PFF Preview: Can Broncos still make playoffs?

Aug 29, 2019; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio on the sidelines in the first quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at Broncos Stadium at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Denver’s road victory over the injury-riddled division-rival Chargers breathed a new sense of life into the organization that was missing during their eight-game losing streak dating back to 2018.

This team finally has a sense of hope about it and with good reason. The Broncos are just a few bounces of the football away from being a 3-2 team and one could even make the case they’d be 4-1 if not losing the turnover battle 0-3 to Green Bay, who appear to potentially be the NFC’s best squad.

Let’s take a look, not only at why the Broncos should be hopeful about beating the Titans on Sunday, but why the door to the playoffs isn’t entirely shut just yet.

Broncos among the league’s best?

Starting 0-4 has been a nail in the coffin to every team faced with it outside of one, the 1992 San Diego Chargers. Could the 2019 Broncos be the second?

Pro Football Focus believes the chances of that happening aren’t too bad. As a team, the Broncos hold the league’s ninth-best overall grade (78.5), behind teams like the Patriots, Saints, Eagles, 49ers and Cowboys, and ahead of teams like the Chiefs, Packers, Bills and Rams.

The Broncos also posses the league’s ninth-best defense overall (75.5) according to PFF, spearheaded by the league’s third-best run-defense front (79.9) and ninth-best coverage group (73.3).

If the 25th-ranked Denver pass rush (63.2) begins to match preseason expectations — and it’s trending that way, as the last two weeks have earned their highest pass-rushing grades and over the last three weeks the pass rush is improving by 3.73 points per week — then the Broncos should have a truly special defense.

The only team left on Denver’s schedule with a higher overall grade from PFF are the Minnesota Vikings with a grade of 80.7, meaning the Broncos should be the better team in every game they play the rest of the season.

The Broncos’ high grade despite their lousy record also shows just how unlucky the Broncos have been this season. Every other team graded as a top-15 unit overall is over .500, and only seven have more than one loss.

Taylor Lewan, Nate Davis playing like turnstiles

Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan returned to the field for the Titans on Sunday as a much-needed reinforcement for the struggling line.

Rather than being a reinforcement, Lewan was a detriment, turning in a performance that earned him grades of 35.8 overall, 47.4 in pass protection, 43.3 run blocking. His overall grade is the lowest on the team among players with at least 10 snaps.

Denver should make it not only a point to attack him, but to attack the man next to him, Nate Davis. Davis, a third-round rookie out of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, has struggled just as miserably in his two starts as Lewan did in his one.

Davis’ grades of 36.8 overall, 50.3 in pass protection and 39.9 in the run game make him the only other player within 14 points of Lewan’s horrendous grade. This makes the left side of the Titans’ offensive line a glaring weakness the Broncos must exploit.

This is especially true when you consider how well the right side of the Titans’ line is playing. Of the top-five highest-graded offensive players for the Titans (Min. 20 snaps), three are offensive linemen. Those are: the center, Ben Jones; the right guard, Roger Saffold; and the right tackle, Jack Conklin.