Two weeks down, two narrow losses and an injury report the length of your arm. A disappointing start to the season for the Broncos just keeps getting worse. After defeats to the Titans and the Steelers and with several notable injuries, the Broncos now face an uphill battle for the remainder of the season.
As was known before the kick off in Week one, leading pass rusher Von Miller is to miss the entire 2020 season with an ankle injury. With that news being shared, many felt like the success of the 2020 Broncos lay in the hands of the youthful and inexperienced offence led by Quarterback Drew Lock and after two tough weeks even that now looks to be in doubt.
After exiting Sunday’s week two game in Pittsburgh in the first quarter, initial assessments believe Drew Lock’s right shoulder injury will side line him for a time frame in the region of 3 to 5 weeks. Also going down on Sunday was star wide receiver Courtland Sutton. Sutton missed the first game of the season with a shoulder injury of his own and was questionable to play at all this weekend. His season came to a disappointing, premature end when he tore his ACL on a tackle after an interception at the end of the first half. Adding to the already long list of injuries, defensive linemen Dre’mont Jones and DeMarcus Walker are both expected to miss significant time having picked up injuries on Sunday.
So… with all that being said and taking into consideration the seemingly never ending list of injuries, can the Broncos salvage this season? Let’s take a look at the factors;
· The Schedule
· Timetables for return
· The Back-ups
· Playoff chances & Divisional opponents progression
Looking ahead, the Broncos fixtures throw up both problems and opportunities. In their next five games up to their BYE week, the Broncos are set to face Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Bucs (next week), the reinvented New England Patriots and Cam Newton and a Week Seven matchup against the Super Bowl Champion Chiefs. During that stretch they also play the Dolphins and Jets where they should be expecting to pick up wins.
It is seeming like a very possible outcome that the Broncos reach their BYE week with a 2-5 record and hopefully getting Drew Lock back in Week Nine. Although not the most ideal record, the three games following the BYE are against Atlanta, Vegas and the Chargers. All three of which are winnable games and would bring the record back to .500 and give the Broncos a chance to keep themselves in the playoff picture.
Timetables for Return
Here is a rundown of who is injured, and when they are expected to return:
So in the absence of a plethora of key starters, it will be important to as to who will fill out the positions.
· Courtland Sutton – This moves Jerry Jeudy to WR1 on the Depth Chart and also promotes KJ Hamler, Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton up a spot each.
· Drew Lock – Backup QB Jeff Driskel will take the reins in Locks absence, with Royce Freeman serving as the emergency 3rd String QB.
· Philip Lindsay – In what was already a load sharing backfield, Melvin Gordon will now take full responsibility as QB1.
· Jones & Walker – Both men played on the D-Line and were both second string originally. They will now fall to the bottom of the depth chart until full healed.
Playoff Chances and Divisional Opponents Progression
As the situation in Denver continues to worsen, it is worth keeping an eye on the other teams in the division as a measure of how achievable the playoffs are.
· Kansas City Chiefs – Despite a 2-0 start, the Chiefs had to scrape by the Chargers in an overtime victory on Sunday past. The reigning Super Bowl Champs are still favourites to return to the playoffs from the AFC West but if they continue to put in lacklustre performances like they did this past weekend, a few slip ups could make the playoff race interesting if the other teams in the division can stay close.
· Las Vegas Raiders – The surprise package thus far in 2020. A spectacular MNF win against the Saints will definitely have turned heads across the league and will have put the rest of the West on high alert. Looking like the early contenders to give the Chiefs a run for their money, the Broncos will be hoping to keep pace with the Vegas Raiders as the season moves on.
· Los Angeles Chargers – The Chargers just barely survived week one with a Bengals missed Field Goal, and then fell short in overtime of week two as the Chiefs nailed a 58 yarder for the win. Justin Herbert massively impressed on his surprise debut in which he only found out he was starting after the team warm ups. Head Coach Anthony Lynn has stated that if Tyrod Taylor is healthy he will play this weekend but many believe that to be playing up to the cameras and that Herbert is now the man going forward. The Chargers have also had their own injury woes and now look like a beatable team when the Broncos play them in Weeks Eleven and Sixteen.
An extremely rough start to the season for the Broncos as they now look to dig themselves out of an 0-2 hole. The experience and tutelage of Head Coach Vic Fangio will be heavily relied upon to steer the team in the right direction moving forward. Indeed an uphill task but certainly not unsurmountable and will prove as great entertainment value for The Broncos and their fans as they work to compete in this difficult 2020 season.