The Denver Broncos are in dire need of a win. After starting the 2021 season 3-0, the team has dropped its last three and now hovers at .500 and on the precipice of ruin.
Fortunately, the Broncos draw the Cleveland Browns on a short-week turnaround who will be without quarterback Baker Mayfield and their two-headed rushing hydra Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. The Browns are still a formidable opponent but this is an opportunity for the Broncos.
Who will win? Let's go around the Mile High Huddle table for predictions and picks.
James Campbell (@JamesC_MHH) 5-1: One of the few teams more banged-up than the Broncos is the Browns. However, depleted as they are, the Browns are better in every department, except kicker, and also boast better coaching and still have more than enough to make it difficult for the Broncos. Denver is spiraling and if it doesn't right the ship soon, many in the coaching staff will be looking for new jobs come January and the team might become sellers at the trade deadline. Most disappointing is the defensive fragilities shown thus far with performances not up to par. The Browns win, and it isn't close.
Pick: Browns 42, Broncos 8
Kenneth Booker (@KennethMHH) 4-2: I have zero confidence that the Broncos can execute on the offensive side of the ball with OC Pat Shurmur calling the plays. He is reluctant to lean on his running game and use the play-action off it. I see the Broncos' defense doing its best to keep it close but ultimately gassing out, giving up a late touchdown to Cleveland to seal the victory.
Pick: Browns 20, Broncos 9
Mike Evans (@MHHEvans) 3-3: The Broncos are in a free fall but have the opportunity to regain altitude if they earn a victory on Thursday against the Browns. Based on their performance over the last three weeks, the odds are not in Denver's favor. Both teams are playing with injuries at key positions. Second and third-team players will play an important role in the outcome of the game. Look for Von Miller’s performance to reboot the Broncos' fight for playoff relevancy. How the Broncos compete in this contest will be a clear window into the mindset of the team. Most importantly, it will show whether players still have confidence in their coaches and each other.
Pick: Broncos 21, Browns 20
Thomas Hall (@ThomasHallNFL) 4-2: Due to the significant injuries on the Browns, many are speculating that this could be the Broncos “get right” game. It seems that things are lining up in the Broncos' favor. I don’t trust it one bit, though, mainly because the Raiders game last week had a similar feel and the Broncos laid an egg. The Browns are the better team and with a short week on the road, I have little faith the Broncos coaches can have the team adequately prepared. I do think Miller backs up his boast but it won’t be enough because he will get little help from others on the defense. Courtland Sutton will continue to excel with another 100-yard receiving game in the loss.
Pick: Browns 23, Broncos 13
Chad Jensen (@ChadNJensen) 4-2: Man, did I misjudge this team's mettle last week. I saw no way that the Broncos would lose to a reeling Raiders on Mike Shanahan's day of days. Not only did Denver lose, it did so in embarrassing fashion. This is not a team fans can trust. This is not a team you can count on to do anything more than punch below its weight class. I'd like to predict a win but even without Mayfield, the Browns are a tough team, and the revenge component on the part of Case Keenum is setting up perfectly to humiliate the Broncos. Miller goes off but Denver's offense remains high-centered. Teddy Bridgewater fails to rally the troops as Keenum realizes the old adage that revenge is sweet, baby, sweet.
Pick: Browns 26, Broncos 17
Zack Kelberman (@KelbermanNFL) 4-2: My gut is telling me not to pick the Broncos after last week's epic letdown. But my brain can't comprehend Denver losing this game to an injury-wracked Browns team with the season — and perhaps Vic Fangio's job — on the line. Keenum beating the Broncos in a revenge game on national television simply does not compute. It can't happen. It shouldn't happen. It better not happen. Or else.
Pick: Broncos 17, Browns 16
Nick Kendell (@NickKendellMHH) 3-3: Not only are the struggling Broncos riding a three-game losing streak, but they've lost three in embarrassing fashion. When you come into the season with the highest-paid secondary and highly paid players all across the defense and look this bad, it's going to be hard to win games. Until the Broncos look like they want to be there, this is going to be a hard team to pick even going up against a decimated Browns' offense. Will Teddy survive against Myles Garrett's pass rush? This is a fork in the road game for the Broncos and Vic Fangio's time in Denver.
Pick: Browns 30, Broncos 17
Bob Morris (@BobMorrisSports) 4-2: Thursday’s game should be winnable, particularly with the Browns dealing with so many injuries. However, the Broncos have been down this road before, with two winnable games the past two weeks, only to fall behind by a large margin each time. I’ve given the Broncos the benefit of the doubt before, but now, it’s up to the Broncos to prove themselves — players and coaches alike. And while the Browns are not without their faults, they have better coaching and still have good pass rushers. Until I see the Broncos play consistently well throughout a game, stop allowing big plays, force things to happen, and do a better job of adjustments throughout a game, I’m not betting on them coming away with a victory.
Pick: Browns 17, Broncos 13
Luke Patterson (@LukePattersonLP) 5-1: With the news that Keenum will start for Cleveland, Denver’s defense will sleep on its former starting QB. The Browns are hurt just like the Broncos, but have a better infrastructure to sustain trying times. The Broncos players have already quit on each other and the coaches. This isn’t a team, it’s a group of frustrated and losing mercenaries. Four losses in a row, this time the team gets embarrassed in front of the whole country on prime time.
Pick: Browns 24, Broncos 13
Lance Sanderson (@SandersonMHH) 3-3: This is not the game where the Broncos stanch the bleeding.
Pick: Browns 23, Broncos 13
Erick Trickel (@ErickTrickel) 3-3: With how this Broncos defense has played, the injuries to the Browns offense don't mean much. Cleveland is a better-coached team with better execution on both sides of the ball. The Browns have monsters on their defensive front that will live in the Broncos' backfield. While it isn't Halloween just yet, this game is the most terrifying thing for the Broncos this year. After Denver falls, it'll make sweeping changes to the coaches that are calling plays, as well as some personnel shuffling during their 10-day mini-bye between games. Denver continues its trend of notching a pair of garbage time touchdowns, making the game look closer than it was in reality.
Pick: Browns 34, Broncos 24
Subscribe to Mile High Huddle on YouTube for daily Broncos live-stream podcasts!