Denver Broncos Weekly Update: NFL Week 2 & NFL Week 3 Preview

James Conner of Pittsburgh Steelers in game against Denver Broncos at Heinz Field September 2020

In this week’s Denver Broncos news update, let’s look back at NFL Week 2 action against the Pittsburgh Steelers as well as look ahead to NFL Week 3, with the Broncos hosting Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Finally, let’s wrap up with a few season-long storylines to keep an eye on in other Broncos news, including Drew Lock’s health (and what that might mean for the team moving forward), other injury updates, and draft positioning, as well as what that might mean for NFL betting.

NFL Week 2 Recap: Pittsburgh Steelers 26, Denver Broncos 21

In NFL Week 2 action, the Broncos had their chances against the Steelers but could not come through, falling 26-21. With NFL betting lines for the game generally in the neighborhood of Steelers -7 and a total of 42, The Broncos exceeded expectations for a second consecutive week and are now 2-0 ATS, with an under (in Week 1) and an over (in Week 2).

The big storylines from the loss were injuries and a shaky offensive line. In addition to the huge injury to QB Drew Lock, who suffered a sprained AC joint in his right (throwing) shoulder and is now expected to miss three to five weeks, WR Courtland Sutton, DE, DeMarcus Walker, DT Dre’Mont Jones all left the game with injuries and did not return. Sutton is done for the season, and Walker and Jones are questionable for NFL Week 3 action. WR Jerry Jeudy also left the game with a rib injury, but later returned. He is expected to play Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Equally concerning in Sunday’s loss was how porous the offensive line was, which gave up 7 sacks and a further 18 quarterback hits. This is especially disappointing given the line had held the Titans to only 5 quarterback hits (and no sacks) in Week 1.

NFL Week 3 Preview: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Denver Broncos

Ronald Jones of Tampa Bay Buccaneers rushes past Bryce Callahan of Denver Broncos at Empower Field September 2020

Given that Tom Brady is regularly one of the biggest draws in online sports betting, there figures to be heavy action in the NFL Week 3 match between Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the host Denver Broncos. As a Patriot, Brady went 7-6 in his career against Denver, and with the current NFL betting line around Buccaneers -6 (and total around 43), NFL betting picks stand to be pretty even between the two squads. Especially as each sportsbook casino decides how to handle the many Broncos injuries and Brady’s still-developing connection with his new teammates. Let’s look at a few keys for each team.

Denver Broncos key matchups

For the Broncos, key matchups will include both lines. Not only does the offensive line need to do a much better job of protecting quarterback Jeff Driskel (who took six sacks and was hit another 17 times despite not starting the game), but the defensive front will need to disrupt Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and the contain the Tampa Bay Buccaneers suddenly potent run game if they wish to avoid going 0-3.

There are also a few historical matchups at play here. Prior to Sunday, the Broncos hadn’t opened 0-2 in consecutive seasons since 1965. Last year, they opened 0-4 — something they’d only done three times previously in 1964, 1994, and 1999. They’ve never opened 0-5, and while they should be scheduled in Week 4 against the Jets and possibly in Week 6 against the Dolphins, they still have a rough schedule ahead to their Week 8 bye (traveling to the Patriots in Week 5 and hosting the Chiefs in Week 7). If they can get a win here and another win next week against the Jets, there’s room for hope. Otherwise, though, it could be a long season — and falling short of the NFL betting picks for a 7-win (or better) season seems likely.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers key matchups

For the visiting Buccaneers, NFL Week 3 keys include limiting mistakes, getting Tom Brady and his receivers going, establishing the run game, and getting ahead defensively. Let’s look at each key briefly, as well as how the opposition might counter.

