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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos are perfect since Drew Lock took over as the starting quarterback.
Sure, it’s only been a week, but hope is in the air in Broncos Country.
Will Drew build off his impressive debut and carry the team to a 2-0 record under him, or will a harsh reality set in?
The DNVR Broncos Crew breaks it down.
WHAT WILL DREW LOCK’S STAT LINE BE IN HIS SECOND START?
22/32, 244 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception — Hate the term or love it, Drew Lock has some gamer qualities to him and this is a big-time opportunity for the kid.
If he’s able to go toe-to-toe with DeShaun Watson, the Broncos’ rookie quarterback is going to open eyes all over the country, and I think he knows that. Lock is going to bring his A-game on Sunday, and he’s going up against a defense that’s going to give him an opportunity to do so.
Drew balls out and really gets the “Broncos have their guy” narrative rolling.
22/34, 254 yards, 2 total touchdowns, 1 interception, 2 sacks, 34 rushing yards — The Broncos offense is going to have to be more aggressive to keep up with Deshaun Watson. And thus Rich Scangarello will be forced to at least semi-unlock Drew.
Despite it being his first road start, Lock will build off his impressive debut with an even better performance against a below-average defense. Denver’s offense will stretch out Houston’s defense with the deep ball, allowing Lock to display his wheels on the ground.
Not only will Lock have impressive stats, he’ll lead a go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter capped off with a two-point conversion.
19/37, 271 yards, 1 touchdown pass, 2 interceptions, 4 sacks, 29 rushing yards — The Broncos have been fast starters and slow finishers throughout the season, but if the Texans offense exploits the Broncos’ injury-wrecked defense and builds a lead, Sunday’s game flow could be reversed, with Lock racking up some numbers in an attempt to bring the Broncos back.
Expect Texans defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel to try and confuse Lock and contain the rookie quarterback. Houston has faced rookie starting quarterbacks three times this year — Jacksonville’s Gardner Minshew twice and Carolina’s Kyle Allen, and corralled all three. The Texans surrendered an average of 10.3 points in those games.
WITH DEREK WOLFE OUT, WHICH DEFENSIVE LINEMAN WILL HAVE THE MOST SACKS THE FINAL FOUR GAMES?
Dre’Mont Jones — This is more of a gut feeling than anything but Jones has been more active in his last three games, posting a sack and an interception in that time. Up to this point, he’s only played in about 30 percent of the snaps, and that figures to go up down the stretch.
I see the rookie playing well enough in the last four games to get mentioned among the “Broncos young core” that will be talked about all offseason.
DeMarcus Walker… — The former second-round pick is tied with Shelby Harris for the second-most sacks (4) among Broncos defensive lineman, only trailing Derek Wolfe’s seven.
The only difference is Walker’s played in 21 percent of the team’s snaps, while Shelby’s played in 56 percent of the defensive snaps and Wolfe has racked up 67 percent.
Walker was a contributor to Vic Fangio’s defense for the first eight games of the season before becoming injured and then losing his job to an improved Adam Gotsis, causing him to miss the last four games. But with Wolfe out for the remainder of the season, Walker will go from the bench to Denver’s most productive pass-rushing defensive lineman.
In the first half of the season, Walker was on pace to finish with a remarkable eight sacks. He’ll be the one to pick up where he and Wolfe left off.
DeMarcus Walker — According to Pro Football Focus, 270 interior defensive linemen and edge rushers have rushed the passer at least 50 times this year. None has a better sack rate than Walker, who has one sack every 20.3 pass-rush snaps. His pressure rate of one every 8.1 pass-rush snaps places him a respectable 63rd in that category, and 11th among 141 interior defensive linemen with at least 50 pass-rush snaps.
More opportunities will translate to more sacks for Walker, and it would come as no surprise if he posts three sacks the rest of the season and matches Wolfe’s season-long total.
RESULT VS. TEXANS (-9.5)
Broncos 27, Texans 24 — As a source told me this week, the Broncos are more energized by Drew Lock than any other quarterback since Peyton Manning. The young QB has given them new life.
I expect to see an inspired Broncos team and, as mentioned above, a driven Drew Lock.
Denver goes into Houston and shocks the Texans behind a couple of very big plays from Denver on both sides of the ball.
Texans 27, Broncos 25 — Houston’s offense is flat-out dangerous led by MVP-candidate Deshaun Watson. But their defense is as weak as their offense is scary, making for a potential shootout—at least in Denver’s standards—in the Texas heat.
Lock will once again be impressive, breaking the 25-point barrier Denver’s been unable to overcome, but Deshaun will be too much for Vic’s depleted defense at the end of the game.
The Broncos lose but feel optimistic about their rookie quarterback and encouraged with the state of their team after battling closely with a then 9-4 Houston team.
Houston 31, Denver 16 — Aside from the second half in Minnesota, the Broncos’ injury-plagued defense has endured relatively few moments in which the dam has burst. That could change Sunday against a Houston offense whose strengths strike at the heart of the Broncos’ soft spots — particularly in their relatively inexperienced cornerback depth behind Chris Harris Jr. Harris could contain Hopkins, but then Deshaun Watson would simply look to Will Fuller and Kenny Stills.
Meanwhile, Houston’s defense has had its way with rookie QBs this year, which could portend a frustrating day for Lock and Denver’s offense.