Jussel: Broncos should easily handle Jags

This is a joke, right?

The 5-0 Denver Broncos at home to lollygag an afternoon away against the 0-5 Jacksonville Jaguars.

Denver, we are told, is a 27.5- to 28-point overdog, a National Football League record for betting margin as far as anyone who keeps track of such things tells us. This is, it seems, the NFL’s version of Alabama taking on Tuskegee Tech (or Colorado State).

So, what would have to happen for the Jacksonville bunch to win this one?

Let’s start with the obvious and say for some reason Denver’s starting quarterback doesn’t play. Maybe Peyton Manning has acquired a bad batch of guacamole in his Saturday evening dinner at Elway’s restaurant in Denver. Maybe he just doesn’t feel like going to work and calls in sick.

That would certainly level the playing field — some.

Much more would have to happen.

Let’s say all of a sudden Chad Henne, the Jaguars’ starter at QB in this one after the totally ineffective Blaine Gabbert came down with a mysterious hamstring injury last week in yet another defeat, does his Tony Romo imitation and goes off for 500 passing yards and five TDs. Maybe the Bronco defense is really as bad as it looked last week.

Maybe Maurice Jones-Drew, the leading rusher in the NFL two seasons ago, breaks out of his 2.9-yard rushing average and has one of those 200-yard rushing days.

Er, probably not to any of the above for a number of reasons.

First, we know Manning will show up.

Except for one year in which he had four neck surgeries, he always has, first in Indianapolis as a Colt, now in Denver as King Bronco.

We can also make the assumption this is the last time we will see anyone play like Romo did in the ping-pong match against the Broncos. If we see anyone duplicate that performance against the Broncos, it will be next week with Andrew Luck tossing for Indy or against Drew Brees and the Saints in the Super Bowl. Henne will not throw for half of 500 yards today.

As for Jones-Drew having a huge day against Denver, well, the Broncos are still the leading rushing defense in the league, allowing just fewer than 70 yards per game. Jones-Drew will have to break off at least one long one to accomplish that today.

No, this one is as close to a lock as there is in professional football.

Although Henne is probably more dependable than Gabbert (Henne is completing 55 percent of his passes this season compared with Gabbert’s 48 percent), he and the Jags are going to have to find a way to move the ball behind an offensive line that is a complete shambles.

First, the Jaguars traded their starting left tackle, Eugene Monroe, to Baltimore because they wanted to move the No. 2 selection in the draft, Luke Joekel, to the left side from the right. Joekel, who is expected to become a Pro Bowl-caliber player, went down last week to a season-ending broken leg.

That leaves two tackle positions in the hands of Austin Pasztor, a second-year man who has started four games and will now play his first game on the left side, and Cameron Bradfield, a third-year player who will be starting his first game of the season.

Think the Broncos might pad their sack totals today? Think Von Miller might find a way to sneak into this one?

Offensively, the Jaguars have no prayer, not even with the addition last week of standout young receiver Justin Blackmon, who returned from a four-game suspension with five catches for 136 yards.

Defensively, they are respectable at best, ranking 20th overall. Their downfall has been in stopping the run. They are allowing 160 yards rushing per game.

Those are the keys: Manning will do his thing in the air early, then hand the ball off repeatedly to the suddenly brilliant Knowshon Moreno; the defense will hound Henne and stymie Jones-Drew; and then it will be time for one of those rare Brock Osweiler sightings, maybe even a huge dose of Montee Ball up the gut.

Denver won’t cover in this one.

But it will be an easy win, as it should be. I’ll take my 5-0 mark as a prognosticator and say: Broncos 34, Jags 17.


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