Broncos (2-5) at Jaguars (2-5)
When: 7:30 a.m. MT, Sunday
Where: Wembley Stadium
Radio/TV: 850 AM, 94.1 FM/Westwood One/ESPN+ and KMGH-7
Broncos-Jaguars series: Broncos are 6-6 in 12 regular-season games dating back to 1995; the Broncos won 23-13 in the last meeting, on Sept. 19, 2021, in Jacksonville.
Broncos offense vs Itself
Last in the league in points per game. Last in red zone efficiency. Last in total penalties, the majority of which have been the offense’s fault, thus resulting in far too many long-yardage situations.
Entering Week 8 in London against a middling Jacksonville defense, Russell Wilson & Co. are running out of excuses.
Yes, there has been a learning curve with Wilson, a new offense and a first-year play-caller in Nathaniel Hackett. Yes, the offense has suffered key season-ending injuries, namely receiver Tim Patrick in training camp followed by tailback Javonte Williams in Week 4 and left tackle Garett Bolles in Week 5.
But as general manager George Paton explained this week, it’s time to put up or shut up as the Broncos enter Wembley Stadium with their season already hanging halfway off the cliff.
“It’s not just one thing as you can see (with the offense’s inefficiency),” Paton said, “I think it’s a lot of newness — a new coaching staff, a lot of new players, new quarterback, new schemes. It doesn’t come all together (at once). I knew it wasn’t going to be a well-oiled machine. I thought it would take time. It has, but there’s a lot we have to work on.
“Then you have some injuries on offense. Our staff is trying to learn each other, and our players are trying to learn each other. It’s just a lot. No excuses — we need to play better. The offense hasn’t been good enough to win games. Defense has kept us in it, but the offense has to play better.”
That means Wilson has to finally find a groove on Sunday, as the quarterback is trending toward playing after missing last week’s loss to the Jets with a hamstring injury. He’ll need to rely on a makeshift backfield to do it, with Mike Boone now also on injured reserve, and hope to get a reversal of fortune from an offensive line that’s regressed in recent weeks without its anchor at left tackle.
Who has the edge?
Russell Wilson is trending toward returning from the hamstring injury that kept him out of last week’s loss. To this point, he’s played like Mr. Limited. Trevor Lawrence, in his second year after being the top overall pick in 2021, has nine TDs to four interceptions. Edge: Jaguars
The Broncos’ RB room is in tatters with Javonte Williams on season-ending IR (ACL) and Mike Boone on short-term IR (ankle). Melvin Gordon and Latavius Murray must step up. The Jags feature Travis Etienne Jr. after trading James Robinson to the Jets. Edge: Even
Courtland Sutton’s consistent and Jerry Jeudy’s shown flashes, but beyond that, Denver’s weapons are underperforming. Rookie tight end Greg Dulcich likely starts again over Albert Okwuegbunam, who’s been inactive the past two weeks. The Jags have Christian Kirk, Zay Jones and TE Evan Engram. Edge: Jaguars
The Broncos’ front is banged up. They’re on their third option at left tackle (Calvin Anderson) while Billy Turner has been inconsistent at right tackle. Without a featured tailback, Denver needs to control the line of scrimmage more. The Jaguars are anchored by left tackle Cam Robinson. Edge: Jaguars
Mike Purcell is dealing with a knee injury. The combination of Dre’Mont Jones and D.J. Jones has been potent, but Denver is still susceptible against the run. The Jacksonville front features former Bronco Adam Gotsis as well as fellow end Roy Robertson-Harris. Edge: Broncos
Inside backer Josey Jewell is working his way back from a knee injury that kept him out the last two games. Edge rusher Bradley Chubb continues to play well despite increasing trade speculation. Jacksonville has Josh Allen while Foyesade Oluokun is a tackling machine. Edge: Even
Pat Surtain II continues to make his case as the NFL’s top cover cornerback. Damarri Mathis has been up-and-down replacing Ronald Darby (torn ACL). Justin Simmons’ return last week was a boost. Jaguars free safety Andre Cisco has two interceptions. Edge: Broncos
Brandon McManus is coming off a shaky game where he missed an extra point and a field goal. The Broncos are still waiting for the explosive return from Montrell Washington. The Jags have second-year kicker Riley Patterson (10-of-11 this year on field goals). Edge: Even
Tale of the tape
|Total offense||328.6 (23rd)||371.3 (7th)|
|Rush offense||109.4 (19th)||137.4 (9th)|
|Pass offense||219.1 (20th)||233.9 (15th)|
|Points per game||14.3 (32nd)||22.1 (T-16th)|
|Total defense||286 (2nd)||348.4 (17th)|
|Run defense||112.9 (15th)||110.3 (13th)|
|Pass defense||173.1 (2nd)||238.1 (20th)|
|Points allowed||16.4 (3rd)||19.6 (T-10th)|
* Through Week 7
By the numbers
23.5%: The Broncos’ red zone touchdown percentage on offense, ranked last in the NFL.
