ENGLEWOOD—There is nothing more dangerous to an NFL team than expectations of winning big.
The 3-1 Broncos are 12-point favorites against the 0-5, dissension- and injury-riddled New York Giants. The Broncos haven’t been this heavily favored since their final game of the 2014, when C.J. Anderson rushed for three touchdowns, Peyton Manning threw for 279 yards and Denver destroyed the Oakland Raiders, 47-13.
It won’t be easy for the Broncos to trounce the Giants in a Sunday Night Football game that will be telecast on 9NEWS and played at eventually-to-be-renamed Sports Authority Field at Mile High starting at 6:30. The prediction here is the Giants will play determinedly and surprisingly well into the second half. But here’s how the Broncos can break the Giants’ spirits and prevail:
1. Show up, Fire up
There is such a thing as the bye-week blues. After resting last week, the Broncos may not quite as sharp in their execution this week. There is also the possibility they won’t take the Giants seriously no matter how much they try to talk themselves into it. The Broncos have to play with emotion and focus.
2. No more than one turnover
Only seven teams committed an average of one turnover or less per game last season. (The two teams that met in the Super Bowl, New England and Atlanta, tied for the fewest turnovers with 11 in 16 games, or .7 per).
So we’ll give the Broncos’ offense one mistake, but if they make two or more, the Giants will hang around.
3. Give Demaryius the ball
Emmanuel Sanders has 20 catches in four games, which is fine for a No. 2 receiver. But 18 receptions don’t work for the Broncos’ top receiver, Demaryius Thomas, who is also coming off one catch for 11 yards against Oakland.
The Broncos should give Thomas two or three receptions in the first quarter, just to let him know he’s still got it.
4. Watch Evan Engram/Wayne Gallman
Engram, a first-round rookie tight end, disappeared last week against the Chargers as Giants receivers were going down. He did average nearly 5 catches in the first four games. Gallman, a fourth-round rookie running back and former Clemson star, had a nice game last week against the Chargers, rushing for 57 yards on 11 carries and catching 5 passes for 25 yards.
5. Show-time for Siemian
Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian ranked 5th among NFL quarterbacks who had played both games through week 2. Two games later he ranks 18th.
Early in his second season, Siemian is still poised and accurate, as he continues to learn the nuances of manipulating the pocket. Sometimes he moves out a tick too soon. Sometimes he hangs in too long. He has yet to master the step up.
He doesn’t have to play great against the Giants. He does have to play efficiently.
6. Pressure Eli
Giants quarterback Eli Manning hasn’t been among the top 10 in sacks taken since 2007, so he knows how to get rid of the ball quickly. Von Miller leads the Broncos with 4.0 sacks but his edge rushing partner Shaq Barrett hasn’t dropped the quarterback since the opener.
7. Attention to zone detail
The Broncos are playing more zone coverage this season and there have been assignment mistakes leading to big plays. The Giants are way down on their receiver depth chart for this game but Roger Lewis did catch a 29-yard touchdown pass against the Chargers last week.
Former Broncos’ draft pick Tavarres King had a big game for the Giants in the regular-season finale last year.
8. An extra touch or three for Jamaal Charles
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon had a big game against the Giants’ defense last week with 105 yards rushing and 58 yards with two touchdowns receiving.
C.J. Anderson will play 70 percent of the time, but Charles is the Broncos’ running back most like Gordon. To date, Charles has averaged 9 touches a game – 8.25 carries and 0.75 receptions. It may be time to push him to 12 touches.
9. Better boots
Brandon McManus was just getting his swing back when he missed a 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter of the Broncos’ previous game. Riley Dixon was among the league’s top 5 punters after the opener, but is now 22nd in the league, 23rd in net punting.