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Broncos Roundtable: Would you rather have Denver's roster or Cleveland's roster?

Zac Stevens Avatar
December 14, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There’s no other way to put it, Sunday’s 14-20 loss to the 3-10 San Francisco 49ers was embarrassing.

But if the 6-7 Denver Broncos plan on getting their season back on track, they must have a bounce-back performance in Week 15.

And what an interesting matchup Week 15 presents.

Not only are the Cleveland Browns playing better than their 5-7-1 record, the game will have a college-like feel to it as the Broncos welcome in the Heisman winner from just a year ago for a showdown on Saturday night.

Can Denver keep their eyes on the playoffs? Or will Baker Mayfield continue his impressive rookie season by once again pulling off an upset in front of a national audience on Saturday?

The BSN Broncos crew breaks it down.

Which roster would you rather have: Cleveland’s or Denver’s?

Ryan

Brownies — This is only really a question because the Browns are the Browns, and the Broncos are the Broncos, but Cleveland clearly has more talent on their roster.

Beyond the talent, Cleveland has stocked up on with high draft picks for years, they have their guy at the only position that truly matters. With all due respect to Case Keenum, if you put Keenum on one roster and Mayfield on another, I’m probably going to take Mayfield every time.

Heck, you could make the argument that Cleveland’s backup quarterback is better than Denver’s starter. That makes this pretty easy.

Sorry, Broncos.

Zac

Easy, Browns — Since Cleveland has been so bad for so long, they’ve accumulated a wealth of draft capital throughout the years. Until recently, they’ve done a magnificent job of not capitalizing on this, but that’s changed quickly.

Much like the Broncos, the Browns are thriving behind their young talent at corner, pass rusher and running back.

The major difference is the Browns have their quarterback of the future with the Heisman winner and No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield.

And a quarterback is really the only thing that matters.

Andre

It’s all about the QB — These two rosters aren’t all that dissimilar. The edge rushing duos are pretty special on both sides, though Denver has a clear advantage. At full strength, both teams have a true high-end WR and CB, the Broncos have the edge at corner with Chris Harris Jr over Denzel Ward, while Jarvis Landry ranks higher than Emmanuel Sanders, especially after this Achilles injury. 

Browns and Broncos stack up similarly at running back, an area where I’d give Denver the edge again, and both have similar talent levels in the trenches, same goes with a versatile young safety in Justin SimmonsCleveland has Jabrill Peppers.

Where the Browns have a clear advantage is at tight end and QB. QB is the real difference maker and will be massively important as these teams potentially fight over coaches in the offseason. The Browns have their QB of the future in Baker Mayfield; the Broncos have a whole lot to figure out behind center.

KEY MATCHUP

Ryan

Baker Mayfield vs. Denver’s secondary — Remember when Nick Mullens threw for 332 yards, two touchdowns and accumulated a 102.1 passer rating? That was fun.

That was Nick Mullens; this is Baker Mayfield.

To everyone’s surprise, it turns out Chris Harris Jr. was pretty essential to the Broncos’ secondary, and this week, they’ll have Tramaine Brock and Jamar Taylor and their No. 2 and No. 3 cornerbacks.

Oh, and Cleveland has a pretty good tight end in David Njoku.

If the Broncos are going to win this one, they’re going to need their secondary players to make some big plays. If they let Baker complete quick, easy throws, they are going to be in a world of trouble.

Zac

Nick Chubb vs. Denver’s run defense — Mayfield’s been nothing short of remarkable since Gregg Williams took over after Week 8. But he’s had significant help from his running back Nick Chubb — who has also been remarkable the past five games.

The Browns have been their best when they’ve played complementary football on the offensive side of the ball.

In the last five games, the two times Mayfield has been forced to throw more than 26 times, Cleveland has lost.

If the Broncos can take away Nick Chubb — Bradley’s cousin — and let Bradley and Von Miller pin their ears back on Baker for most of the game, they’ll be sitting pretty.

Andre

Browns pass rush vs. Denver’s OL  The Broncos OL had been pretty good since the bye week, until they faced the San Francisco 49ers and got exposed, especially on the interior. The Browns will present a tough test even if defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi is out injured. Garett Bolles and Jared Veldheer will have their hands full with Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah off the edge in Gregg Williams’ aggressive defense.

This matchup will matter a lot in the Broncos getting back to running the ball too. A week ago, the Niners stopped the run by implementing lots of big nickel formations with three safeties, which completely shut down outside runs and the interior OL just wasn’t athletic or powerful enough to establish anything up the middle. For Denver to have any chance to win that’ll have to change.

THE BRONCOS WIN IF

Ryan

Case Keenum outplays Baker Mayfield — It’s a tall order, but the Broncos are going to need a lot offense to win this one. If Denver’s $18 million-quarterback can go punch for punch with the No. 1 overall pick, the Broncos are going to have a shot to pull out the game in the fourth quarter.

If we see the 24-of-42 for 178 yards and a touchdown Case Keenum from Santa Clara, the Broncos are going to be in for a rough one.

Zac

They rattle Baker — In the Gregg Williams era, Baker has been flawless in their three wins, throwing eight touchdowns to no interceptions and a total of one sack.

In their two losses, however, Mayfield has been shaken, tossing four interceptions to only three touchdowns with two sacks.

Getting after Baker in the air and in the pocket will be key to not only stopping the Browns passing game but making their offense thrive on the ground — an area Denver has been stout against in recent weeks.

Andre

They establish the run and eliminate mistakes in coverage — The Broncos ability to pass the ball and stop the pass have become extremely problematic. Simply put, if they can’t improve they won’t beat anyone moving forward.

With a depleted receiver group the Broncos must run the ball effectively, so they can get more creative, implement more play actions and find some big plays in the passing game.

Defensively, the breakdowns in coverage last week were embarrassing particularly because the culprits were veterans like Todd Davis and Darian Stewart, not the journeymen corners. Give Mayfield easy reads, and he’ll light you up, but if you can disguise some and take away his primary reads, you’ll have a chance. Improving in the air is crucial on both sides of the ball, simple as that.

RESULT (DENVER -3)

Ryan

Browns 35, Broncos 17 — Sorry, folks, I just have a feeling that the wheels come off this week.

Every time I close my eyes, I see visions of Baker slicing and dicing the Broncos’ Chris Harris-less defense with 10 to 15-yard passes over the middle of the field.

On the other side, I can’t get the picture of Case Keenum looking powerless without Phillip Lindsay carrying the load—despite having single coverage all over the field—out of my mind.

Maybe I’m holding the 49ers loss against them too much, but I just have a feeling this one gets out of hand.

Zac

Broncos 24, Browns 23 — They can’t lose to the Cleveland Browns — who went 0-16 just last year — at home, right?

Yes, yes they certainly can.

But after coming out flatter than a flat tire last week, the Broncos will bounce back on Saturday night under the bright home lights of Mile High.

The Browns won’t be a tough out, but Brandon McManus’ leg will keep Denver’s playoff hopes alive.

Andre

Browns 24, Broncos 21 — This is one of the toughest predictions we’ve had to make all year, and it’s telling how the oddsmakers have gone with the standard three-point advantage for the home team.

The Broncos are clearly a different squad at Mile High, and the Browns are 1-and-5 on the road.  It might be too reactionary, but Denver’s just not good without Sanders and Harris, and against a Browns offense that’s been more creative that should make a big difference.

It’ll be close, but given how hard it is for Denver’s offense to score points these days, Cleveland is the winner.

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