A unique look at the Denver Broncos schedule in 2021
By: Steven Johnson
The last article in this series looked into the first five games of the Denver Broncos season for the coming year. After looking over these games, Denver took wins against the Giants, Jaguars, Jets, and Steelers. The Broncos did lose to the Baltimore Ravens, giving them a 4-1 start to the upcoming season. This article will look into the next three games, coming against their first divisional foe, a resurgent Browns team, and a Washington team struggling with many facets, including a name.
Week 6: Home against Las Vegas Raiders
Since leaving Oakland in 2017 to migrate the team to Las Vegas, The Raiders have been in the same mediocrity the Broncos have been fighting regarding winning games. The Raiders have seen several veteran players retire this offseason. Because of this, they look to lean on young talent that they have been building the team around. Last year after finishing with an 8-8 record, the Las Vegas defense took much of the blame for the losses. The raiders sat at 10th in the NFL for points scored, but a league bottom 30th in points allowed. While the offense was holding its own, the defense told a different story.
The defensive side of Las Vegas will look different this season as the Raiders drafted three safeties, a corner, and an Edge rusher in this latest draft alone. Coming into week 6, the Raiders will have established their game plan for their new defense to be successful. By this time, the young Denver offense will be settling into their identity as well. This game represents a chance for the Denver defense to show off against a competent Las Vegas offense. Touting high draft pick WR Henry Ruggs III and free-agent acquisitions John Brown and Willie Snead, they look to make up for the lost production of their departed leading receiver Nelson Agholor.
Ultimately, I believe this contest will boil down to Denver and its young offensive playmakers putting together consistent drives against an untested defense for Las Vegas. Look for deep bombs to receivers to open up the game and test the new secondary Las Vegas has put together. If the defensive side for the Broncos is as fearsome as told, then it will be up to the offense to support them and make the most of the opportunities they receive. In the end, I believe the Broncos come into their first divisional game ready and fired up against an age-old rival, putting the rest of the AFC West on notice with a dominant victory somewhere in the range of 37-20.
Week 7: @Cleveland Browns
The Browns had a resurgence in talent this past season as Baker Mayfield found his rhythm and led Cleveland to a competent offense. Behind a strong running game in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, the team flourished. Pushing to their first playoff appearance since 2002 and their first WIN since 1994, the Browns seemed to have broken their mediocrity streak of the past twenty years. The Browns were able to shock the Pittsburgh Steelers in back-to-back weeks at the very end of the season. After finishing the regular season with a win and eliminating them in the Wildcard round of the playoffs, the Browns showed the NFL they were ready to compete again.
Going into last NFL season the Browns’ offense seemed to have a deadly receiving core, including Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. before Beckham went down early on with an ACL tear that ended his season. Besides the Ravens, which are also a part of the AFC North, Cleveland’s offense presents the best opportunity at this point in the season to push the defensive side of the ball for Denver. While injury concerns may hover, a healthy Nick Chubb and Beckham Jr. throughout the season instantly turn this offense into an even more impressive lineup that should see the Browns have equal or better success in games this season.
On the opposite side of the ball, the Broncos line will be staring down a Von Miller type player on the defense in Miles Garret and will reunite with former Bronco Malik Jackson as well. The Browns secondary is formidable with the likes of Greedy Williams, Grant Delpit, and Denzel Ward as well. The Broncos’ offense might have a hard time moving the ball and will need a sound game plan for both the offense and defense. Both sides of the ball must play great if they wish to have success against a Browns team back on track. Ultimately, I believe the Broncos lose this game, not for lack of talent but simply because the Browns are moving into the higher ranks of teams in the NFL after years of struggling. The Browns seem to be a team putting all the pieces together, and the Broncos cannot pull enough together to salvage a win, losing 38-17.
Week 8: Home VS Washington Football Team
The Washington Football Team is coming off a playoff berth season from last year after winning out of a decimated NFC East division. Taking advantage of the floundering Dallas Cowboys without quarterback Dak Prescott and the Giants without star running back Saquon Barkley, Washington was able to slip into playoffs without a real quarterback at the end of last season. Cycling through Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith, and new fan-favorite Taylor Heinicke, Washington was eliminated in the first round by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Coming into the 2021 season, Washington has recruited journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and hopes to use him to get the most out of their receiving core with speedster Terry McLaurin and former Titan Adam Humphries. This Washington offense is severely untested, and while there very well might be some Fitzpatrick magic to go around, one may have questions about their ability to perform.
The one bright spot on the Washington Football Team is its defense, especially along the line. Star Chase Young has settled into a force in the NFL, and Montez Sweat helped Young along the line to combine for sixteen-and-a-half sacks this past season. The secondary boasts former Giants’ star Landon Collins and a solid corner in Kendall Fuller. Washington had its defense ranked number two overall last year, giving high hopes for the franchise on one side of the ball. If the offense can settle into a safe complementary role, the defense could do more than enough to keep them competitive.
For this game, the Broncos will have to keep the quarterback clean and avoid negative plays if they want to take advantage of this Washington team. This means that passes will be quick to avoid giving Young and company time to get in the backfield, and runs will be designed away from the brunt of the line. One would expect the Broncos to take advantage of their speedy receivers in K.J Hamler and Jerry Jeudy. Also, look for mismatches with tight end Noah Fant to spread the field and make room in the box for running backs Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams. The Denver defense should take advantage of a young offense that has yet to find its quarterback, and it will be up to the offense to put up enough points to let the defense close it out. I believe this game might be closer than some would think, maybe due to doses of Fitzmagic, but ultimately the Broncos and their defensive prowess win the day, 26-20.
At this point in the season, Denver would be looking at a strong 6-2 record sitting at the halfway point of the season. a strong record bodes miles better for the team than their previous starts, no longer having to make up ground after starting at a sub .500 record. This could be crucial for the second half of the season, where games will get closer and teams more established as playoff implications become bigger and teams adapt to the typical season injuries and rotations.