This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Denver Broncos in Week 12. Below, we analyze a few advantages, disadvantages, and general thoughts about the two teams before getting to our predictions for the game.
The Red-Hot Denver Broncos
- The Denver Broncos are a joke, right? If you weren’t paying attention to them recently, then their 1-5 start to the season, their struggles all of last season, and them allowing 70 points to the Miami Dolphins might be the impression that you have of them. We blinked, though, and the Broncos are now a 5-5 team. They are riding a four-game winning streak in which they are allowing just 17 points per game, and QB Russell Wilson has been one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL. What the heck happened? How did they go from a team that figured to be massive sellers at the trade deadline, to now having a great chance of being a Wildcard team in the AFC?
- Despite the red-hot stretch that Denver is on, it’s still hard to figure how they got back to .500. Yes, Sean Payton deserves credit for pulling the team together and working within what used to be the limitations of the offense. But as Matt Wilson points out, there are still a lot of significant flaws with the Broncos: 1) they have the worst run defense, 2) they don’t protect Russell Wilson well, and 3) they are terrible in the red zone. All three of those weaknesses are supposed to play up to Cleveland’s strengths in contrast, which makes this game seem like a recipe for disaster for Denver — but again, we’re also talking about a Broncos defense that allowed 28 combined points in two games against the Chiefs, so go figure.
- Last week, Will Lutz had field goals of 31, 31, 52, 37, and 28 yards before the Broncos got their first touchdown of the game with a minute to go. It was enough to overcome the Vikings.
- I just don’t see Denver’s style of offense being overly successful against Cleveland. They don’t run the ball great, they don’t get the big plays downfield, and their protection doesn’t afford a ton of time to get more than basic plays to develop. The possible area they could exploit would involve Russell Wilson’s mobility, which Lamar Jackson has utilized against the Browns to a degree — but even then, it shouldn’t be overly detrimental to the Browns.
- Curtiss Brown featured three players on Denver’s offense who pose a threat on any given Sunday. Be sure to check that out, because one of those players is Courtland Sutton, who will not have to go up against Denzel Ward this week, as Ward is out with a shoulder injury.
Getting the Offense Sorted Out
- Although I wish there would have been some more downfield throwing attempted last week for Dorian Thompson-Robinson, when I look at the idea of what Kevin Stefanski tried to put in place for the rookie, I think it was pretty spot on. After DTR’s disastrous start against Baltimore, the team wanted him to play safer and composed, and not have to worry much about pressure in his face. They accomplished that by having him get rid of the ball quickly, and it worked for awhile until Pittsburgh’s defense adjusted. Then, it got to a point where those short routes were covered, so DTR was programmed to just check it down to the flat, something that the defense was also ready for. I don’t blame DTR — he was trying not to lose the game, and let the defense continue to do their thing. This week, we need a little more to be worked in for DTR to open up the offense in general. Is he capable of that? Maybe — but the bigger key might be getting his mobility involved for those longer-developing plays.
- Keep in mind that our Broncos affiliate, Mile High Report, said that one of Denver’s biggest weaknesses on defense has been poor tackling over and over again. The Steelers did a pretty good job with making open field tackles last week, but if the Broncos are that bad at tackling, then getting the ball quickly out to guys in the open field and letting them try to make a play might be the formula to stick with. In a press conference this week, DTR was asked about throwing the ball more downfield, and he indicated that he hoped he could, but ultimately, he’s going to follow the gameplan that Stefanski calls.
- Despite the dropped passes last week, DTR is going to continue feeding the hell out of David Njoku.
- Defensively, Cleveland might have Juan Thornhill and Anthony Walker back. Even though Thornhill hasn’t been stellar this season, given the fact that Rodney McLeod is on IR now, it’d be nice to have more starters back in the lineup.
- It’s been cold in Denver, but the weather at gametime looks like it won’t be too bad — about 30-35 degrees, sunny, and minimal wind.
- According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Browns are 1.5 point underdogs against the Broncos.
Here are predictions from multiple staff members at DBN.
Chris Pokorny: “I’m expecting a similar style game as week ago against Pittsburgh. Even though the score was tight, Cleveland still generally felt in control of that game. I think the offense gets a little bit more of a boost this week with one touchdown drive per half, as well as a couple of field goals. Also, I don’t want to sleep on the Broncos’ four-game winning streak too much, but I still look at their strengths and weaknesses and feel the latter outweigh the former.” Browns 20, Broncos 13
Thomas Moore: “Denver has been the Browns house of horrors for almost as long as the two teams have been playing each other. But this is a new team and a new year and Sunday presents the perfect opportunity to start exorcising some of those ghosts.
