Peyton Manning has said several times after blowout wins this season that he believes this team will keep getting better.
He’s kidding, right? All the Broncos’ offense did last Sunday against the Eagles was set a franchise record for points in a game with 52. PFM even got some scoring help from the special teams unit as Trindon Holliday and Steven Johnson found their way into the end zone.
I get the idea that Manning has yet to fully click with Wes Welker and Julius Thomas the way he already does with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. If and when that does happen, Denver opponents might as well not even show up.
Eagles’ coach Chip Kelly appeared stunned nearly the entire game. His defense looked confused, inept, exposed, and by the second quarter, exhausted. DeMeco Ryans, a Philadelphia linebacker who had a front row seat during the shellacking, downplayed what the Broncos’ offense did, saying that his defense beat themselves.
Apparently allowing 472 yards and 35 first downs has nothing to do with a quality offensive team.
PFM now takes his club to Dallas for a matchup with Tony Romo and the inconsistent Cowboys. On paper, this has the potential to be another route for the Broncos. But since Denver must travel, you have to give the Cowboys at least a fighter’s chance.
The Cowboys have to be nearly perfect on the offensive side of the ball to have any shot of staying in the game. Romo has a dynamic first option in Dez Bryant and the annually reliable Jason Witten at his disposal. And running back DeMarco Murray might be on his way to a career year as long as he stays healthy.
With Miles Austin nursing a hamstring injury, those are the three players the Broncos’ defense must work to contain. I’d bet that for the Cowboys to even keep it close, they’ll need two of those guys to have breakout games. Denver defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio just has to make sure that all three don’t go off.
Even as a veteran in the league now, Romo continues to garner criticism on a weekly basis. Will he perform like a top five quarterback or be a mediocre disappointment? There may not be a starting quarterback in the NFL that has the disparity in performance than Romo from game-to-game.
Romo could be having the greatest game of his career and then suddenly turn into the defense’s best friend. There will definitely be a pass or two where a Broncos’ defender will seem like Romo’s intended receiver. It’s important that when he makes a poor decision, the Broncos capitalize.
Defensively, the Cowboys have done some good things. They’ve forced a respectable eight turnovers and sacked the quarterback 14 times, ranking second in the NFC. But they let Phillip Rivers have his way with them last week.
So if the vanilla offensive weapons of the Chargers can embarrass the Cowboys, I wonder what PFM and his 45 points per game offense can do.
Three keys to the game for Denver:
- Help Clark with Ware. DeMarcus Ware has been one of the most feared defensive ends for the last decade. Broncos’ left tackle Chris Clark has done a nice job through two weeks after taking over for Ryan Clady. But that doesn’t mean John Fox wants his new starter in regular one-on-one situations with the perennial Pro Bowler.
- Continue stopping the run. From Ray Rice to LeSean McCoy and running backs in between, the Broncos have been stout against the run. A similar performance against Murray tilts the game toward Denver a lot more.
- Toughest game yet? The Cowboys have a team filled with past Pro Bowlers. They normally play well at home and have a decent crowd. But the Broncos have beaten teams by 22, 18, 16 and 32 points up to
this point. So the prediction of “close” is not exactly accurate here.
My prediction: Broncos-41, Cowboys-27