There are a few teams in the NFL that, no matter their actual quality, you just expect to play you tough. The Denver Broncos, especially at home, are one of those teams.
The Broncos got off to a 1-0 start on Monday night, defeating the Los Angeles Chargers 24-21. The final score was close, as the Broncos barely held onto a 24-7 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Now, Dallas travels to Denver to face these Broncos in a battle of 1-0 teams. Not sure what this out-of-conference foe is made of? I got you covered, let's take a look.
The Broncos Offense
The Denver Broncos offense is headed by quarterback Trevor Siemian, a former seventh round draft pick who beat out first rounder Paxton Lynch to win the starting job. Siemian is a bit of a gunslinger, though you wouldn't know it by simply looking at his box scores.
Often trying to fit balls into windows he has no business throwing to, Siemian is always at risk to throw an interception and give the Cowboys another chance on offense.
Last week, Siemian made this bone-headed throw early on the game. On a quick catch-and-throw play, Siemian's ball should've been taken back for a pick six if it wasn't for the cornerback dropping the pass.
Later on in the game, however, he delivered a dime to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to set up a red zone touchdown. Somehow, these throws came from the same player. If given time to execute, Siemian can make some plays and beat the Cowboys secondary. This is why it is imperative the Cowboys defensive line gets pressure and forces him out of the pocket.
This brings me to the Broncos offensive line. A unit which has been killed by the media over the last couple of seasons, this offensive line actually made some big improvements during the offseason. By bringing in former Cowboys guard Ronald Leary and drafting Utah left tackle Garett Bolles, Denver made a concerted effort to beef up their front five.
Still, they have some real issues. On the interior, Denver isn't a bad unit, especially if Leary can play next Sunday despite rumors of a concussion. Where they struggle most is at the tackle spots, specifically right tackle Menelik Watson.
Chargers defensive end Melvin Ingram had his way with Watson all night last Monday, and I expect DeMarcus Lawrence do to some of the same this week.
The best player on the Broncos offense last week was running back CJ Anderson. Anderson broke off a few nice gains en route to an 81 yard day. If the Broncos offensive line can open any type of lanes against a Cowboys defense which proved stingy a week ago, Anderson can find them and make some plays.
The Broncos Defense
If the Denver Broncos are known for anything, it is for their pass defense. Strong in the secondary and on the edge, the Broncos have had one of the best units against the pass in the entire league over the last couple of seasons.
Obviously, EDGE player Von Miller might be the best pass rusher in the league, and will be a handful for La'el Collins to deal with this Sunday. On the other side, Shaquil Barrett is no slouch either, though I don't expect Tyron Smith to struggle too much in pass protection.
The true strength of the Broncos defense is in their back-end, with corners Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. making life difficult for all opposing wide outs.
Where I see the biggest weakness in this strong defensive unit is in the way they play the run. Chargers running back Melvin Gordon totaled just 54 yards on 18 attempts on Monday, but he left a lot of meat on the bone which I believe Ezekiel Elliott will eat right up.
This is a good example of a run where Zeke might find a chunk play while Gordon found just a few yards. Had he quickly cut back behind the left guard and tackle instead of burying his head and running up the middle, it would've probably been a more positive play.
I expect Ezekiel Elliott to execute on these runs and have a good day on the ground this week.
The Denver Broncos are pretty good football team, and will be tough to beat at home. But in the end, I still think the Cowboys have enough offensive firepower to offset the strong defensive unit which the Broncos possess.