25.0%: The Broncos’ red zone touchdown percentage on defense, ranked first in the NFL.
19: The number of passes defensed by Pat Surtain II so far in his career, which ranks first in team history among players in their first 22 career games.
9: Career sacks for Broncos defensive tackle D.J. Jones, who can hit double digitd and tie his career high for sacks in a single season (three) by bringing down Trevor Lawrence on Sunday.
297: Career touchdown passes for Russell Wilson. Three more, and he ties John Elway for 13th-most in NFL history.
Line: Jaguars -3
Bet on the Jaguars. Until the Broncos — ahem, the Broncos offense — goes out and proves it can put four quarters of quality football together, this team is dead in the water. Jacksonville will break its losing streak, or at least cover, because Denver still has no clue about its offensive identity.
Prop bet: More receiving yards, Jerry Jeudy vs. Christian Kirk
Against the Jets, Jeudy had his best game since Week 1, as Brett Rypien found him for seven catches for 96 yards. But Jeudy and Russell Wilson’s chemistry has been lacking since the Seattle opener. Kirk, meanwhile, is Jacksonville’s leading receiver. He’s also coming off a seven-catch, 96-yard performance. Bet on Kirk.
Mark Kiszla, columnist: Broncos 23, Jaguars 17
To paraphrase general manager George Paton, the Broncos have to win a blankety-bleep game sometime. Don’t they? Coach Nathaniel Hackett sure hopes so.
Kyle Newman, beat writer: Jaguars 17, Broncos 13
If you think the wheels have fallen off the Broncos’ cart already, just wait until they lose this game with another hair-pulling, offensive performance by the offense. Russell Wilson’s hamstring probably won’t be 100%; that lack of mobility, combined with a suspect Denver O-line, leads to several sacks by the Jaguars that keeps Denver from finding a rhythm. Meanwhile, the defense again plays well, but not well enough to make up for an offense that can’t get out of its own way. In a bright spot, Pat Surtain II has his first pick of 2022.
Parker Gabriel, beat writer: Broncos 17, Jaguars 16
Denver certainly has not been good this year and neither has Jacksonville. Now the two meet in London where a huge crowd is expected to watch the pair of 2-5 teams at Wembley Stadium on Sunday. Somebody’s four-game losing streak is going to end, and given how many close, weird, low-scoring games the Broncos have dropped so far, a game of that type must go the other way at some point, right? If that sounds unconvincing, it’s because I’m not particularly convinced.
Sean Keeler, columnist: Jaguars 20, Broncos 16
Maybe this dumpster fire of an offense translates better to the metric system? Let’s see: 328.6 yards per game equals 300.5 meters, or 530,949 pints or… oh, to heck with it. Instead of turning Nate Lasso’s (non) attack into a drinking game, Denver fans should do high-knees, Big Russ style, until the Broncos score a touchdown. And just like Wilson flying over the Atlantic, it’ll probably take about four hours.