The Broncos have had a rollercoaster 2021 season, but enter the bye week squarely in the playoff conversation.
Following the 2021 Denver Broncos has been an exercise in extremes. They started 3-0 with two wins on the road (albeit against the Giants and Jaguars). That stretch ended with a 26-0 thrashing of the Jets, showing that, at the very least, the Mile High boys are able to beat up on the league’s cellar.
A month later, the 3-0 Broncos had become the 3-4 Broncos with four straight losses against teams that currently sit .500 or better. After a win over Washington, Denver parted ways with its longest-tenured player, Von Miller. Miller had been the face of the franchise and one of the most successful players all-time for the Broncos, with eight Pro Bowls, a Super Bowl MVP trophy, and virtual lock status for the Hall of Fame to his name.
But the team didn’t wilt after losing its leader. Denver instead beat the NFC East-leading Cowboys the next week. Then came a home loss to the 4-6 Eagles, punctuated by Teddy Bridgewater’s refusal to tackle Darius Slay as he returned a fumbled for a touchdown. It all sent fans into the bye week with the most frustrating 5-5 record imaginable.
The good news: The Broncos are still in the middle of the playoff hunt. Even in last place in the AFC West, they sit just a game behind the first-place Chiefs. Coming out of the bye, their first two games will be against the top two teams in the division, with a home game against the Chargers leading into a trip to Kansas City.
The Broncos will have their chances. They just need to prove they can execute consistently.
By the Numbers
Record: 5-5 (No. 4 in AFC West)
Rushing offense: 111.5 yards/game (No. 17 in NFL)
Passing offense: 230.6 yards/game (No. 18 in NFL)
Scoring offense: 20.0 points/game (No. 23 in NFL)
Rushing defense: 110.1 yards/game (No. 16 in NFL)
Passing defense: 218.1 yards/game (No. 7 in NFL)
Total defense: 328.2 yards/game (No. 7 in NFL)
Scoring defense: 18.3 points/game (No. 4 in NFL)
Broncos 2021 Attendance Numbers
The Broncos have played 10 total games with an even split of five at home and five on the road. After the bye, Denver will play three of its next four at home with games against the Chargers, Lions, and Bengals.
- The Broncos are averaging 76,393 fans per home game, which is third-best in the NFL, trailing only the Cowboys and Packers.
- That accounts for more than the announced capacity of Empower Field at Mile High (76,125), so it’s hard to realistically expect more from Denver fans.
- Overall, 381,965 fans have seen the Broncos play at home, which is also third-best in the league. Only the Cowboys and Patriots have played in front of more fans.
- Denver ranks a little lower in road attendance, drawing 70,671 fans per game (8th).
Mile High ROI
The Broncos’ five highest-paid players by total 2021 cash are:
FS Justin Simmons: $17,000,000
CB Patrick Surtain II: $13,265,548
CB Ronald Darby: $10,000,000
DT Shelby Harris: $10,000,000
Justin Simmons inked a four-year, $61 million extension back in March, and so far this season has accounted for 48 tackles and four interceptions. He doesn’t seem to be slowing down in his age 28 season, and as the highest-paid player on the team, he’s a candidate to take over Miller’s mantle as the face of the franchise.
Patrick Surtain II arrived in a tough situation in Denver, but has done everything he could in his rookie campaign. The 10th overall pick in the 2021 draft was a target for criticism, but not for anything he did specifically — rather, because the Broncos took a cornerback instead of filling the obvious need for a quarterback. That obviously wasn’t Surtain’s decision, and the Alabama product has earned his $13 million and change so far.
Still, when looking at a mediocre Denver offense, it’s fair to ask what could have been had the Broncos gone with a QB instead.
As for Ronald Darby, he missed four games after injuring his hamstring against the Giants in Week 1. But when he’s been active, Darby has produced. In Denver’s loss to the Eagles, Darby produced eight tackles, which was the second-most out of anyone in the league that week. It was his second eight-tackle performance of the year and he has 37 total over six games.
The veteran Shelby Harris has taken on a leadership role with this Broncos team. He signed a three-year, $27 million contract in the offseason and is in his fifth year in Denver. Harris has appeared in all 10 games, recording 32 tackles to match his total from all of last year.
The Broncos have plenty of potential at the skill positions but it hasn’t always translated on the field. Bridgewater rates as a borderline starting QB in most fantasy formats, throwing for 2,389 total yards and 14 touchdowns this season.
Melvin Gordon and Javonte Williams have each had their moments and deserve a look for the flex spot. Gordon has five rushing touchdowns this season, but has had to work for big gains. Williams, meanwhile, has 514 rushing yards and 136 yards through the air. Neither will give you huge points days but will get their share of opportunities.
Wide receiver Courtland Sutton and tight end Noah Fant are both capable of putting up numbers. Sutton has more targets than anyone else on the team (67) and is second in yards per catch (14.3). Fant has just one fewer reception than Sutton, so he gets his chances as well. There is a downside for both, however: since Jerry Jeudy came back three weeks ago, both have seen fewer targets. Jeudy had six receptions in each of his last two games, though he has yet to find the end zone in 2021.