Week 6 Prediction Article: Denver Broncos @ Cleveland Browns

Week 6 – Regular Season
Denver Broncos @ Cleveland Browns
Sunday, October 18, 2015 @ 1:00 pm EST

Good morning Bronco fans!  It is Week 6 in the NFL and today, the Denver Broncos travel to Cleveland to take on the 2-3 Browns.  With Josh McCown putting up Peyton Manning-like numbers and Peyton Manning putting up Josh McCown-like numbers, these offenses couldn’t be in more opposite places.  While Manning and company still try to find their rhythm on offense, the Cleveland Browns offense has been in sync and on point behind McCown.  With the bye-week coming next week for Denver, I don’t expect many offensive philosophy changes for today’s game.  Cleveland will stack the box and will force Denver’s offense to make big plays downfield.  If Peyton can connect on a few long throws and if the team can establish a running game, this team will be exactly where it needs to be going into the Week 7 bye.  If not, questions about this offense, and Peyton’s ability to play at a high level will remain in question for several more weeks to come.

Let’s take a closer look at today’s Week 6 opponent, the Cleveland Browns.

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Offense: QB Josh McCown looked like a superstar last week against the Ravens.  The veteran QB connected on 36 of his 51 pass attempts, racking up a whopping 457 yards while throwing 2 touchdowns.  TE Gary Barnidge was a favorite of McCown as he pulled in 8 McCown passes for 139 and made an incredible touchdown catch with his legs.  RB Duke Johnson gets involved in both the running game and passing game and provides a dual threat for the Browns.  Look for the Browns to throw early and often, as Denver’s rush defense is has not been easy to penetrate.  Receivers getting open quickly against the Broncos stellar secondary will be paramount as the Cleveland O-Line will be tasked with stopping one of the greatest pass rushes in the NFL.

Let’s take a look at the offensive team leaders for the Cleveland Browns through Week 5:

  • QB Josh McCown has completed 101 of 149 passes with 6 touchdowns and just 1 interception.
  • RB Isaiah Crowell has racked up 240 rushing yards on 62 attempts with 1 touchdown.
  • RB Duke Johnson has accumulated 121 yards on the ground and has 172 receiving yards.
  • TE Gary Barnidge and WR Travis Benjamin have combined for just under 800 yards and have scored 7 touchdowns collectively.

Defense:  The Cleveland Browns defense currently ranks 30th in the NFL, allowing 400+ yards per game.  Their pass defense is ranked 15th allowing 251 yards per game in the air and come in ranked 31st in the league against the run, allowing just under 150 yards per game on the ground.  The Browns, who are playing host to the offensively struggling Broncos may be able to find success in stacking the box and pressuring Peyton Manning.  If they can force the Broncos to beat them over top, the Browns could have a chance to pull off the upset at home.

Let’s review some of the top defensive performers for the Browns through Week 5:

  • Safety Donte Whitner leads the Browns with 39 total tackles and has contributed with 1/2 sack.
  • Linebacker Karlos Dansby has accumulated 40 total tackles on the season.
  • Linebacker Armonty Bryant leads the team with 3.5 sacks and has forced 1 fumble.

Special Teams:  The Browns special teams features a 1st year kicker who has continued to show lots of promise.  Travis Coons has connected on all 11 of his field goal attempts and has also converted all of his extra point attempts going 9 for 9 in the season.  Of his 27 kickoffs, 14 have been returned, while 13 have resulted in touch backs.  Punter Andy Lee has been in the league for over 10 years and knows what makes a punter successful.  Of his 21 punts, 9 have pinned his opponent behind the 20 yard line.  Field position and field goals could be the deciding factor in this game, so special teams play will be as important as any other unit’s performance in the AFC showdown.

And now, let’s preview your 5-0 Denver Broncos!

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Offense:  Slowly but slowly, this unit is try to find their identity.  While there have been flashes of greatness, Peyton Manning has continued to struggle to adapt to the Kubiak system, whether there have been compromises or not.  The lack of a 3rd solidified receiver seems to be taking away from some of the things that Manning has been so good at for so many years.  Personally, I have suggested that the Broncos use Emmanuel Sanders out of the slot more, to open up passing lanes in the middle of the field for Peyton Manning.  The absence of TE Julius Thomas seems to have hurt this offense much more than I has previously thought that it would.  With a non-establishment of a running game, Peyton will have to use more of his arm in downfield passes to get defenses off balance.  Until this offense finds true balance, I expect it to continue to be an uphill battle.

Top Offensive Performers for the Broncos through Week 5:

  • In 5 games, Peyton Manning has thrown 7 interceptions and 6 touchdowns, good for a passer rating of 77.3
  • WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas continue to put up decent numbers despite the offensive struggles with lines of 34/418/2 and 38/416/1 respectively.
  • RB Ronnie Hillman is averaging 4.6 yards per carry while fellow RB C.J. Anderson is only averaging 2.6 yards per carry.

Defense:  You truly cannot say enough about this defensive unit that Wade Phillips has assembled.  Week in and week out this unit continues to dominate and frustrate their opponent.  Led by pass rushers Von Miller and Demarcus Ware, wreaking havoc on opposing QBs has been commonplace.  With a back injury to Ware, it will be next man up for this dominating defense.  Aqib Talib and Chris Harris continue to lock down the secondary, while Linebackers Danny Trevathon and Brandon Marshall solidify the middle of the field with great tackling and pass coverage abilities.  Look for this team to put pressure on McCown all day long and rattle the signal caller of the Browns.

Top Defensive Performers for the Broncos through Week 5:

  • The team is ranked #1 in defensive yards per game allowing a league best 278 yards per contest.
  • The team is ranked #2 in defensive points per game allowing only 15.8 points per game.
  • The team is ranked #5 against the pass and #5 against the run allowing 192.8 and 85.2 yards per game, respectively.

Special Teams:  Kicker Brandon McManus continues to shine when needed.  He has converted all 12 of his field goal attempts and is perfect on extra points, converting all 11 attempted kicks.  Emmanuel Sanders has 7 punt returns and is averaging just 5.6 yards per attempt.  Britton Colquitt has averaged 45.5 yards per punt and has a long on the season of 62 yards.  

Recap

Trap game, trap game, trap game.  This is all I keep hearing and reading week after week.  When you are undefeated and you are playing a team with a losing record, isn’t it always a trap game?  Any given Sunday, any team can come out and destroy their opponent.  You cannot look past any team in this league.  The Broncos are hungry and they are led by a QB with more will and determination than arguably any other player in the NFL.  Will determination be enough to get this offensive ship sailing back on course?  Again, I don’t see many philosophical changes coming for the offense prior to the bye week, so it will up to Peyton to make the throws downfield to force the defense play honest.  The Denver defense will once again bring their A game, and the Broncos will ride off into the bye week a perfect 6-0.

Final Score Prediction

Cleveland Browns – 16

Denver Broncos – 24


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