The Denver Broncos are coming off a bad loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, now poised to hit the road to take on the Indianapolis Colts. Typically, I break down ways the Broncos can exploit the coming opponent, but I'm changing it up this week.
So instead, I will break down certain players that the Broncos really need to step up in this game.
Even though they lost Andrew Luck, the Colts remain a really good, well-balanced team that is tough for many teams to matchup with this year. Indianapolis' quarterback, Jacoby Brissett, is playing good football and while their defense isn’t outstanding, the Colts are a stout unit that is very opportunistic.
This is a really tough game for the Broncos because the Colts' strengths play right into their weaknesses. With that in mind, what Broncos players need to step up their game in order to make this one winnable?
The Broncos offensive line is a weak unit, particularly in pass protection. Their run blocking can be solid, but they also get some help from the running backs breaking tackles or making people miss in the backfield.
The Broncos' starting five will need to play a cleaner game upfront in both aspects of the game, otherwise, the defensive front of the Colts can take this game over.
Joe Flacco, QB
Everyone knows it. Even Vic Fangio has addressed it. Flacco has not been good and the Broncos need him to be better. The O-line is an issue, but the struggles in the passing game are not all on them.
Flacco has taken some bad sacks when he had open receivers but held onto the ball for too long. The Broncos can’t continue to let that happen.
As Fangio said, Flacco needs to get the ball out quicker. His receivers are towards the top in getting-open percentage in the NFL, but Flacco has just been gunshy at times. Step it up, or take a seat.
Davontae Harris, CB
On the other side of Chris Harris, Jr. is Davontae Harris and he is struggling, which is no surprise considering he's a No. 5 cornerback being asked to play No. 2. While Harris does make a play here and there, the second-year DB is also relinquishing a lot of separation and getting attacked by opposing QBs as a result.
Denver needs better from Davontae Harris because the Colts have some weapons at receiver. If he doesn’t step up, I would expect the Colts to target this Harris in the secondary.
DaeSean Hamilton/Fred Brown, WRs
In the wake of the Emmanuel Sanders trade, the Broncos need another receiver to step up. These two are the most likely to get the first crack at doing just that. Hamilton does a good job at his role, getting separation to the tune of 3.5 yards per route, a team-best.
The team really likes Brown, and he will likely step into the Sanders' role since Hamilton has a niche carved out that he does so well already. Denver needs another weapon to emerge in the passing game besides just Courtland Sutton.
Malik Reed, OLB
Reed has been a good surprise this season and is playing good football. Denver needs more out of him, however.
Again, Brissett is a good quarterback, but as with all signal-callers, he struggles more under pressure. The Colts have a great offensive line, so it is more pressure on Reed to step up and get pressure. Reed also has struggled at times against the run, and against a good O-line, those struggles can be exacerbated.
Noah Fant, TE
The rookie first-round pick has to step it up. He has shown flashes this season, and signs of progressions as the games go by, but no consistency. Denver needs him to step up sans-Sanders.
Fant's hands were a concern pre-draft and hopefully, he is putting in work to help improve them.
Shelby Harris, DL
While Denver's defensive line has been better since inserting Mike Purcell at nose tackle, Shelby Harris isn’t the reason for that, despite being moved to a more fortuitous position at defensive end. Harris' play against the run has been really poor, and while he is a pass rusher, he is coming off the field for DeMarcus Walker and Dre’Mont Jones in pass-rush situations.
Harris is the weak link on the D-line and he is facing one of the best guards in the NFL in Quenton Nelson. This is a favorable matchup for the Colts and they can punish Harris if he doesn’t step it up.
Von Miller, OLB
Similarly to Reed, the Broncos need Miller to step up and put the pressure on Brissett. Miller's role in the defense isn’t one he appears to be happy with and at times it shows up on tape.
Even so, he has to step it up. Miller is one of the hardest people on himself and he isn’t happy with the way he has been playing. He picks up more critics with each ineffectual game and to shut them up, he needs to step it up.