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Nothing in Life is Surtain

The title might seem a little doom-and-gloom but you know I have to force a pun somewhere. This week, Broncos Country are riding into Ford Field as one of the in-form teams in the league, while our Lions have been more like housecats for the past few weeks. Can we get back to winning ways on Saturday night football? One can hope.


Offence:

As usual, we start with the QB position as it's the most important position on the field (aside from long snapper of course).


Per nfelo, of QBs with more than 200 attempts on the year, Russell Wilson is their QB15, offering 0.4 points over the average starter per their metrics. Wilson has the highest CPOE of these QBs (+6%) and the 4th best TD%-INT% (+3.9%). However, he is 16th in WPA per dropback (+0.002), 18th in success rate (45.4%), 19th in EPA per dropback (+0.02), 22nd in target depth vs the sticks (-1.8 yards), 24th in ADOT (7.0 yards) and 25th in EPA lost on sacks per dropback compared to the league average (-0.02).


PFF also have Wilson around league average in their metrics. With the same 200 attempts cutoff, Wilson is 2nd in big-time throw rate (6.2%), 8th in rushing grade (78.6), 13th in turnover-worthy play rate (2.7%), 14th in total offence grade (79.8), 17th in passing grade (75.4), and 25th in both fumble grade (39.4) and pressure-to-sack rate (20.9%).


This range of rankings extends when one removes the filter and looks at some of PFF's more advanced metrics. Wilson has the 3rd-best passing grade when targeting behind the line of scrimmage (74.2), 10th when going deep (93.8), 12th intermediate passing grade (86.6), but the 28th short passing grade (69.2). Russ also has the 15th-best offence grade under pressure (59.6), the 18th-best passing grade under pressure (58.3), 28th passing grade versus the blitz (66.2), 31st offence grade against the blitz (64.3), and 62nd in percentage of pressures he is responsible for (24.3%).


What about the players Wilson throws to? It might be a Sutton-death situation this week as our Cam might have to cover their Courtland as he is their WR1. Of course, the Broncos also have former first-round pick Jerry Jeudy (64.3, 68th of qualifying WRs) and rookie Marvin Mims (63.7, 72nd), but Sutton has been the best of the bunch. Of WRs with at least 70 targets on the season so far, Sutton is 22nd in offence grade (75.5), 24th in receiving grade (74.8), 26th in yards per route ran (1.70 yards), 41st in drop grade (54.0), 43rd in drop rate (10.2%), but is 2nd in contested catch success rate (66.7%). However, a dichotomy is present in his grades against man and zone. Of all WRs graded by PFF so far this season, Sutton has the 30th-best receiving grade against man coverage (76.9), but the 86th grade against zone (63.2).


This split also exists for the TE position. Adam Trautman is still the TE1 for the Broncos while Greg Dulcich is making his way off IR. Trautman has the 35th-best receiving grade for all TEs against man (63.6), but the 91st-best grade against zone (46.5). Trautman also has the 53rd-best run-blocking grade of all tight ends (57.9). With a 25-target filter, Trautman has the 26th-best pass-blocking grade (62.3), 36th offence grade (52.1), and 39th receiving grade (49.3).


As for the backfield, the leader is former Tar Heel Javonte Williams. Of all backs with at least 150 attempts on the season, Williams is 5th in fumble grade (90.5), 9th in breakaway run percentage (27.8%), 16th in yards after contact per attempt (2.86 yards), 20th in forced missed tackles (29), 22nd in offence grade (65.7) and 25th in rushing grade (66.3). Samaje Perine is their best third-down back (67.8, 39th of qualifying RBs), and UDFA Jaheel McLaughlin is a beast as well (85.6 but hasn't taken enough snaps to qualify), so while we have a great duo, the Broncos have a good trio to tote the ball.


Looking at the line up front, Garrett Bolles is their best pass-blocker, having given up 22 pressures on the season (2 sacks, 2 QB hits and 18 hurries) for an 83.3 grade. On the other end, free agency acquisition Mike McGlinchey is the worst pass-blocker of their starters, having given up 43 pressures (5 sacks, 7 hits and 31 hurries) for a 63.2 grade. All in all, the Broncos have a sneaky good offensive line as they are PFF's 7th-best pass-blocking line and 5th-best run-blocking line.


Overall, the key to keeping this offence in check is to restrict the run, get pressure on Wilson, and (dare I say it after how poor we've been at it this season) play zone coverage. Sounds simple but given how meh we've been on defence this year, I think setting out with a fairly simple, understandable gameplan for the secondary to grasp might lead to some good results for us.

 

Defence:

The Broncos are not a great run defence, and we like to run the ball, so where else should we start our look at the Denver defence? Along their line, Baron Browning is technically their best run defender according to PFF, but he has only played a shade over 100 run defence snaps so we have to disregard his 77.4 run defence grade. The other presumed starter at edge is the next highest-graded player in run defence. Jonathon Cooper has a 68.0 run defence grade from PFF, having made 95.1% of his tackle attempts at an average depth of 3.9 yards for 24 solo tackles and 15 assisted tackles, 14 of which were run stops.


Further forward, former Cardinal Zach Allen has had a bit of a career resurgence in Denver. He has a 63.9 grade, having missed 11.1% of his tackles attempts at an average depth of 1.7 yards for 30 solo tackles, 10 assisted tackles, and 26 run stops. The worst of the Broncos DL against the run is D.J. Jones, who has a 49.3 grade from PFF. He has missed nearly a quarter of his tackle attempts for 19 solo tackles and 4 assisted tackles, 13 of which were run stops. He averages 2.3 yards of depth on his tackles.


