Broncos Are Searching For Answers As They Head To Cleveland

Written By Ian St. Clair on 10/18/2021 - Last Updated on October 20, 2021
Broncos vs Browns Thursday Night Football odds

The Denver Broncos are at a tipping point.

One could argue that’s been the case since 2016, but here it is in 2021.

After a 3-0 that brought excitement and hope back to Broncos Country, the team has reverted back to what it is — a dumpster fire.

After the latest embarrassment, this time a 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders (that don’t have a head coach), the Broncos head east to play the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football.

To say the expectations have changed is a major understatement. Denver doesn’t need to win, just show up.

Broncos vs Browns odds

 

One of the major factors to keep eye on over the next few days is the status of Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield. After the Browns 37-14 loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, he was seen with his left arm in a sling.

That’s one reason the odds on the Broncos are where they currently sit. When the lines were first released, Denver was a +7-point underdog. Now that Mayfield’s status is up in the air, that’s one reason the number has the Broncos as a -point underdog to Cleveland.

Now that former Denver quarterback Case Keenum is the starter, the sportsbooks still like the Browns. The team announced on Wednesday that Keenum will start in place of the injured Baker Mayfield on Thursday. Mayfield has a torn labrum on his left shoulder.

Coupled with the status of Browns running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who left Sunday’s game against Arizona, that will certainly have an impact on what bettors do with the total. The current market sits at for the over/under. It was announced on Monday that Hunt is expected to miss several weeks with his calf injury. He is likely headed to short-term injured reserve. On Tuesday, Chubb was also ruled out for Thursday’s game. That means third-string running back D’Ernest Johnson will get the carries for Cleveland against the Broncos.

The other factor for NFL betting when it comes to the total, especially since the game is in Cleveland, is the weather. The forecast calls for light rain and mild wind with temperatures in the upper 50s.

How the Broncos cover

What made the showing against the Raiders even more sickening was how ill-prepared and lifeless Denver was on the field.

The way the Broncos coached and played, you would have thought it was the first preseason game. And this was against a divisional opponent that doesn’t have a head coach.

How that gets flipped on a short week is a major task, and with this current coaching staff it is unrealistic.

For Thursday, it starts and stops with the defense. This was the supposed strength of this team coming into the season. A healthy Von Miller and a secondary that was ballyhooed about as one of the best in the NFL. Well, the last three weeks this secondary has been shredded finer than fresh parmesan. And now there are questions as to whether Broncos general manager George Paton should trade Miller. The edge turns 33 in March, is on the final year of his contract and probably won’t return to Denver after this season.

To make matters worse, the pass rush has been non-existent and the Broncos can’t stop the run.

Whoever plays quarterback for the Browns on Thursday all of that must change. The secondary, the pass rush, the run defense, it has to get better for Denver to have a shot. If Chubb is able to play on Thursday, watch out. And now that linebacker Alexander Johnson is done for the year with a torn pec, that chore is even tougher for the defense.

Broncos offensive line in for tough matchup

For the Broncos on offense, the offensive line has to protect Teddy Bridgewater better. Garett Bolles and Bobby Massie struggled mightily against the Raiders. Now they are set to square off against Myles Garrett and Jadeveon Clowney. Yikes.

Oh, and the Browns are coming off tough back-to-back losses. Yeah, Thursday could get really ugly in Cleveland.

As the NFL enters Week 7, the Broncos have hit a tipping point.

If they lose to a team quarterbacked by Keenum, they may not get back up.

Photo by AP / Jack Dempsey
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Ian St. Clair

Ian St. Clair is an award-winning sports journalist. He is a University of Northern Colorado graduate, Colorado native and has over a decade of experience covering college and professional athletics. Ian does a weekly Broncos segment each Saturday on Klahr and Kompany on Denver radio station ESPN 1600 AM.

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