  • Limiting mistakes. Brady’s two picks in Week 1 were a big part of the Bucs’ loss to the Saints. If the Broncos can force some takeaways, that will be huge; they went 4-2 last season when winning the turnover battle.
  • Getting Brady and his receivers going. In Week 1, Brady struggled to develop a connection with his receivers. Against the Panthers in NFL Week 2, Brady targeted 9 different receivers while still connecting regularly with star WR Mike Evans (7 catches for 104 yards, including a 50-yard bomb and 23-yard score). With WR Chris Godwin expected back, it’ll be even more important that the Broncos take away Brady’s options. Getting an effective pass rush going will be key for Denver.
  • Establishing the run game. RB Leonard Fournette rumbled for 103 yards on 12 carries last week and the Broncos cannot afford to get gouged on the ground, especially given Brady’s historic effectiveness with play-action.
  • Getting ahead defensively. Part of the reason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers got out to such a fast start last week (21-0 at half against the Panthers) is that their defense got a fast start; the longest Panthers’ drive in the first half was seven plays, and that ended with an interception. Two other drives ended with a fumble and a turnover on downs, respectively. The Broncos similarly got out to a slow start (down 17-3 at the half) against the Steelers, and they cannot afford to do so for a second consecutive week.

Big picture storylines to watch

Noah Fant of Denver Broncos in action at Heinz Field September 2020

As the 2020 NFL season is starting to truly shape up, let’s take a look at a few of the storylines we’ll continue to monitor in coming weeks to get a better sense of this year’s Broncos team.

Drew Lock’s health

Lock suffered a sprained AC joint in his right (throwing) shoulder and is expected to miss three to five weeks. As we noted in our AFC West season preview, Lock has a great deal of potential — but having only thrown 194 NFL passes so far, GM John Elway and the Denver Broncos organization cannot yet know if he’s truly a franchise quarterback. He also needs time to develop chemistry with the skill-position players, including Pro Bowler Courtland Sutton, rookies Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler, tight ends Noah Fant (who is having a breakout season) and Jake Butt, and running backs Phillip Lindsay, Melvin Gordon, and Royce Freeman. The team loaded with skill position potential that — when combined with a stacked defensive front — had online sports betting reflecting their dark horse playoff potential. With Lock out for the foreseeable future and the season off to a 0-2 start, however, that looks at least a year away.

In the interim, it remains to be seen who the Broncos might choose to pick up for quarterback help, whether via the waiver wire or trade. NFL betting odds and prop bets regarding the team’s uncertain quarterback future are likely available for online sports betting at your sportsbook casino of choice.

Injury updates

The Broncos may rival the San Francisco 49ers as the most-injured team in the league right now; consider the following players that are likely to miss NFL Week 3 action or are at least questionable:

  • Drew Lock, QB. The franchise quarterback’s injury is a major concern. See above.
  • Courtland Sutton, WR. Sutton is done for the season after tearing his ACL against the Steelers; the Pro Bowl receiver is a major weapon that may be sorely missed.
  • Von Miller, OLB. The cornerstone of the formidable Broncos’ pass rush, Miller is expected to miss the rest of the season.
  • Phillip Lindsay, RB. The Denver star back is expected to miss several more weeks with turf toe.
  • AJ Bouye, CB. The star cornerback is on the injured reserve list and is out indefinitely with a dislocated right shoulder.
  • DeMarcus Walker, DE. Walker’s calf injury suffered against the Steelers means he is questionable for NFL Week 3.
  • Mark Barron, DB. Barron’s hamstring injury means he’s also questionable against the Buccaneers.
  • Dre’Mont Jones, DT. Jones left the Steelers game with a knee injury and is questionable for this weekend.

That doesn’t include the following players on injured reserve (some of whom are on the opt-out list): Austin Fort, TE; Kyle Peko, DT; Justin Strnad, LB; Joel Heath, DE; Jonathan Harris, DE; Ja’Wuan James, T.

Draft position

With an 0-2 start and in a tough AFC West, the Denver Broncos are currently looking less likely for the playoffs (NFL betting odds for a Broncos playoff berth, which started the season at +150, are now averaging +323). If they fall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as expected (current NFL betting lines favor the Bucs -6), a top draft pick will be far more likely than a playoff berth — only five teams have ever made the playoffs after an 0-3 start, and only one in the past 20 years. By ESPN’s FPI, the Broncos are currently projected for a 6-10 season and the 8th pick in next spring’s draft.

X