It’s the final quarter of the regular season https://www.broncosfanstore.com/Demarcus-Ware-Jersey , and our MacGyver-patched team is looking to turn its three-game winning streak into four - and going against the 2-10 Niners may just be the way to do it. So even though our Ultimate Fan this week is super bummed that one of his faves is headed to IR, he’s counting on his other favorite veteran - No. Phillip Lindsay Color Rush Jersey 58 - to pull this team out of its .500 spot and keep the positive trend going (and if that doesn’t work exactly how we’d like it, Road Apples still has other plans for the Vonster, but you’ll have to read on to find out what they are).For now though, revel in the potential of this young and exciting team and leave the worrying about who isn’t on the roster right now to the pundits and so-called analysts. That’s what they do best.And what we do best is get hyped about what can be and not fret over what may or may not be. As Whorfin likes to remind us, worrying is for those with no imagination. Lucky for us, Road Apples has plenty of great imagination for how this Broncos team can still make a run for 10-6.Week 14: Broncos at the NinersMHR - The Broncos’ win over the Bengals may have started out slow, but once the team got its first touchdown, it got on a roll and couldn’t be stopped - which is similar to its winning streak of late. How did you feel after that road win?Road Apples: I felt good. I was concerned to some degree about the Bradley Chubb Color Rush Jersey game. It felt like it could have been a bit of a trap game, going up against a QB that they didn’t have any real tape on, with a team that had some strong offensive weapons. But mostly I’m loving the switch the team seems to have flipped regarding the turnovers.MHR - Let’s get the bad news over with - no Emmanuel Sanders. Do you think the Broncos’ offense can still get it done for the last four games with two rookies as WR1 and 2?Road Apples: Ooof. That kind of took the wind out of my sails for a hot minute. We’ve lost so many starters to injury the last couple of weeks, and Emmanuel is a personal favorite of mine, so it wasn’t great news. However, Courtland Sutton has been great, and I have real faith in DaeSean Hamilton, and would like to see Lyndsay get some catches out of the backfield.I’ll out on a limb here and say that the second Chargers game looms large, and the injuries may be most apparent during that game.MHR - Sanders hasn’t been the only big loss. Chris Harris Jr. suffered a fibula fracture that will keep him out 4 weeks at least, which followed recent season-ending injuries to Matt Paradis, Jeff Heuerman Emmanuel Sanders Color Rush Jersey , Jake Booty, Ron Leary...That’s A LOT of starters to lose - yet this team keeps finding a way to win and the young guys have been impressive. How excited are you about the young studs who are seemingly stepping up?Road Apples:Whatever the FO did for the 2018 Draft, (and UDFA) they need to continue to follow that formula. This rookie class is so exciting to watch! Lyndsay has quickly become a stud, and he’s honestly my favorite part of this offense. Kid has wheels! Bradley Chubb has been everything we could have wanted, Josey Jewel is coming into his own, Courtland is a stud, and now we get to see Hamilton get his looks...yeah, in a long sorry first half of the season, these young guys were still fun to watch.MHR - Phillip Lindsay. He’s running like crazy, scoring touchdowns, breaking records, getting honors, trash-talking like a vet but saluting like a pro, still living at home and doing what his mom tells him to do. What more can you say about this kid?Road Apples: Anybody who respects his Momma is golden in my book. I just wonder how living at home affects his dating life. That’s got to be awkward! MHR - Despite better offense overall from the Broncos, Bill Musgrave still tends to make some head-scratching calls - such as an empty set on 3rd-and-short or a run-up-the-middle by Lindsay into a stacked box. What is your take on the OC’s play calling of late? What would you like to see from this offense against the 49ers D?Road Apples: It’s such a mixed bag of late with Ol’ Billy Throws-a-lot. It seems obvious that we need to lean on the run game more, but maybe given Lyndsay’s smaller size, you don’t want to lean on him 30 times a game. And the passing game has been better of late. But I think Musgrave out-thinks himself in trying to out-think his opponent. And while I love No. 30...short yardage runs up the gut should probably be when we lean on Royce Freeman. I don’t know if you want to be clever and put Freeman in as a full back, and Lyndsay as the running back to add a wrinkle so the defense can’t key in on between the tackles runs on short yardage. Honestly, from here on out Gary Zimmerman Jersey , for every game, I want the offense to get the ball to Lyndsay, Freeman and even Booker. Then ratchet up the play action with Keenum, as that seems to be his bread and butter.MHR - Richard Sherman is the Niners best corner right now, and he has bounced back from an achilles tear a year ago. Could he be a tough matchup for either Courtland Sutton or DaeSean Hamilton - or will their speed, youth give them the edge?Road Apples: He could be a problem for Hamilton, I think. He’s not what he used to be, but he’s a smart vet, going up against a green rookie. I think Sutton has the physical tools to counter that experience gap better; he’s just so big and strong, I think he’ll do alright against Sherman. MHR - Matt Breida won’t be playing on Sunday, which could be a welcome relief for the Broncos defense, but Jeff Wilson Jr. has done admirably filling in. How much of a problem could he be for the defense?Road Apples: I’ll plead some level of ignorance to this as I haven’t really watched any San Fran games this year. I was hoping my Hawkeye QB CJ Beathard would make some waves but when that didn’t happen I stopped paying attention. That being said, I feel like our Front 7 can hang with anyone.MHR - Dante Pettis broke free for a 75-yard play last week against Seattle, showcasing quick burst off the line, separation skills and finishing speed. With the Broncos’ patchwork secondary playing, what kind of a problem could HE be for the defense?Road Apples: This could be a real challenge. Here’s to hoping Roby has one of his stud games, and that Yiadom continues to grow. The secondary (outside CHJ) has been a problem this year, and now...yeesh.MHR - The 49ers have had bad luck with injuries (Garoppollo) and losing big-name players (Reuben Foster) so they have been struggling. Do you believe Kyle Shanahan is still an offensive mastermind who just hasn’t had a good enough team to win - or is some of the luster of Shanny Jr. gone? Road Apples: I think it awful hard to have a real solid opinion on what he’s done to this point. This wasn’t an easy job to begin with, then when you lose your $100 million QB along with the other injuries? No way. I think it’s clear he has a mind for the game https://www.broncosfanstore.com/Garett-Bolles-Jersey , but at this point, the jury is still out on his head coaching.MHR - Vance Joseph seems to publicly be off “the coaching hot seat” after three wins in a row, two of them to top teams. But Broncos fans tend to be a lot more finicky. Where are you on the spectrum of “Fire Vance Joseph even if we win the Super Bowl” to “C’mon, he’s showing improvement, give him a chance” to “VJ is the man!”