ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Only four teams remain winless this NFL season, and we get to see two of them face off on Sunday.
The Denver Broncos are headed to Chicago to take on the Bears at Soldier Field. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. MDT on CBS.
Here’s how the Broncos can leave the Windy City with a win…
Let Russ Cook
The Broncos have had plenty of problems this season, but Russell Wilson isn’t one of them. (In fact, he’s lived up to his contract in 2023.)
This week, Wilson should have a chance to pad his stats.
Pick out any stat, and it will probably tell you that the Bears have one of the worst passing defenses in the NFL. They’ve allowed the third-most total passing yards and passing yards per attempt. They’ve only managed one sack, which is the worst mark in the league.
Plus, two of the Bears’ starting defensive backs—safety Eddie Jackson and cornerback Jaylon Jackson—haven’t practiced so far this week.
Meanwhile, the Chicago run defense has been solid. Free-agent linebacker additions TJ Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds gave the Bears some teeth in the running game, which has helped them to league-average numbers.
The Bears have a clear defensive weakness: defending the pass.
The Broncos have a clear offensive strength: passing the ball.
The basis of the offensive game plan should be obvious.
The Broncos might have a stud on their hands.
Second-round rookie receiver Marvin Mims Jr. has been electric in his first three games. Not only does Mims lead the Broncos with 195 receiving yards, he also leads the team with 208 yards per scrimmage.
And he’s done all of that while only being on the field for 25% of the Broncos’ offensive plays. And that needs to change this week.
The Broncos’ No. 3 receiver has averaged about 50% of the Broncos’ offensive snaps in the first three weeks of the season, and that number should be the baseline for Mims this week.
Maybe Mims isn’t ready to be a full-time player. He’s a great deep threat, but he might not be well-rounded enough or have a polished enough route tree to hold down a larger role. But after his hot start to the season, he’s earned the opportunity to show what he can do.
The Chicago offense is no good.
The Bears are 29th in yards per play, 29th in turnover rate, 30th in passer rating and 31st in passing yards. They’ve found an occasional spark in the running game, but that hasn’t been nearly enough to counteract their flaws.
When the Bears have found an ability to run the ball, it’s been quarterback Justin Fields doing the heavy lifting. His 109 rushing yards are the most of any Bear.
That’s why the Broncos should use Drew Sanders to spy Fields on Sunday.
The third-round rookie got off to a rough start in the first sustained defensive work of his career last week. He was lost on the field, and he missed three tackles while only making one.
With Josey Jewell recovering from a hip injury, Sanders is the next man up and likely starter again this week.
The Broncos can simplify the game for the 21-year-old by giving him a simple job: keep his eyes on Fields and go wherever he goes.
A handful of Sanders’ 9.5 sacks at Arkansas came as an off-ball spy. It’s a role he’s thrived in in the past and seems like an easy solution to two problems: Fields’ legs and Sanders’ inexperience.
That said, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph should have a quick trigger on Sanders if he struggles in the early going. Veteran special teamer Justin Strnad only played two defensive snaps last season, but he should be able to steady the ship if Sanders can’t handle his role.
The Broncos’ pass rush has had a slow start to the season, but going up against the Bears’ offensive line could be an opportunity to get right. Only three teams have fewer sacks than the Broncos, but only one team has allowed more sacks than the Bears.
Nik Bonitto has had some flashes this season. Randy Gregory and Jonathon Cooper, too. But Sunday should be an opportunity for the Broncos’ edge rushers to prove they’re capable of getting to the quarterback.
No missed tackles
Almost everything went wrong against the Dolphins last week. That’s the only way to give up 70 points.
But one of the Broncos’ biggest problems was missing 24 tackles, as counted by Pro Football Focus.
Essang Bassey missed five.
Alex Singleton missed four.
Drew Sanders, Delarrin Turner-Yell and Mike Purcell missed three.
Nik Bonitto and Damarri Mathis missed two.
Matt Hennignsen and Jonathon Cooper missed one.
The missed tackles have to stop if the Broncos want to find their first win of the season in Chicago.