Browns-Broncos Preview

“Like paradise upon this earth
Its wonders to behold,
A gateway to the wilderness
Where all my dreams unfold,
The changing of its colours as
The clouds go floating by,
Above the Rocky Mountains in
The Colorado sky…”

Andrew Blakemore

Once again, the Cleveland Browns (5-7-1) are in prime time. Granted it’s a Saturday night, but still, a nationwide audience will tune in to see what young Baker Mayfield can do under the lights against the Denver Broncos (6-7).

Denver leads the all-time series 23-5 including a sterling 3-0 postseason mark. On top of that dominance, the Broncos have an 11-game win streak in the series. The Browns have not defeated the Broncos since October 1990. Bernie Kosar threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns leading Cleveland to a 30-29 victory. In other words, it’s been a minute.

The Orange Crush enter as 2.5-point favorites at home. The Browns are by no means perfect and have shown vulnerability on the road, but it seems Vegas is beginning to give Mayfield and the Gang the benefit of the doubt.

Denver has endured an up-and-down season so far. The club won their first two games before sputtering to 3-6 at the bye. A quick three-game win streak brought them to .500 before last week’s head-scratching loss at San Francisco. The Broncos entertain playoff aspirations as a 3-0 finish would give them an outside shot at the wild card.

The Pride of Denver has relied heavily on its defense all season. The D ranks ninth in points allowed (21.7/game) and twenty-fourth in yards allowed. They’ve forced 22 turnovers – eight forced fumbles and fourteen interceptions.

Quarterback Case Keenum leads the Mile High attack. The vet has tossed 28-of-453 passing for 3,139 yards, fifteen touchdowns, and ten interceptions. Running back Phillip Lindsay paces the rushing attack with 967 yards and nine touchdowns. Keenum’s primary target is Emmanuel Sanders. The 31-year-old receiver has hauled in 71 receptions for 868 yards and four touchdowns. With Denzel Ward out with a concussion the Browns secondary will need to step up again to contain the Broncos’ passing game.

The Browns gave their all in defeating the Panthers last week. This club is learning how to come back from a deficit and close out in crunch time. Those attributes will be put the test once again Saturday night. Quarterback Baker Mayfield leads the charge as he has all season. The rookie has completed 64.4% of his passes for 2,877 yards, nineteen touchdowns, and ten interceptions. He still has rookie moments, but the young man’s poise in the pocket is undeniable.

Yes, the Browns are mathematically alive for a playoff spot. No, we are not discussing it here. Lots of disparate elements need to break Cleveland’s way, but it all begins in Colorado. The Browns have a chance to knock off their hosts for the first time in nearly thirty years. A quick start and timely takeaways could be the difference. It’ll be a late night, but Cleveland finally has meaningful December football on the screen.