, Slayton and Golladay and limit New York to big drives, Denver should easily cruise to victory.
Success in the red zone: On the other side of the ball, the key to a Broncos victory will be strong performances in scoring position. Many members of Broncos Country know the Mile High defense finished first in the redzone last season (and the year before), but did you know the Giants had the league’s second-best redzone defense in 2020? Denver’s defense should make it so that the offense only needs to produce field goals, but Teddy Bridgewater will have to avoid killer turnovers to make sure the Broncos don’t give the game away.
How the Broncos lose
Poor interior blocking: The Giants sneakily have one of the better interior pass-rush groups in the league. Leonard Williams is finally starting to live up to his ‘elite’ pre-draft perception, and Dexter Lawrence has the talent to sideline the Broncos’ ground attack. Lloyd Cushenberry III was one of Denver’s worst starters last year, while Dalton Risner and Graham Glasgow both under-performed. If that trend continues, it could be the first domino to fall, setting up an offensive collapse.
Special teams nightmare: No one could argue against the fact that Denver’s special teams was just as bad in the preseason as it was in 2020. If anything, it almost felt worse. Special teams gaffes always hold the potential to flip a game on its head, and Giants return-man Jabril Peppers has the requisite gifts to make those mistakes especially painful for the Broncos. Again, New York should struggle to move the ball, so long returns that provide short fields — or touchdowns in a worst-case scenario — could provide the G-Men with the gasp of air they’ll desperately need.
The Broncos undeniably have concerns on their roster and trying to beat the Giants in New York the day after the 20th anniversary of 9/11 will be difficult without a doubt.
However, at the end of the day, the Broncos are just a much more talented team.
There are questions about Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock, but after the offseason Daniel Jones, one might prefer both of Denver’s signal-callers over the Giants’ starter.
There are also questions about head coach Vic Fangio, but Joe Judge has been the biggest laughing stock in the league this summer, and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett seems to be at a serious disadvantage to Denver’s defensive play-caller.
It might be low-scoring, and it might be ugly, the Broncos will win this game without too much sweat.
Final score: 23-9