Jussel: Look for Broncos to get back in win column vs. ‘Skins
Mike Shanahan is coming home.
A much bigger deal is Robert Griffin III’s arrival in Denver for today’s Bronco matchup with the Washington Redskins.
Yes, Shanahan will be given what is becoming a prerequisite tribute, in this case for his help in building the Broncos to the point where they won two Super Bowls in the late 1990s. The tribute, said to be a brief slide show prior to the game, will be the politically correct thing to do, although veteran Bronco observers will remember his ouster in 2009 wasn’t exactly a shock, nor was it unwarranted.
Also keep in mind Shanahan won’t be playing.
And, just as recent luck would have it for the Denver squad, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor is rounding back into the form that made him all the rage of the gridiron world his rookie season when he guided the ‘Skins to the playoffs last year.
We all know about — and felt sorry about — the nasty knee injury and subsequent surgery. We have followed the rapid healing process and doubted he would return to pre-injury form. And through the first four games of the season, we watched as he hobbled around the field on his braced knee, a shadow of his former self.
In the past two games, however, the knee and RGIII have come back to life. He has thrown for 544 yards and rushed for 161 yards, the stuff of which his burgeoning legend was made.
Bad timing for the Broncos.
But let’s not hand this win to the 2-4 Redskins just yet.
For one thing, the Broncos are 6-1 and still one of the best teams in football.
For another, they aren’t playing a good team in a domed stadium on the road, all of which resulted in the 39-33 loss to Indianapolis last week.
Matter of fact, this matchup favors the Broncos in virtually every way.
First, what is Washington really good at?
Consider it somewhat of an aberration that Griffin threw for more than 300 yards in the first three games, all big losses in which the ‘Skins fell behind early and had to throw to catch up.
What they really do well is run the ball, especially if RGIII is healthy enough to run the read-option, which he is not. But tailbacks Alfred Morris (472 yards rushing, 5.2 per carry) and Roy Helu (129 yards in spelling Morris and four TDs) are threats, with Morris the league’s second-leading rusher last season.
What is Denver really good at defensively?
That’s right, stopping the run. Denver is allowing only 77 rushing yards per game and does a super job of stuffing runs up the gut, which is where the Redskins like to rush.
Sure, Griffin will gain yardage scrambling, but he’s not going to beat the Broncos throughout the afternoon doing that.
Let’s flop the field and put Denver on offense.
The Broncos are pretty good, as in the all-time leading scoring team in the NFL after seven games.
Peyton Manning’s offense has scored 298 points. Put a pencil to that and it means 42.6 points per game. The Broncos are averaging 469 yards per game, 50 yards better than the next-best team, Philadelphia.
And you may want to put this little tidbit into your brain regarding today’s matchup: Both of Washington’s starting safeties are likely out. Reed Doughty sustained a concussion last week, and Brandon Meriweather is going to be serving a one-game suspension.
Manning going against a defense that wasn’t that strong anyway? Without its two starting safeties?
Lick those chops, boys.
Washington is going to score plenty.
Denver’s pass defense will allow Griffin to complete plenty of short passes to wideout Pierre Garcon (40 catches) and rookie tight end Jordan Reed (26 catches, nine of those last week).
But the Redskins just don’t have the weapons to play keepaway from the Broncos, and they won’t be able to contain Manning, who will have a field day.
I’ll take my 6-1 record picking with or against Denver and say the Broncos head into a much-needed healing bye week with a wacky 45-28 victory.
And then it will be on to the important business at hand: heading to San Diego to take on the Chargers, then hosting the currently unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs.
Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.