This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Denver Broncos. To help preview a few topics from the Broncos’ perspective, we reached out to Ian St. Clair from Mile High Report and exchanged five questions with him.
Chris: “What in the world has happened to the Broncos? They were 1-5 and left for dead, including an embarrassing game against the Dolphins where they allowed 70 points. And yet here we are, with them having a 5-5 record, including wins against the Chiefs, Bills, and Vikings. What has happened during the turnaround?”
Ian: “To answer both questions: Sean Payton. The Broncos believe in what Payton and his coaching staff are doing. And that has led to confidence. Denver has the confidence it can beat any team in the NFL and overcome any obstacle it faces over the course of the game. Take Sunday night as the most recent example. On the Vikings’ last scoring drive, they call a fake punt on fourth down and basically pick up a first down on third-and-20. Yet the Broncos hold Minnesota to a field goal, and Russell Wilson leads the offense on a game-winning drive. That’s because of those reasons I mentioned and it’s all Payton. Payton has also changed the culture. The rough start you mentioned, including that embarrassing outing in Miami, led to this. Denver had to learn how not to lose before it could win.”
Chris: “Statistically, Denver still ranks 32nd in the NFL defensively, but I imagine that the terrible game against Miami contributes to that. During Denver’s four-game winning streak, they are allowing 17 points per game. How do you view the Broncos’ defense? Good? Average? Terrible?”
Ian: “Average is a great way to describe this defense. The run defense isn’t very good, even taking out the outlier against the Dolphins. What would lead me to describe this defense as terrible is the tackling. To call the Broncos terrible at tackling is an insult to terrible tackling. But that also hints as to why this defense struggles against the run. It also doesn’t create consistent pressure on quarterbacks enough. Where this defense thrives right now is by creating turnovers. Whether that continues remains to be seen, but this defense is “meh.””
Chris: “What is the biggest strength and weakness on Denver’s offensive line?”
Ian: “The biggest strength for the Broncos offensive line is the fact the starters have played every game together. I probably just jinxed this, but that’s huge, especially for a unit that has two new players in Ben Powers and Mike McGlinchey. The run blocking is probably the biggest strength, thus making pass protection the weakness. I do think this unit can get even better, especially if the starters continue to play as much together as they are.”
Chris: “Tell us about one player who Browns fans may not have heard of, but who could have an impact on this Sunday’s game.”
Ian: “Without question it’s cornerback Ja’Quan McMillian. Prior to the last three games, most of Broncos Country had no idea who he was. Now he’s making a name for himself. In those three games, McMillian has picked off Patrick Mahomes, forced a fumble against the Bills and forced two turnovers against the Vikings. Not bad. McMillian is definitely the player Browns fans should keep an eye on come Sunday’s game.”
Chris: “The Browns are early underdogs against the Broncos on Sunday (Browns +1.5 as of this question, per DraftKings Sportsbook). Who would you pick against the spread?”
Ian: “I’m picking the Broncos to cover on Sunday. And this is entirely because the game is in Denver. I also have faith in Payton creating a game plan that will be able to get enough points while his defense should be able to contain the Browns offense. However, Cleveland’s running game is the X factor. I just think the Broncos will limit the damage to cover on Sunday and the home crowd will make a difference.”
Thanks again to Ian for taking the time to answer my questions.