This one’s for J.W.: ‘Boys over Broncos

My friend J.W. wears boots, likes his rodeo and lives on a farm on the outskirts of Loma.

He drives a big pickup truck and has a construction business.

He doesn’t care much for Jay-z, leaning more toward Brooks and Dunn.

His favorite pro football team is … not the Denver Broncos.

That’s right. It’s the Dallas Cowboys.

J.W. has a blue golf bag with the Cowboys logo and name proudly displayed.

In the warmer summer months, he wears a Cowboys T-shirt. When it turns cooler, the T-shirt turns into a Cowboys sweatshirt. His head is constantly adorned with a blue cap topped off with the Cowboy star.

He has spent upwards of $1,000 to attend a Cowboys game in Arlington, Texas, on Thanksgiving Day, making the round trip, of course, in his big pickup truck without much sleep going either direction.

J.W. wanted to make a bet on today’s football game: “Straight up, with the spread, however you want to do it,” he said.

Fine, I said. I’ll take the Cowboys straight up.

He wouldn’t go for it and I wouldn’t take the Broncos, even though they were a rare home underdog at the time of our discussion early in the week. This would appear to be J.W.‘s time to shine and I didn’t want to give him more ammunition by betting on Denver.

The Cowboys, a team I’ve despised since back in the Tom Landry days, are one of the NFL’s best.

They do it the old-fashioned way on offense — a massive run-blocking line, a super running back in Ezekiel Elliott, and the resulting play-action passing game. Defensively, they were mediocre, until linebacker Sean Lee got healthy. Now, they are deep and Lee might be the league’s best defensive weapon.

Dallas, as a 19-3 romp over the New York Giants in its opener would show, is loaded, top to bottom.

Then there’s Denver. Are the Broncos any good, perhaps a contender? Are they mediocre? Are they bordering on bad?

After the Broncos almost whiffed on a lob pitch against the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night, turning a 24-7 lead into a last-second nail-biter, I have no clue where the Broncos are heading.

Vance Joseph’s team addressed several nagging issues from last season in the 24-21 win.

They did stop the run well, holding the Chargers to 64 yards on 22 carries, a 2.9-yard average. Despite injuries to linemen Zach Kerr and Jared Crick, newcomers Adam Gotsis and Shelby Harris stood out.

Gotsis, a nonfactor as a rookie last season, had five tackles. Harris had two and blocked the Chargers’ final field goal attempt. Gotsis was the 12th-rated defensive interior linemen according to Pro Football Focus and Harris was rated 17th.

Offensively, Denver also ran the ball for 140 yards, C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles combining for 121 of those. Last season, Denver averaged only 92 yards per game on the ground.

Second-year QB Trevor Siemian added 19 scrambling yards and scored a rushing TD and — get this! — he found a way to get the Broncos into the end zone three times when they were in the red zone. Last season, Denver was terrible from in close.

Siemian hit 60 percent of his passes for 219 yards and two TDs for a better-than-average 94.2 rating. The problem: He was hit nine times and sacked four times for 38 yards in losses.

Ah yes, those sacks. Last year was ugly and it looked little better against the Chargers.

The big culprit was right tackle Menelik Watson. His Pro Football Focus performance was rated 59th among starting tackles and three of the four sacks were over or around him.

Other than Watson, however, all other Bronco offensive linemen fared well even though right guard Ron Leary left with a concussion midway through. Leary, left guard Max Garcia and center Matt Paradis all graded out near the top of the league for their efforts against the Chargers.

Rookie tackle Garett Bolles also fared well in his debut, with his run blocking rated near the top according to PFF.

Still, all of Denver’s linemen fared much better run blocking than pass blocking and something will have to be done quickly to protect Siemian. It’s way too early for a Brock Osweiler sighting.

With Leary being questionable and Watson needing to improve drastically, I don’t see Denver beating the Cowboys today.

I’ll take my 1-0 record picking with or against the Denver boys and say J.W. and his Cowboys are better. Dallas 24, Denver 17.


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