Football

Sunday at 3:25, our beloved and disappointing Chicago Bears travel to Mile High Stadium to face the Denver Broncos. The Broncos are one of those teams that seem like the boring background noise of the NFL at the moment, being roughly about as interesting as the Tennessee Titans, Cincinnati Bengals, and that Washington team. The Broncos don’t even have the luxury of being a flaming dumpster fire (Miami, the Giants), they just come out and play. Truth be told, if they weren’t on the late slate so often on Red Zone I’d forget they exist. Luckily, I got a chance to scout them on Monday and then promptly fell asleep on my couch at halftime.

However, I rewatched their loss against the Raiders and did a little bit of research on my own, so I’ll spend this article letting you know all you need to know about the Broncos so you can impress everyone at your watch party.

First off: this team does not pass the eye test. They have budding stars at WR (Courtland Sutton) and RB (Phillip Lindsay), with solid veterans to compliment them in Emmanuel Sanders and the also young but uninspiring Royce Freeman, respectively. So they go and invest in… Joe Flacco and Vic Fangio. Fangio is a brilliant defensive mind, and since Denver went defensive when selecting their head coach, they hopped on the new trend in the NFL and picked someone who once ripped bongs with Sean McVay in college to run the offense. Imagine being Rich Scangarello and getting a chance to FINALLY have an offense of your own and being gifted Joe fucking Flacco to run it. Oof.

The Defense is great on paper. Von Miller is going to be a problem and demand extra help almost no matter what, and Chris Harris Jr is an outstanding defensive back. Bradley Chubb is also a beast. Kareem Jackson is a decent corner, and it looks right now like Bryce Callahan might not play, which is a bummer. I hope nothing but good health for that dude because he is as close to a shutdown slot corner as there is in the NFL, and Bears fans appreciate good defense if for no other reason because we’ve been conditioned to expect defenders to be better than the offense. Unfortunately for this “wonderful” defense, they played terribly against Oakland. The Raiders went 10-14 on 3rd down last week and those defensive numbers don’t look good, no matter if you’re playing backyard football or in the NFL.

As for what to expect, look for a lot of slants, quick reads, and plays designed to get the ball out of Flacco’s hands as quickly as possible, he’s about as mobile as my Grandpa who candidly has never won a Super Bowl but did fight in World War II. Be on the lookout for 60/40 split between Lindsay and Freeman, for some stupid reason. Courtland Sutton will pop on screen when you watch, he’s dynamic. The Broncos sucked in the red zone last week and there has been a lot of talk about opening up the playbook, so we will see stuff we haven’t seen yet. Expect Flacco to air it out a few times, and for Vic to try to confuse Mitch into bad throws and poor reads. When the Bears offense is on the field, we’ll see exactly how much new creativity Matt Nagy has put into the playbook in the offseason, and it should be an entertaining chess match to say the least.

If the Bears are legit, games like this shouldn’t be close and we can all breathe calmly when we reflect on the what happened on Monday morning. If the Bears are truly hitting the regression button, this game could be a surprise loss. As of Wednesday the line is Bears by 3, and while my heart says that’s a good bet, recent data implies this game might be too close for comfort.

Football

When the Bears face Joe Flacco and the Denver Broncos on Sunday, you can’t help but think they will be looking into a mirror or sorts. See, Flacco is the one quarterback in the league whose skill set most resembles Bears QB Mitch Trubisky. Granted, being a Super Bowl champion makes Flacco a far more successful pro, but his own individual Ravens career could best be described as somewhere between meh and shouldn’t Joe Flacco be better? Sometimes, when you win a Super Bowl with an elite defense, all you really need from your quarterback is to be average – sound familiar?

Now, would the Bears love to have a mediocre Joe Flacco behind center this year? I would answer with a resounding YES! Flacco has been a very good game manager throughout this career, and with Vic Fangio taking over a very defensive minded Broncos team; the “game manager” nametag figures to stick to Flacco again this season.

As we look ahead to week 2, the Bears front 7 will take on the brunt of responsibility in limiting Flacco on Sunday. Based on what we learned about the Bears defense vs. Green Bay, as well as Flacco’s performance against the Raiders in the opener, I would expect the Bears defense to be extremely successful for the second straight week. The Bears made Aaron Rodgers look pedestrian last Thursday, and you Joe Flacco, are no Aaron Rodgers. Because of that, I do not envision a scenario where the Broncos QB is the reason why they win this Sunday. However, I also do not envision a scenario where the Broncos QB is the reason why they lose this Sunday.

Where Will The Broncos and Flacco Attack the Bears Secondary?

Going back to the 2016 season, the Charted Passer Rating results paint a very accurate picture of just how consistently inconsistent Flacco has been:

2016

Joe Flacco Qb-grid Chart

2017

Joe Flacco Qb-grid Chart

2018

Joe Flacco Qb-grid Chart

This chart shows a general lack of consistency in any given yardage or portion on the field. Almost every NFL quarterback has a throw that they know they can make in their sleep. Joe Flacco, based on these charts, is the exception to that rule. Watch for the Bears to match up based far more on personnel than they will on where Flacco is comfortable throwing the ball.

 

What Did We Learn From Flacco in Week 1?

In dissecting Flacco’s week 1 performance, there are a few things to be aware of as you watch the Broncos QB take on the Khalil Mack & Co.:

  • Week 1 was vintage Joe Flacco in almost every way:
    • 1 TD
    • 0 INT
    • 68% Completion Percentage
    • 8.6 Yards Per Attempt
    • 268 Passing Yards
    • Sacked 3X
      • Although this stat line screams “Game Manager,” it is also a game I’d take week in and week out from Mitch T.
      • It is also worth noting that Flacco put together a nice portion of his numbers when the game was pretty much decided. If not for ten 4th quarter points on scoring drives of 54 yards and 75 yards, Flacco and the entire Broncos offense could have been classified as Bears-esque.
  • Courtland Sutton, Emmanuel Sanders, and Noah Fant all averaged over 14.5 yards per catch. Would I trade the Bears receiving corps for this group? No. But for one week, their QB put them in a position to be successful, which is something we cannot say about the Bears QB in week 1.
  • Joe Flacco had 1 rushing attempt for 1 yard. As he is somewhat limited athletically, he must go through his progressions and look beyond his first option or 2. This is the opposite of the far more athletic Mitch Trubisky, who looks to use his feet almost immediately after his first read has been taken away. Listen, I love Mitch’s athleticism, and I talk about it often, but sometimes he’s simply too athletic for his own good.
  • The Bronco’s O-Line is an abortion. They quite honestly may be the worst non-Dolphins unit in the league. This could get ugly for Flacco on Sunday, who at this point in his career may be more about personal wellness than sitting in the pocket getting his crank kicked in.

As Such:

If the Bears can control the Broncos running game and their defense plays according to plan, then Joe Flacco isn’t going to be the guy who can put a team on his back and beat you – that just isn’t in his makeup. He has made a career by being a serviceable NFL starter and he has experienced a great deal of team success in that role, but I don’t see him becoming super human on Sunday against one of the best defenses in the league; which is why the Bears will earn their first W of the year in yet another low scoring, borderline unwatchable affair.