A Betting Analysis of the Denver Broncos Offense
When Denver’s offense does well, it all starts with their offensive line — and when they play poorly, you can lay the blame at precisely the same door. One of the reasons why the Denver passing game has been so inconsistent this season is the fact that the line has done an up-and-down job of protecting the passer, whether it’s been Peyton Manning or Brock Osweiler. Against the Steelers, though, they did a particularly fine job, with each lineman only permitting one hurry of Manning — and there was only one sack the whole game.
— Broncos TV (@BroncosTV) January 19, 2016
Run blocking was a little less successful, as the line did a middling job, with the exception of Evan Mathis, a guard who earned a +5.2 run block grade for the game. He earned a 97.3 grade out of 100 this season, ranking #1 in the NFL. However, the running game struggled. The Broncos did gain 110 yards on the ground on 31 carries, but that becomes much less respectable when you take out the 34-yard run that C.J. Anderson had. Denver’s running backs only averaged 1.45 yards after contact per attempt. The running backs also didn’t do much as receivers, as Anderson only caught two balls for 11 yards, dropping another target, and Ronnie Hillman dropped the only pass that Manning sent his way.
Keep an eye on SMU’s Emmanuel Sanders when Denver has the ball. He has been the best wide receiver on the team all year. He gained an average of 2.1 yards per route run for the season. Against the Steelers, he was the only receiver who had a decent game, gaining 85 yards on five catches on eight targets.
So where was Demaryius Thomas? Remember him — the one who threatened the collusion lawsuit along with Dallas’ Dez Bryant if he didn’t get that big contract before the start of the season, instead of having to “settle” for that franchise tag? Playoff time found him largely absent from play. He did average 2.2 yards per route run for the season, good for #8 in the NFL, but he has been less than stellar in crunch time. When the Broncos met the Patriots earlier in the season, Pats cornerback Logan Ryan shut him down to just one catch out of eight targets. Will he be able to do more in the AFC Championship?
The key for the Denver offense will be how the running game can do against the Patriots’ defense. If the Broncos can establish some semblance of a rushing attack, the play action will be credible, and the Denver receivers will be able to find some openings against the Patriots’ secondary. If the running backs don’t do any better than they did against the Steelers, that will put a big burden on Manning. He stood tall and delivered late in the divisional round, but it’s not likely the Patriots will be as charitable as the Steelers were.