Tom Landry’s Dallas Cowboys almost never blitzed except inside the Red Zone. Landry’s theory was that a defense’s job is to prevent big plays down the field, but then blitz near the goal line because there’s no more room to allow big plays. But in the 1980s as the Silver Star’s vaunted front-7 became average, the Cowboys began blitzing everyone all the time. Dallas blitzed so often against Neil Lomax and the St. Louis Cardinals that John Madden compared it to Russian roulette. The Cowboys kept pulling the trigger and trying to get to Lomax. But every so often, he fired a bullet to a wide-open receiver before they could reach him.
NFL defenses facing modern dual-threat quarterbacks like Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Marcus Mariota don’t have exactly the same dilemma – not unless they blitz on every 3rd down. But you’re playing Russian roulette when committing an extra man in the box – whether an 8th run-stopping presence or simply a spy to make sure the QB doesn’t take off and run for a 1st down. It leaves receivers open downfield – if the passer can find them.
Ultimately it takes 11 defenders’ A-games to stop a dynamic offense with a quick QB. The Denver Broncos possess phenomenal talent at the top of the defensive depth chart, and Von Miller is known as 1 of the fiercest linebacker-edge rushers of his era. But the gap between the top and bottom performers on the club is yawning. Denver is shaky on offense, flaky on defense, and unable to do much special teams to make up for it, saddled with a 1-4 record headed into Week 6 of the 2019-20 NFL season.
But don’t ask gamblers to worry about Mariota’s legs, or the shaky legs Denver’s D is standing on. The Broncos are a (-1.5) point-spread favorite to beat the visiting Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon.
Who: Tennessee Titans at Denver Broncos
When: Sunday, October 13th, 4:25 PM EST
Where: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
Lines: TENN (+1.5) at DEN (-1.5) / O/U Total: (40.5)
Denver was able to snag its 1st win of the Vic Fangio era last week, beating the Chargers 20-13. L.A.’s Austin Ekeler was held to just 86 yards through the air despite catching a remarkable 15 passes, and Kareem Jackson of the Broncos was able to force a crucial fumble from Ekeler on the goal line. Run defense overall was worlds better than in the team’s previous outing.
The offense looks ho-hum even with Joe Flacco at the controls, but Philip Lindsay was able to get loose in last week’ss victory. 2nd-year WR Courtland Sutton is also coming into his own and building a rapport with Flacco, as the pair connected on another long TD against the Chargers.
Tennessee’s defense may pose a few harsher challenges. Led by Harold Landry III with 4 sacks, the Titan pass rush has gobbled 15 sacks thus far while the Tennessee secondary has snagged 5 picks.
Defense wasn’t enough last week however. The Titans suffered a tough 14-7 loss last week at the hands of the Buffalo Bills, as Buffalo held Derrick Henry to just 3.9 yards per carry and Marcus Mariota was only able to throw for 183 yards while being sacked 5 times:
“As an offense, we need to get in gear,” left tackle Taylor Lewan said. “For the last, however long I have been here, this has been the story. I think we are all over the, ‘We’re going to be fine.’ We need to get in gear, we need to get going.”
The Titans lost 14-7 to the Bills in a game when quarterback Marcus Mariota threw for 183 yards but was sacked five times. He’s now been sacked 22 times in five games this season. On Sunday, Mariota was under pressure several times immediately after taking the snap. Titans right tackle Jack Conklin agreed with Lewan. “We knew they were a physical defense and give them credit – it looks like they were more physical than us today. We have to be better,” Conklin said. “The defense played great – we let them down.”
The Titans had their chances. But time and again, drives stalled in Buffalo territory and ended with missed field goals.
I’m not too concerned about Tennessee PK Cairo Santos, who should come around as the season progresses. However, I have a mind that even the uneven front-7s of these 2 clubs have enough muscle to penetrate poor pass-protection from each OL, and that could mean that gamblers are guessing wrong on the Over/Under.
We’ve seen a lot of O/U totals falling for big games in college and NFL football this season, which feels like an indication that gamblers are getting wise to the “casual Over bet” foible.
But the O/U for Denver vs Tennessee has ticked up 2 points to (40.5), which looks like an old-school rising total on which the public should be wagered against. There’s nothing worse than an old-pro QB like Flacco when under heavy pressure, and Mariota could be even more battered on the road this Sunday. Each QB is likely to struggle.
Take the Under (40.5) at Mile High.