The biggest area of concern revolves around quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, who is making the first road start of his NFL career. DTR has faced far worse in the Steelers and Ravens, but the Broncos defense has been opportunistic in forcing 10 turnovers in the past three games, which has fueled Denver’s four-game winning streak. His numbers may not have been impressive last week, but Thompson-Robinson avoided the mistakes that plagued him in his first start, so that’s something to build on, especially since the Broncos don’t do much well on defense if they are not forcing turnovers.
Cleveland’s defense is the real deal and should be able to make life difficult for Denver quarterback Russell Wilson, even though the mounting injuries in the secondary are becoming a bit concerning.
The Browns should be able to run the ball well enough against Denver’s porous run defense to take some of the pressure off of DTR, while the defense will continue to do its thing. Add it up and it should be another close win for the Browns.” Browns 14, Broncos 10
Barry Shuck: “At the beginning of the season, every team could go down their schedule and if Denver was listed go ahead and mark a “W” there. Now, the Broncos not only have won four straight but have beaten some impressive clubs. Who knows how this game will unfold. All the Browns can do is trot out that elite defense and stymy their offense enough for Cleveland’s offense to get into position for Dustin Hopkins to kick a bunch of field goals since they have trouble finding the end zone.” Browns 20, Broncos 10
Jared Mueller: “Feels like last week’s game just ended and now we are about to get Thanksgiving games, a new Black Friday game and the Browns versus Broncos a little later Sunday afternoon than we are used to.
It feels like we should get a letdown game from Cleveland soon but that can hopefully wait for one of the NFC matchups. Denver also looks like a team that could find themselves struggling with focus coming off four straight victories and staring down four straight difficult games starting with the Browns.
Another low scoring affair in Week 12.” Browns 17, Broncos 13
Curtiss Brown: “Another week, another fanbase that needs to be humbled. I’m looking at you Denver Broncos. Yes, it is nice that the Denver Broncos were able to turn their season around after getting off to an abysmal start but for some reason people believe Denver has been lighting it up. They haven’t, their offense has been conservative and extremely predictable. Defensively, they have been forcing a ton of turnovers but they are suspect against the run. The national media is of course talking more about the Broncos and how their winning streak has been impressive instead of Cleveland’s but that’s another topic for another day.
Myles Garrett talked about how the Greenbriar trip in West Virginia will play a factor in their 2 game west coast road trip, and I believe it will help. Denver can be beat, you have the personnel defensively to slow down Denver’s offense and make life uncomfortable for Russell Wilson and offensively I believe Kevin Stefanski will open up the playbook for quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (just a little bit). Another prove it game for the Cleveland Browns since there are some people who are still sleeping on this team. Statement needs to be made and it starts in the Mile High City.” Browns 23, Broncos 13
Matt Wood: “NFL is waking up to how dominant the Browns defense is. DTR was good enough on Sunday against the Steelers. That’s what the Browns need right now. Run the ball, play great ST and don’t turn the ball over.
Yes the Broncos are hot but they have not been dynamic on offense. Four game winning streak the Broncos are averaging 22 points per game. The Browns have averaged 22.8 points per game with Walker and DTR playing.
Yes the Browns defense has not been AS GOOD on the road, but I think we see a special performance Sunday. Myles continues his push into the MVP discussion with a blow up game…” Browns 27, Broncos 13
Ezweav: “Really all I wanted out of this season after the DeShaun Watson injury was the win against Pittsburgh, and that was glorious to behold. Thompson-Robinson really came through at the end and you have to commend him.
You also have to acknowledge the offense was limited to the point of being basically halted. For understandable reasons we didn’t really try anything downfield, and while that can work against Kenny Pickett…and maybe Russell Wilson, it’s not a great way to try to make it out here in these NFL streets.
Broncos are weird. They’re better than they were at the beginning of the year but probably not as good as their recent winning streak suggests (lucky bounces and whatnot). The game is in Denver so that’s great. Seems like one where some kinda wild thing will happen and turn the game.
Ultimately I think we’re a way more talented football team but the QB disparity is going to be an issue for most of the rest of the year.
This is now a season-long shouting out to NTN...” Broncos 11, Browns 5
Who do you think will win, Browns fans? Let us know in the comments section below.