A couple of intriguing storylines are bubbling up in Denver; where at one point the Broncos were a favorite to win it all this season, sub-par performances in the preseason coupled with a few auspicious injuries and suspensions means question marks for the reigning AFC champs.
That intrigue aside, the bigger story in Dallas this weekend is the Cowboys anemic preseason performance. Yet to earn a W, the Tony Romo-led Cowboys face the (wounded) Denver Broncos in both teams’ final preseason game, Thursday, Aug. 28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Though final rosters are set for many positions on both sides of the ball, the last game of the preseason is an opportunity for players to climb up the depth chart. In the case of the Denver Broncos, troubles on and off the sidelines make that depth chart shuffling a necessity.
Here is how Denver has lost its grip on a likely conference championship – first, LB Danny Trevathan (who led the team in tackles last year and was instrumental in a late-game victory over Dallas) broke his kneecap and is expected to miss at least the first four regular season contests. Then the Wes Welker injury (actually his third concussion in the past year) last Saturday. Suddenly, two big holes appear on the offensive and defensive sides of the roster. Then came news of the suspension of starting K Matt Prater, a void the team is forced to fill with an unknown (and undrafted) rookie. What should be a meaningless preseason game against a non-conference opponent becomes a struggle to re-shuffle rosters in time for opening week.
Dallas’ dreadful performance in its first three preseason games is a big story in Texas. America’s Team is riddled with offensive inconsistency, and this preseason’s version of the ‘boy’s defense has allowed 20 points or more every game. Tony Romo needs to move his team down the field with confidence, and the Broncos need to be held to two touchdowns or less, in order to satiate ravenous Cowboys fans and get the press off Jason Garrett’s back.
Now that several Broncos are battling for spots on the roster (as are a few players on the Dallas side), the game’s a bit more interesting. Backup skill position players are going to get a lot of time for both teams – we’ll likely see Brandon Weeden tossing the ball for Dallas, and a slate of WR combinations will be in place for Denver to make up for Welker’s absence.
The last thing Dallas needs is a turnover-factory like Weeden, a guy who’s thrown more INTs than TDs in his career. Dallas’ 20 giveaways last season were already four or five too many. Denver’s second- and third-string skill players, still battling for game-time, should have no trouble pushing right through an as-yet invisible Dallas D.
Pick – Denver 23 Dallas 14