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Broncos vs. Bills: Who Can Keep Their Season On Track?

By: Zach Gotlieb

Game Info: Date: 11/13/23 Start Time: 8:15 pm EST Location: Buffalo, New York TV Info: ESPN Spread: BUF -7 All-Time Record: Bills lead all-time series 23-16-1 In a game with both teams still trying to find themselves, the Denver Broncos will travel to Buffalo for a big prime-time matchup against the Buffalo Bills. The Broncos are starting to find themselves after a disastrous start to the season, riding a two-game win streak and fresh off of the bye week. The Bills have been struggling of late, going 2-in-3 in their last five games. Monday night will be a battle of two teams fighting to get their season back on track. Buffalo Bills Offense

The offense has felt like it has been struggling. The numbers still look fine, but the vibes on offense are not quite right. Josh Allen has nine interceptions this season, throwing one in each of the last five games. He’s taking significant risks in situations that don’t require big risks, and he’s also made some poor decisions. He’s also on pace for a career-low in rushing attempts in an effort to keep him healthier. There is a big question mark with their weapons that can be part of the reason the offense appears to be struggling. Stefon Diggs is special, but past him, Gabe Davis hasn’t consistently lived up to the WR2 role he’s supposed to be playing; Khalil Shakir has been solid but nothing special. The most significant positive right now has been the emergence of Dalton Kincaid, who has been an excellent and mostly sure-handed safety blanket for Allen over the last couple of weeks. Despite all of the positives, even he had a game-ending fumble previous week on Sunday Night Football in their loss to the Bengals. Gabe Davis has appeared to be the key to offensive success. In wins, he averages 59.2 yards per game, and in losses, he averages 34.5 yards per game in half the number of receptions. The Bills need to get him going to open up their offense.

The offense has spectacular moments and other moments that feel far too conservative. Denver’s unit is no pushover right now. This offense will have to pick it up if they want to win this game, get back in the playoff picture, and make a run in the playoffs. Defense The Bills' most significant question mark right now is injuries. The defense is missing Micah Hyde (neck/stinger), Tre’Davious White (Achilles), Matt Milano (leg), and Christian Benford (hamstring), among others, who are out for this game and longer. Josh Allen and Jordan Poyer are also nursing injuries and appeared on the injury report this week but are expected to play. While the defense is significantly less skilled than their opening-day roster would have suggested, they still play hard, and they made life exceedingly difficult for an explosive Bengals offense last week. The secondary has some reinforcements with the recently acquired Rasul Douglas and Josh Norman on the practice squad, but they are going to have to perform this week. Where they desperately need production is from the edges. A.J. Epenesa is already near his career high in sacks and has put together a good year. On the other side is former Bronco Von Miller in his first game against the team that drafted him. Miller hasn’t found his groove yet as he returns from his second torn ACL, but this could, and needs to, be a big week for him.

The key to the game for the defense is to stop the run and force Russell Wilson to beat you with his arm. FAssolid as he has been, he has not had to win games with his arm. If the offense can get a lead and the defense can stop the run, Buffalo's game becomes very winnable. Denver Broncos Offense

The offense has been good but not great. While effective, they have lacked the dynamism that is required for inevitable shootouts like this game could require. Part of that is by design. The last three games have been heavy running games. Playing the Chiefs twice in three weeks means keeping the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands. Javonte Williams and Jaleel McLaughlin played huge roles in doing that in their streak-breaking win two weeks ago. In the middle game against Green Bay, their run defense was less than good, which left many holes for chunk runs. I would expect more of the same against a Josh Allen-led offense, a banged-up defense, and behind a road-grating offensive line. With the passing game, it’s been fine. It hasn’t been anything special but hasn't necessarily needed to be. They’ve found a good rhythm in the RB screen game, particularly with McLaughlin, and they’ve started to open up some more deep shots with each passing week. Russell Wilson had a very good game when called upon against Kansas City, finishing with three touchdown passes, an efficient 114 yards, and no interceptions (though he lost a fumble).

The key to the game for this offense is to control the pace. While the Bills offense hasn’t been as potent as it can be, don’t give them more opportunities than needed to find that rhythm. Run the ball, and don’t turn it over. Defense Stats don’t lie until they do. The full-season stats are not indicative of what the defense is doing right now. They are among the league leaders in most statistical categories from weeks 6-8. They’ve allowed three touchdowns and given up 15 points per game in those contests. The run fits have been better with a healthy D.J. Jones clogging the middle, and the secondary, with healthy Justin Simmons, has completely transformed. They are hunting contact and creating turnovers. As Defensive Coordinator Vance Joseph said during his media availability this week, I think what’s forgotten here is this is the first year.” These things take time, and it appears they are finally rounding into form. The 70-point, 700-yard onslaught by the Miami Dolphins feels like it was years ago, and a new defense has been found. It all started with stopping the run and better tackling. They are still capable of melting down, which creates worry against a potent offense, but if the team of the last three games shows up? Buffalo could be in for a difficult day.

Injury Report For the first time beyond my memory, the Broncos will have a completely healthy 53-man roster for a game. Only EDGE Baron Browning and LG Ben Powers were listed on the injury report this week, and they practiced in full for all three listed days and did not have a game designation, signaling that they will play. On the other hand, Buffalo is not so lucky. Nine players are listed on their injury report; however, only three have a game designation. For a team that already has a ton of injuries on defense, missing Matt Milano and Tre’Davious White notably, all three players with injury designations are on defense. CB Christian Benford and S Micah Hyde are out for the game, and LB Terrel Bernard is questionable coming back from a concussion. Losing two more secondary players is a big problem for Buffalo. Especially Hyde has put together another excellent year for Buffalo, forming half of one of the best safety duos in the league with Jordan Poyer (also on the injury report).

One Big Key to the Game

Broncos: Force mistakes. For as dynamic as Josh Allen is as a passer and runner, he will give you three or four opportunities to make a play. As Denver did against the Chiefs in their last game, forcing five turnovers, they need to do the same on Monday Night. More importantly, they need to get points off of those mistakes. Only scoring 24 points when forcing five turnovers is not enough. The offense needs to take advantage. Bills: Stop the run. The Broncos offense has not proven it can win with the passing game as the highlight. If they beat you that way, kudos. Prediction The Broncos haven’t won in Buffalo since 2007. Recent history would suggest more of the same; however, things are a little different now. Coming off a bye and beating the Chiefs for the first time in eight years, the year of breaking streaks is on, and it could continue in Buffalo. It’s reasonable for Buffalo to be favored; they are the better team on paper, but with how each team has played going into this game, the spread is larger than it should be. The Bills are looking for their identity, and the Broncos have found theirs. . .

Score prediction: 23-20 Broncos

(Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)

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