I think we learned a lot about the Raiders in the Monday Night game, such as “they’re really bad”. But we didn’t learn as much about the Broncos, except that they played three bad teams. And a fourth one is coming up next week. So after three straight blowouts, this team is still somewhat of a mystery – is Jake Plummer really that good? Can Portis last the entire season? Will the defense continue to play like demons possessed? Or have they just benefited from a cream puff schedule? Let’s see what a gaze into the microscope will tell us …
|Team Stats (numbers in parentheses are NFL Ranking)
Note: These are last year’s stats. I will begin using current stats next week.
|Rushing Offense||141.6 (5)||21 (t5)|
|Passing Offense||239.0 (8)||21 (18)|
|Rushing Defense||93.1 (4)||21 (32)|
|Passing Defense||208.6 (17)||15 (t2)|
|Turnover Stats||Upcoming Schedule|
|22 takeaways (29)
27 giveaways (t11)
-5 overall (t20)
When I first looked at the Broncos schedule before the season started I thought, “hmm, not bad.” But three weeks into the season, road games against Minnesota and Baltimore aren’t looking so easy anymore. This week’s game against Detroit is a classic donut game – a weak opponent coming into town between two HUGE divisional games. It’s very possible for the Broncos to overlook the Lions this week. If they can keep their intensity in that game, and get a win in Kansas City the next week, watch out. They will be on a big roll and have a chance to prove it against some of the better AFC teams out there.
Jake Plummer, QB – After the Bengals game, when he threw for 115 yards and 3 INTs, I was calling him “Jake the Mistake”. After the Chargers game, when he hurt his shoulder by simply diving out of bounds, I was ready to dub him “Jake the Cupcake”. Now that he has thoroughly dismantled and embarrassed the Raiders on Monday Night Football, I have no idea what to call him. How about just Plummer – as in “Call the Plummer, honey, we need to open the floodgates on these $#@^%&!”. Seriously, I am bewildered by this guy. I’ve seen him play three completely different games now, and I have no idea which one is the real Jake. You will get some big scores if you start him, but keep in mind that he could have a 3 INT bomb at any time.
Steve Beuerlein, QB – Beuerlein is a solid, steady backup, and will put up good numbers if he gets the chance to play. Plummer’s shoulder injury is apparently not a concern, but he did injure that shoulder by simply diving out of bounds. He wasn’t even piled on or rolled on by a defensive player. Beuerlein is available on waivers in most leagues, so if you need QB help, be ready to scoop him up if Jake should falter.
Clinton Portis, RB – Portis was well on his way to fulfilling my prediction of #1 overall back, and then he got injured. This is one of the most mysterious injuries I have ever seen. The guy looks fine on the field – he’s running, cutting, stretching, no problem. But he must be in some severe pain or something, because he didn’t come out from the locker room at halftime in either the Charger or Raider game. My instinct tells me that the coaching staff is just holding him back as a precautionary measure, to give him time to heal. We’ll know by the Chiefs game (week 5) just how healthy he is, because the Broncos don’t figure to have the luxury of a 14-point first quarter lead in that game.
Mike Anderson, RB – Marine Mike is another injury mystery. He went down in a bad-looking way during Monday Night’s game, the trainers initially thought he might have ACL and MCL damage, but suddenly he’s declared ready to go and practiced on Wednesday. ACK! This running back carousel, it’s spinning! Please, make it stop, I want to get off! Anderson will be cleared to play against the Lions, but whether or not he will play is up to coach Shanahan. And believe me, Shanny’s not telling.
Quentin Griffin, RB – This rookie out of Oklahoma was filling the backfield along with Reuben Droughns in the fourth quarter on Monday night. At least we can say one thing for sure – he’s not injured! He has recovered from a broken fibula suffered in training camp and could be the next big rookie RB sensation for the Broncos. But again, the only one who knows if he will get any playing time is Mike Shanahan. Griffin could a good pickup for your fantasy team, but it’s going to be tough deciding which Bronco RB to start for the next few weeks.
Rod Smith, WR – Hot Rod is still the #1 receiver on this team, and an excellent #2 on your fantasy team. Those of you who had to swallow his 1-for-7 performance against the Raiders, remember that he was ejected from the game for accidentally punching an official. He will be back and catching 5-10 passes a game for the rest of the season.
Ed McCaffrey, WR – Eddie Mac is the most popular player ever to wear a Bronco uniform. At least one without the number 7 on it. Although he is tough, gritty, and will pay any price to pick up a first down, he has lost a step. He still runs good routes and can get open over the middle, take a big hit, and hold onto the ball. But he can’t provide much for your fantasy team any more. Eddie has a good future ahead of him as a sportscaster/pitchman/all-around good guy in Denver. Here’s betting he starts that future after this season.
Ashley Lelie, WR – I honestly thought he was a year away, but Lelie is just too talented to keep off the field in Denver. He has become Plummer’s big-play guy, and he definitely has the speed and hands to make some pretty touchdown grabs this year. If you have him on your roster, find a starting spot for him. He may not make those big plays every week, but you won’t want to miss the two or three weeks this year where he has a monster game. It’s coming, and soon.
Shannon Sharpe, TE – Rounding out the receiving options is team spokesman and class clown Shannon Sharpe. The man who popularized the foam horse head is finishing his career in Denver, and finishing it in style, thank you very much. Sharpe stays in excellent shape, and is still a mismatch against linebackers, safetys, and even some corners in the NFL. Sharpe’s stats have been good for a TE, and expect him to keep it up, because Plummer seems to have a nasty habit of overthrowing him when he’s wide open. Sharpe could have easily caught 5 balls for 100 yards in the opener against Cincy, if not for badly thrown passes.
Defense/Special Teams – So far, this has really been the difference between this year’s Broncos and last year’s. New defensive coordinator Larry Coyer has lit a fire under his men, and returned to an attacking style that puts more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Last year’s defense ranked well statistically, but too often they couldn’t get off the field on 3rd down. This year, they have forced opponents into 3-and-outs early, resulting in big leads and easy wins. They have the capability to score on defense with their speedy linebackers, but don’t expect much from the return game. If you’re looking for defensive help, this is a solid fantasy squad that could be available on waivers.
The Bottom Line
As I said earlier, this team is still a bit of a mystery. They will continue to score points in bunches, but trying to start the right players from this offense can be an exercise in frustration. That balance in their attack makes the Broncos a very hard team to prepare for. Keep your eyes on the injury report, and don’t believe a word Mike Shanahan says. The Broncos haven’t had a serious test yet, so it’s hard to predict how good they can be. We will know soon enough when they visit the Kansas City Chiefs on October 5th.
Next Week … The Dallas Cowboys are Under the ‘Scope. A Monday Night win over the Giants, on the road no less, was a big boost to this team’s confidence. Bill Parcells has the ‘Boys fired up and playing well. I’ll take a look at some of the exciting young players on this team, and see where you might be able to find some fantasy value.