After losing their first game of the season last week in Indianapolis, the Denver Broncos lucked out drawing the Washington Redskins in Week 8 and then having a bye a week before they enter they meat of their conference schedule. At a time when the Broncos have time to reflect and adjust, could this small bit of adversity and fortunate timing catapult the Broncos into the playoffs with the best record in the AFC?
Not only do the Redskins have a very porous defense – they rank in the bottom twenty of the NFL against both the pass and run – but also their once feared offense has lacked the explosion they demonstrated a year ago and have shown the tendency to turn the ball over. As a result they have broken the 30-point mark only once this season (the Broncos average 42.2), and held only one team (the Oakland Raiders) to under 27 points.
Offensively for the Broncos, there is little doubt that Peyton Manning will be hyper-focused this week, pushing his teammates to the limit and anxious to prove to the NFL that last week’s stumble was simply a bump in the road. However, despite the elevated motivation for Manning and his cadre of offensive weapons, Washington already allows the third most points per game, and their starting safety Brandon Meriwether will be suspended for the contest. Consequently, it should be a high scoring affair with big plays available across the middle of the field – especially for a versatile tight end like Julius Thomas.
Defensively, this is a good time for both Von Miller and Champ Bailey to get back into their groove after subpar performances in their respective return games. After basically missing the first half of the season, both Champ and Miller looked out of game shape and not as physical as normal. With a week, or two in Champ’s case, of full speed practices and hard-hitting games, they should be ready to once again dominate on the defensive side of the ball.
The key for Von Miller is as simple as having a really solid week of practice and improving his fitness coming into Week 8. As the game reaches its latter stages, Von’s lightning quick first step could be a big problem against either of the Washington’s big tackles – Trent Williams (6-foot-5 325-pounds) or Tyler Polumbus (6-foot-8 300-pounds). The Broncos have struggled to get to the quarterback this year, and sacks are usually a statistic that comes in bunches. This would be a great time for Von to start rolling.
As for Bailey, his game drastically improved from Week 6 to Week 7, and another big leap could have sweeping consequences for one of the worst passing defenses in the league. His ability to break on passes and use his football intellects to not only confuse quarterbacks, but also to read offenses and make impact plays, is exactly what this defense needs.
Entering the bye week with a little momentum and some confidence that key players are returning is huge. In the second half of the season, the Broncos’ must face the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs as well as a sneakily dangerous San Diego Chargers twice. These two weeks between the Redskins game and the team’s bye week provide an opportunity for the Broncos’ coaching staff to adjust and improve before the team’s final playoff push.
All that being said, this is not a gimme game. Robert Griffin III has bounced back well from a rough early start to the season in recent weeks, throwing ten touchdowns to only three interceptions in the last five games and averaging 80.5 yards rushing per game in the last two. However, if the Broncos play to their potential this should be a game they win by a big margin and gain back some of that red-hot momentum they possessed at the start of the season.
Written by John Spina. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @jsspina24.