Once again, Browning is the Broncos' best pass rusher but due to his low snap count, we must disregard his 72.2 grade. The aforementioned Allen has been the best true starter with 50 pressures on the year (7 sacks, 11 QB hits and 32 hurries) for a 71.6 grade from PFF. Cooper is the best healthy edge with 40 pressures on the year (6 sacks, 6 hits and 28 hurries) for a 66.7 grade. The worst starter is Harris with a 52.1 grade and 11 pressures (1 sack, 1 hit and 9 hurries) so far this season.


In the linebacker room, Josey Jewell has been by far and away the leader in terms of standard of play. He has a 71.1 defence grade from PFF, made up of a 64.9 run defence grade, a 75.5 tackling grade, a 77.9 pass-rushing grade and a 67.1 coverage grade. He has made 49 solo tackles, 25 assisted tackles, a 7.5% missed tackle rate on the season, 27 run stops, 10 pressures and has allowed an 82.8% completion percentage for 11.3 yards per reception. In comparison, Alex Singleton has been slightly below average with a 58.3 grade (75.0 run defence, 41.4 tackling, 65.5 pass-rushing, 45.6 coverage). He has missed 15.4% of his tackles, making 92 solo tackles, 40 assisted tackles, 46 run stops, 8 pressures and an 86.5% completion percentage for 9.3 yards per reception.


On the backend, PFF's CB1 on the Broncos is not PS2. Instead, it is former UDFA Ja'Quan McMillian who resides in the slot. He has a 66.0 coverage grade on the season, allowing a 57.7% completion rate for 10.5 yards per reception (6.5 yards after the catch), 3 forced incompletions and 2 PBUs (both of which were interceptions). As he lives in the slot, he will be facing a Sun God who is surely not happy with how the past few weeks have gone. That'll be a fun matchup to watch. As for PS2, he is the Broncos' best outside corner with a 65.9 grade. He has allowed a 63.1% completion rate for 12.5 yards per reception (4.1 yards after the catch), 8 forced incompletions, 7 PBUs and 1 interception. On the other side, former Raider Fabian Moreau is the weak link but even he has an above-average 65.1 coverage grade. He has allowed a 57.1% completion percentage, 15.0 yards per catch (5.7 after the catch), 5 forced incompletions, 4 PBUs and an interception.


In the safety room, star guy Justin Simmons actually has a subpar 53.5 coverage grade. He has allowed a 68.0% completion rate for 17.2 yards per reception, 4 forced incompletions, 4 PBUs, 3 interceptions and 1 dropped interception. As Kareem Jackson is suspended again and P.J. Locke is questionable, it could be Delarrin Turner-Yell starting next to Simmons, and he has a 48.3 coverage grade. If Locke does go, he is roughly average with a 61.9 grade from PFF. He has allowed catches on 46.2% of targets his way for 6.3 yards per reception, 2 forced incompletions, 2 PBUs, 1 interception and a dropped incompletion.


Overall, this Broncos is sneaky good, even after giving up more points to Miami than the CFP committee (wrongly) thinks FSU would have done if they were rightly ranked into the playoffs. The key will be using Jamo and the deep game, something that it seems Goff and Johnson have been hesitant to use recently. As Ant rightly pointed out on the preview podcast, if we don't make them respect the deep game, they can just crowd the box, stop the run and force us into third-and-longs that we can't convert. This is a game that will have to be won through the air, which is scary considering how many turnovers we've made the past few weeks and the fact the Broncos lead the league in takeaways.

 

Special Teams:

Will Lutz has not been a good field goal kicker this year. He has missed 2 extra points and two of his field goals, one from between 30-39 yards and one from 50+. This has earned him a 64.2 grade from PFF. However, he has been elite on kickoffs according to PFF, as he has a 90.8 kickoff grade from them. Only 9.2% of his kickaways have been returned for an average of 16.7 yards, with the other 58 going for touchbacks. His kickoffs average 3.88 seconds of hang time. This means the opposition start on the 25.2-yard line on average.


Punting-wise, Riley Dixon has been okay with a 69.8 grade. 20 of his 57 punts have landed inside the 20, and 22 have been returned for 6.5 yards on average. Of those not returned, 3 went for touchbacks, 4 went out of bounds, 5 were downed by the Broncos and 23 were fair-caught. Dixon's punts average 4.30 seconds of hang time.


For all the hype about Mims, PFF has not found him a good returner with a 58.1 return grade. He has taken 1 of his 9 kick returns for a 99-yard touchdown and has fair-caught 2 more. Mims has also muffed 1 of his punt returns, has fair caught 10 and taken the other 13 back for some yardage.

 

Hot Take: Jamo gets more than 2 touches. He needs to. Make it happen Ben. You owe me for not running the Alim McNeill fullback dive on the goalline yet.


Score Prediction: I honestly don't know how this is going to go, which scares me. No explanation from me this week, just pure vibes. The exact same feelings as last week. Let's hopefully get back into the win column.


Detroit Lions 21, Denver Broncos 20


How do you see the game going? Will the Lions roar back to winning ways at Ford Field, or will the Broncos punish us for any potential slip-ups?

 

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