Jussel: Broncos are looking all right, you know?
Here’s what we know so far:
We know the Denver Broncos are 1-0 and tied for the lead in the AFC West with San Diego. Sound familiar?
We know Kyle Orton, injured digit and all, is very tough and very lucky. Plus, he has thrown for four fewer interceptions this year than that guy in Chicago.
We already know the Broncos defense is better than it was last year.
We know — maybe because that other guy is in Chicago or possibly simply because there are so many new guys in Denver — the Bronco offense is nowhere near what it has been in recent memory.
And we at least suspect the Chargers aren’t exactly world beaters — matter of fact, just barely Raider beaters, which would seem to put them on a somewhat even keel with our barely Bengal beaters.
Here’s what we don’t know:
We don’t know if the Broncos are going to run the ball effectively. Question is, are they going to have to?
We don’t know if Orton is ever going to be able to get into a rhythm with his receivers and consistently move the football. Matter of fact, we don’t really know if Orton is any better than Chris Simms.
We don’t know if new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, given the chance again, will continue to blitz and pressure the quarterback at any and all costs right up until the final gun — or will he choose to go into the dreaded “prevent” defense?
And we can only hope (but we won’t know until Happy Hours all over the state have wound down) that Josh McDaniels’ new squad improves significantly from Week 1 to Week 2.
That’s what I’m looking for today, improvement, as the Broncos host 0-1 Cleveland, the second step in what would seem to be a series of easy tasks early in the season.
Admit it: The Broncos lucked out last week in beating the Bengals on “The Immaculate Deflection” in the final seconds. Plays like that happen about once a decade. Denver isn’t due for such a miracle again in the near future.
Thankfully, this Cleveland team looks a lot like the bungling Bengals of last week.
The Browns were beaten 34-20 at home in their opener by Minnesota — and the final score wasn’t as nasty as it could and should have been. In a word, new coach Eric Mangini (once known as Mangenius in his earlier coaching stint with the Jets) and his team looked terrible.
Brady Quinn, just appointed the starter at quarterback a few days before the season began, was tolerable, but only in the dink-and-dunk mode, throwing for 205 yards and a touchdown. Starting running back Jamal Lewis gained only 57 yards and the Browns totaled only 268 offensive yards against the Vikings.
Their defense was a bit better than the offense, but couldn’t contain Viking star Adrian Peterson, who gained 180 yards on the ground and scored three times. New Viking QB Brett Farve didn’t have to do much other than hand the ball off, throwing for only 85 yards on 14 attempts.
Cleveland has virtually no one you’ve ever heard of on either side of the ball other than Quinn and Lewis — and Lewis may not play today because of a neck injury. Wide receiver Braylon Edwards, a former Pro Bowl player, has become a legend in Cleveland for his inability to hang onto the ball. He caught one pass for 12 yards in the opener.
One thing to watch today:
Cleveland starting corner Brandon McDonald gave up 160 yards to Bronco receivers last year in Denver’s 34-30 win in Cleveland as Eddie Royal burned him repeatedly.
Here’s what I see happening today: Denver, a 3-point favorite, has gotten over the jitters and will look much better offensively. Rookie Knowshon
Moreno will get a few more touches than he did last week and Orton will be more accurate than he was last week.
Denver’s improving defense (doesn’t that sound good?) will keep the Browns, a team not exactly loaded with deep threats, out of the end zone.
Orton will hit Brandon Marshall and Royal more regularly than we are used to — and Denver wins its second straight, 24-12.
With that, we’ll all be 2-0 on the season and still tied for the lead in the West.