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Broncos Roundtable: Projecting Denver's record after they were hit by injuries

Zac Stevens Avatar
September 26, 2020

DENVER — The first two weeks of the NFL season have not gone according to John Elway and the Broncos’ plan.

Denver’s 0-2 start certainly wasn’t ideal. But the mounting injuries to their Pro Bowl players and quarterback are even more damaging to the rest of their season.

Now, Denver will attempt to avoid their second-consecutive 0-3 start. The only thing that stands between Jeff Driskel and the Broncos picking up their first win of the season is Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The DNVR Broncos Crew breaks down how Sunday’s game will unfold and gives their updated season predictions in light of the recent injuries.

WHAT WILL THE BRONCOS’ FINAL RECORD BE AFTER ALL OF THE INJURIES?

Zac

5-11 — The 0-2 start doesn’t actually surprise me. In fact, before the season, I had the Broncos going 0-3 before finishing 8-5 down the stretch. Before Von Miller’s injury, I had Denver making the playoffs. I believed in what the Broncos were putting together.

But then they lost Von. And Phillip Lindsay. And A.J. Bouye. And Courtland Sutton. And Drew Lock. While Lindsay, Bouye and Lock will all be back well before the end of the season, the Broncos just simply won’t be able to float above water without them.

Assuming Lock’s out through the team’s Week 8 bye week — the worst-case projection as of now — playoffs seem to be only a dream for Denver. Until then, the key games under Jeff Driskel will be against the Jets in Week 4 and at home against the Dolphins in Week 6 — potentially Denver’s only winnable games. The number of games they win between those two games will likely be the number of wins they have once Drew returns.

If Lock does return after the bye week, the Broncos will have nine games remaining. Currently, only the Falcons and Panthers have a losing record among Denver’s final nine opponents. The Broncos will still be without Sutton and very possibly without Von.

Much like last year, Denver could start clicking at the end of the year and finish the season on a mini-run. The feeling at the end of the season will feel much better than the team’s overall record.

If Lock returns on the shorter side of the projected timeline, which there is legitimate hope he will, Denver could squeeze out an extra win or two.

Mase

7-9 — Considering that I had the Broncos pegged for an 0-3 start before the tsunami of injuries hit, the sluggish start is not a surprise. And despite the injuries, the Broncos can say with certainty that they are a few plays away from 0-2 … although it must also be said that their opponents, the Titans and Steelers, were also a few self-inflicted mistakes away from defeating the Broncos by double digits.

But the extended absences of Sutton and Miller will take their toll. Further, if Driskel cannot improve on his performances with the Cincinnati Bengals and the Detroit Lions in the last two years, then when Lock returns, the Broncos will be in a hole that will be too deep to escape — at least in terms of being a playoff team.

That said, the injury wave abates and the Broncos’ young core continues to improve, the team should fare well in the second half of the season. It could even be capable of the type of upset it pulled off in Houston last December. And if Lock proves he can be the long-term answer at quarterback, a fourth consecutive losing season would be easier to swallow. To avoid this sort of fate, the Broncos must go .500 in their next six games. That would leave them at .500 at midseason — not great, but enough to keep their postseason hopes alive.

Ryan 

8-8 — This is almost an impossible question to answer without more information on Drew Lock’s injury, but since we have to guess here, I’m going to go on the optimistic side and say Drew is back for Week 5 against the Patriots.

Without Lock, Denver is going to have an extremely hard time beating teams they aren’t favored against, and those opportunities are going to be few and far between. With Lock, they should have a chance in every game they play.

With that in mind, if Lock is out until after the Bye Week, this team could very well be staring at 5-11 or worse.

If Jeff Driskel and the boys can simply beat the attrocious Jets, they’ll—remarkably—be off to a better start than they were last year when they won seven games, and that’s with half of their games being started by a zombie named Joe Flacco. While it feels like it may be time to panic already, if this team gets their quarterback back in a timely manner, they arent going to be as bad as everyone thinks they are right now.

FINAL SCORE PREDICTIONS VS BUCCANEERS (-6)

Zac

Buccaneers 27, Broncos 16 — Yes, Tom Brady historically struggles in Denver. In fact, he’s a whopping 4-7 in his career playing in the Mile High City. But being 5,280 feet above sea level or having 5,700 fans in the stands won’t be enough to take down Brady this time.

While Tampa Bay still hasn’t hit their stride yet, the Broncos are trending in the wrong direction thanks to all of their injuries.

It’s Jeff Driskel versus Tom Brady. Too much will have to go the Broncos way for Driskel beat the future Hall-of-Fame quarterback in his ninth career start.

Mase

Buccaneers 30, Broncos 20 — First, understand this: Brady started this season with statistically mediocre production, and that mirrors his 2019 form with the Patriots. In the last 365 days, Brady’s regular-season passer rating of 81.7 ranks 32nd of 44 quarterbacks with at least 75 attempts in that span. He ranks 38th in yardage per attempt, 35th in completion percentage and has thrown at least one interception in his last four games, including the wild-card loss to the Titans last January.

Do not expect Brady to recapture his 2016-17 form; those days are likely gone forever as Brady speeds toward his 44th birthday. But in time this season, you should expect him to improve on his production from the last 12 months as he finds a comfort zone with wide receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, along with tight end O.J. Howard.

Meanwhile, the Broncos must hope that they avoid the unforced errors that helped cost them wins in Weeks 1 and 2. With two rookies seeing extensive playing time at cornerback, Driskel becoming their fifth starting quarterback in 19 games and right tackle Elijah Wilkinson matched against 2019 NFL sack leader Shaquil Barrett, the Broncos don’t have much wiggle room. A rehash of the miscues of the first two games will likely doom them in the third.

Ryan

Buccaneers 21, Broncos 17 — Broncos improve to 3-0 against the spread! But fall to 0-3 against their opponents…

While I believe the defense will do enough against Tom Brady and the Bucs offense to keep Denver in the game, including creating a turnover that leads to points, unfortunately, the gameplan against Denver’s is going to be too simple for Tampa Bay. Pack the box, stop the run and force Jeff Driskel to beat them.

It’s going to be very tough for Jeff Driskel to beat them.

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