Broncos fans, beware the Tennessee Titans
December 6, 2016
It wasn't pretty, but we don't give style points this time of year.
The Denver Broncos edged by the Jacksonville Jaguars, 20-10, on Sunday. It was an ugly win, but we just stated the first rule of December football above.
The Broncos' defense returned to its stellar state, winning a game in which the offense gained all of 206 yards and had just 10 first downs.
Of course, Paxton Lynch was pressed into duty with Trevor Siemian out with a left-foot injury. We weren't expecting fireworks out of Lynch and we got maybe a sparkler. That's OK.
Next up? The Tennessee Titans.
This was a game that Broncos fans marked as a win when the schedule came out. This is game that Broncos fans are expecting to win this week.
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The Titans are legit, and playing for a playoff spot in the jumble that is the AFC South with the Colts and Texans. Tennessee is underwhelming defensively, but is that really an issue with the Broncos' offense?
This would be a good time to start hoping that Siemian is healthy and ready to go Sunday. The Denver Post reports that No. 13 is out of his boot, and "getting better" in the ambiguous parlance that is NFL injury-speak.
What should concern Broncos fans is that Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is figuring things out in his second year under center — more touchdowns, fewer interceptions, a higher completion percentage and more rushing yards through 12 games this year as opposed to last.
And he has running-back DeMarco Murray, who has already topped 1,000 yards in rushing. If Denver's sterling defense has an Achilles' heel, then it's rushing. You may remember the Raiders and Chiefs games.
This is not a gimme game.
If the season ended today, the Broncos would be the sixth seed after the Dolphins got smoked by the Ravens last week. There still is not much a margin for error, particularly with the finish of New England, Kansas City and Oakland.
Hold your breath, folks.
Raiders at Chiefs
Week 14 starts on Thursday night with a big one for Broncos fans as Oakland visits Kansas City. Given the lack of defense played by the RAY-DERS and that this game's in K.C., advantage Chiefs. But as a Broncos' fan, for whom do you root? If you think the Broncos can still win the division, it's the Chiefs. If you're thinking wild card, root for the Raiders.
I know, as a Broncos fan, you're actually rooting for a blimp to crash into Arrowhead.
The Patriots have lost Rob Gronkowski, which is huge. However, with the AFC West's elite playing each other, New England probably still gets homefield advantage through the playoffs. Bill, Tom and company remain the team to beat in the AFC.
At 11-1, the Cowboys are the cream of the NFC. The one came against the New York Giants in Week 1, and the rematch is this week at the Meadowlands. Seattle looked much better taking the Panthers apart this week. The Cowboys and Seahawks are nos. 1 and 1a in the NFC.
Baltimore bludgeoned the Dolphins and are tied with Pittsburgh atop the AFC North. Can one win the North and the other take a wild card spot? This is a pertinent question for the Broncos. I still think Pittsburgh's the team no one wants to see in the playoffs.
The Giants should be a wild card in the NFC. Are the Packers starting to streak? And watch Tampa Bay. The Bucs' defense is improving and Jameis Winston is maturing. (I've watched far too many Tampa games because he's on my fantasy team.)
The Niners are favored! (In journalism school, they tell you not to use an exclamation point, but this is worthy.) That said, take the Jets and the points this week.
Upset alert: The Browns (0-12) host the Bengals this week. Could this be the one?
Enjoy Week 14.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.