??Road Apples: Oh boy! A few weeks ago I was solidly on the “Fire VJ” bandwagon. Some of the decisions the dude made early in the year were too hard to overlook. Football basics seemed like a real struggle for him, and I still take issue with how quickly he deflected blame for losses onto the players. That’s hard to stomach for me. The boss is always responsible. Period. That being said, I love how hard the team plays for him. And over the last half of the season so far he seems much more confident, and competent, with his decision making. If we continue to play this hard, especially win, after all the injuries, it will be hard for me not to want to see another season out of him. All of that assuming his in-game decisions continue to improve, and he keeps learning. MHR - Von Miller has been nominated for the team’s choice of the Walter Payton Man of the Year. What can you say about this player?Road Apples: Von is the man. How can you not love this guy? He’s humble. He’s great in the community. He’s a great teammate. I want Von to marry my sister. PredictionsThe Favorites How did you become a Broncos fan? Born in Colorado Springs but moved away as a young kid. Fortunately my older brother was a fan, so I still grew up a Broncos fan. I have been very critical of Vance Joseph as a head coach, but when a team wins two games in a row that they were not supposed to win, then that team is improving. Improvement by the team as a whole is a result of coaching and the head coach deserves at least some of the credit for this. The Broncos were 7.5 underdogs against the Chargers and then 3.0 point underdogs against the Steelers. This marks the first and second times that Denver has won a game as underdogs by 3 or more points with Vance Joseph as the head coach - we were 0-9 before the Chargers game. In all games where the Broncos are underdogs, we are 4-10 with the other two wins being the victories over Cowboys and the Jets in 2017. So how did we get to this win? We got to this by generating takeaways. The defense got four takeaways on Sunday and the Broncos are 24-1 this century when forcing four or more turnovers (95%). That lone loss was the 2007 overtime loss to the Bears. Since the merger the team is 98-17-2 when forcing four or more turnover - 83.7% winning %. In the modern NFL where turnovers occur less and less frequently, forcing them is not a sustainable method of winning games, but teams that can force them tend to win more than they lose. In our little two-game winning streak Jake Butt Color Rush Jersey , the Broncos are +6 in turnover margin, with zero giveaways and 6 takeaways. Overall we are +6 on the season. We are 7th in fewest giveaways with 12 in 11 games and 8th in most takeaways with 18. While it’s unsustainable to rely on takeaways to win, consistently winning the turnover battle is a sustainable path to victory. Metrics So how didwe do in the two metrics that I track here? Pittsburgh ran 8 times for 36 yards on first down - 4.63 ypc. This generally kept them out of 3rd and long situations. Of their 8 runs on first down, only one was stopped for no gain or a loss. Every other first down run gained 2 or more yards. The Steelers gained an average of 6.91 yards per play on first down - which was helped dramatically by the 97-yard TD pass. They gained a net of 233 yards on first down (33 plays). If you take out that TD pass, they gained 4.25 yards on first down plays (which is still pretty good). League average right now is 5.7 yards per play. This is up from 5.3 yards per play last season. That is a huge jump year over year and if this continues I will right up a whole piece on it at seasons end (although others have already done so). For the season we are now allowing 4.83 yards per carry on first down runs which is 21st in the league. SEA is currently worst in the league allowing 5.79 and New Orleans is best allowing 3.48. All numbers exclude QB kneel-downs, which really should be excluded from rushing stats. The Broncos held the Steelers to zero conversion on four 3rd & long situations. For the season the Broncos have allowed conversion on 22 of 73 3rd and long situations (30.1%) which is 26th in the league. Cleveland currently leads the league allowing conversions on 17.4% of 3rd and long plays while the Rams are dead last allowing conversion on an astounding 42.9%. Overall the Broncos held the Steelers to 5 of 14 on 3rd down. We have moved all the way up to 18th in the league in 3rd down % allowed - 39.6%. Minnesota is still #1 allowing 27.6% while the Bengals (or next opponent) is dead last allowing conversion 55.1% of the time. Moving OnThis team is trending upward. I am now hopeful that this improvement can continue and that the Broncos can make a run at a playoff spot. Yes, the odds are slim. Only 2.6% of teams starting the season 3-6 have gone one to make the playoffs. From 1970 to 2018, 194 teams started the year 3-6 - the average finish of those teams was 6-10. 5 (2.6%) of them made the playoffsBest Finish: 10-6, 3 teams (most recent: 2012 WAS)Worst Finish: 3-13, 5 teams (most recent: 2013 WAS) Even if the Broncos miss the playoffs this season, should they continue to play well down the stretch and win five or six of the last seven that would be dramatic improvement from where they were in 2017 and where they were in early 2018. That should lead to something that they have not had in a long to start the 2019 season - continuity. If we finish well, we should have the same offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, head coach and starting QB to start the 2019 season. In my opinion, that would be a good thing.
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