The Denver Broncos are banged up entering their Week 7 tilt with the Cleveland Browns on Thursday Night Football. The silver lining? The opponent might be even more compromised on the health front.
The Broncos lost starting linebacker Alexander Johnson to a season-ending pectoral injury suffered in Week 6 which means both the team's day-one starters at the position are on injured reserve. Considering that the Browns are the NFL's No. 1 rushing offense, that would normally portend poorly for the Broncos.
But the Browns' top-two running backs have already been ruled out of Thursday night's action. Silver lining, indeed.
Let's take a gander at the final injury report for both clubs.
Despite being thin at linebacker, the Broncos ruled out two for Week 7 in Baron Browning and edge rusher Aaron Patrick. The team's depth at linebacker will be put to the test moving forward, and Thursday's matchup should give Vic Fangio and company a good bead on whether the new starting duo — Justin Strnad and Micah Kiser — will be able to cut the mustard.
Now for even more concerning news. Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is questionable with a barrage of injuries (foot/quad) and so is his blind-side protector Garett Bolles (knee). If you're into reading tea leaves, the implication here is cause for alarm considering that arguably the best edge rusher in the NFL will be chasing Teddy on Thursday night — Myles Garrett.
Here's to hoping Bolles can tough it out and hang in there vs. Garrett. The expectation is that Bridgewater will play, though the wisdom of trotting him out there might be worthy of scrutiny. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler reported on Thursday that Teddy is 'on track' to start.
Missing in action for Cleveland is starting quarterback Baker Mayfield, who will be replaced in the lineup by a familiar face in ex-Bronco Case Keenum. The revenge element here should make every Broncos fan uncomfortable considering how the last three games have gone.
Running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt have been ruled out, which is a massive blessing for Fangio's flagellated rushing defense. Although he was initially listed as questionable, road-grading offensive tackle Jack Conklin has also been X-ed from the proceedings, which oddly puts even more pressure on the Broncos' defense to smother Cleveland's rushing attack.
As you can see, the litany of injured Browns is considerable with seven additional players listed as questionable, including star wideout Odell Beckham, Jr. If the Broncos can't capitalize on how fairly the Football Gods have arranged Week 7's stars, that in and of itself will be a referendum on the quality of Fangio, his coaching staff, and this locker room.
Follow Chad on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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