Denver Broncos’ passing attack will finally be tested against Baltimore

The Denver Broncos are the only team to face three winless opponents to start 2021. Can Teddy Bridgewater and Co. keep up their winning ways?

The Denver Broncos are on the verge of history. They’re 3-0 to start a season for the 15th time in franchise history. As such, Teddy Bridgewater and Co. are looking to make it back to the playoffs for the 10th time as a franchise after beginning 3-0.

A win against the Baltimore Ravens would push the Broncos to 4-0 for the 10th time as an organization. But that road will be hard-going as they face a Ravens defense itching for a breakout performance.

Denver Broncos’ passing attack through three weeks

Entering Week 4, Bridgewater is on the verge of NFL history. If Bridgewater completes 75% of his passes on Sunday, he’ll join Tom Brady as just the second quarterback in league history to complete three-quarters of his throws through four games.

Bridgewater has completed passes to 11 different receivers in 2021, including double-digit connections with three different players. Despite losing star WR Jerry Jeudy to a high-ankle sprain, Denver’s passing attack has remained effective.

Sure, the Broncos haven’t thrown for more than 2 touchdowns in a game this season. And sure, Bridgewater is only averaging 11.3 yards per completion (16th in the NFL). But he’s also played turnover-free football with no interceptions through three games.

Is a soft schedule aiding the team?

As impressive as the numbers are for Bridgewater and Denver, questions have arisen about the strength of their schedule to start 2021. They have wins over the New York Giants, New York Jets, and Jacksonville Jaguars. All three teams currently stand at 0-3.

Denver’s opponent trio has combined to be outscored by their opponents by a whopping 106 points (-50 for NYJ, -38 for JAX, -18 for NYG). Meanwhile, the Broncos’ 76 points scored are just the 11th-most in the NFL this season. However, their +50 point differential is tied with the Buffalo Bills for the highest in the league through three weeks.

Of the NFL’s five undefeated teams, only Denver has played all winless opponents to start the year. Thus, it’s safe to say they’ve had the easiest strength of schedule to start 2021.

Will Baltimore finally test Denver in Week 4?

Unlike Denver’s first three opponents, the Ravens boast a stalwart defensive unit. They haven’t played up to their usual standards, but Baltimore’s defense has at least two future Hall of Famers in Justin Houston and Calais Campbell. Rookie edge rusher Odafe Oweh has been a revelation, recording multiple sacks and hits on opposing quarterbacks and a game-winning strip-sack against Kansas City in Week 2.

The Ravens also present a challenging secondary with Marlon Humphrey and Anthony Averett at outside corner, Tavon Young in the slot, and Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott at safety. Baltimore has recorded 10 pass breakups and 2 interceptions so far, but that doesn’t account for their impact in close coverage on the back end. Making matters worse for Denver, the Ravens’ defense finally seemed to put everything together in Week 3.

After back-to-back weeks of allowing multiple touchdowns and 300+ yards passing, Baltimore limited Jared Goff to just 9.8 yards per completion and 7.2 yards per attempt in Week 3. They held him scoreless through the air while restricting the Lions to just 285 net yards.

Just as it’s safe to say Denver has had the easiest schedule through three weeks, it’s easy to admit the Ravens will be the toughest defense Bridgewater and Co. will have faced in 2021.

Bridgewater, Fangio face Ravens for the first time

It’s a rare feat in today’s NFL when a head coach-quarterback combination hasn’t previously faced an opponent. This will be Broncos head coach Vic Fangio’s first game against Baltimore, a club he previously worked for. Fangio was a special assistant to the head coach/defensive assistant for the Ravens from 2006-2008 before serving as linebackers coach in 2009.

Bridgewater, like his head coach, also has not faced the Ravens in his career. During his time as a starting quarterback in the NFC with the Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, and Carolina Panthers, he never faced Baltimore. That being said, Bridgewater has played against at least one member of John Harbaugh’s current staff.

In his first-ever NFL action in Week 3 of the 2014 season, Bridgewater took on now-Ravens inside linebackers coach Rob Ryan, who was then the Saints’ defensive coordinator. Bridgewater played in relief of Matt Cassel and was largely ineffective, completing 60% of his passes at 7.5 yards per attempt with no touchdowns in a 20-9 loss.

We’ll find out who this Broncos team is on Sunday

There are several reasons to like this matchup against Baltimore for Denver. But there are also reasons to be skeptical, with their soft schedule being arguably the biggest.

One thing is for sure — we’ll know what kind of team the 2021 Broncos really are following their Week 4 clash with the Ravens. We’ll also have a better sense of whether Denver is a playoff team or not. The Broncos have posted nine 4-0 starts in franchise history and earned a postseason berth in seven of those nine campaigns.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We can talk Broncos and playoff chances if they get by the Ravens in Week 4 — and that’s a big if.

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