The Denver Broncos are gearing up for a second straight run at a Super Bowl. Needless to say, they’re very much a team with unfinished business. So far through three preseason games, the starting offense and defense have both looked the part of a team that can get to the Super Bowl.
Now they just have one more game before the games start counting. Thursday night brings Denver’s (and everyone else’s) final preseason game, and we shouldn’t see much from the starters on either side. Week three is traditionally known as the “dress rehearsal” for team’s starters and key players, so it’d be a shock to see any major players get a ton of run here.
It’s possible Peyton Manning and other players even sit this out entirely, but they could still go in and play a handful of series just to get the blood flowing and maintain chemistry and continuity. Even with the big names likely playing very little, though, there is plenty of reason to tune in to Thursday’s preseason finale.
Let’s break down the biggest reasons you’ll want to watch the Broncos take on the Dallas Cowboys, and also analyze how it could impact the fantasy football world:
Denver’s Offensive Backfield
Montee Ball made his long-awaited return from an appendectomy last week and ended up being pretty good for a guy who had been away from the football field for several weeks. Montee Ball is locked and loaded as Denver’s top back to start the season, which naturally has him pegged as a potential RB1 and first or second round pick in fantasy football drafts.
However, he’s probably not the only running back in Denver we should be paying attention to. After all, Ball himself was a major sleeper as a rookie and crashed and burned last year, only to allow Knowshon Moreno of all people to steamroll himself to a top-five finish among fantasy backs.
With Ball now in Moreno’s old role, we should keep an eye on the guys directly behind him – Ronnie Hillman and C.J. Anderson. Hillman is the guy that takes the cake here as the more versatile and explosive talent, and at the moment is very much in the lead for direct backup duties. That puts him in a likely third down role and should allow him to steal some carries, as well. Remember, even Ball has fantasy Flex value in random weeks last year, so Hillman could, as well. Keep an eye on all Broncos running backs on Thursday night, as we get one step closer to finalizing this depth chart and all of their fantasy value.
How Denver Continues to Use Cody Latimer
Latimer has been a pleasant surprise, as he’s come off of a foot injury as a rookie and has made some nice plays in both camp and preseason action. With 33-year old Wes Welker currently working his way back from his third concussion in the past nine months, how Denver uses Latimer is increasingly becoming more important.
Denver could and probably should start incorporating the talented rookie into their offense, regardless of Welker’s current and long-term status. Welker isn’t thinking about retirement in the least and should remain a key part of the offense, but he was already entering a contract year and is now going to be an injury liability for the remainder of the year. If Latimer plays on Thursday night (he should) keep an eye on how he’s used and how effective he is. He just might start cutting into Welker’s targets as soon as week one.
Brock Osweiler Should Play a Good Amount
Obviously Peyton Manning is king kong in Denver and if anything happened to him the Broncos would probably be toast. That, or they might try to trade for someone else to salvage their season. Odds are, though, that they probably wouldn’t and Osweiler would step in and try to do his best Manning impersonation. While he wouldn’t really come close, he could still provide some value in fantasy football leagues. More importantly, he might be competent enough that Denver’s top offensive weapons wouldn’t turn to mush.
Going from Manning to Osweiler isn’t anything like what happened to the Colts when Manning sat out an entire year. Osweiler is a much better talent than the guy Indy had to look to – Curtis Painter. With that said (and hopefully it never comes to that), it should be interesting to continue to watch Osweiler’s development. Even if Manning doesn’t get hurt, he’ll retire some day in the near future, so it’s always good to get a look at a young passer. Osweiler has great size and a big arm, and should showcase both as he plays a good portion of Thursday night’s contest.