Last week, Ramblin’ Fan struck out on our bold prediction, marred by the 1st-teamers’ offensive failures in the red zone and Jeff Fisher making some “preseason decisions” to help better evaluate the team. However, Week 2 of the preseason is a crap shoot for predictions, primarily as a result of question marks surrounding the amount of time “notable” players will be on the football field. Against the St. Louis Rams, Aaron Rodgers played fewer than one-third of Packers’ offensive snaps; Bradford played under 40% of the Rams snaps.
With Week 3 of the preseason being infamously known as the “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, we figured we would give our bold predictions another shot. Jeff Fisher mentioned in an early-week press conference that the starters would likely play up until halftime, and in our “Get To Know You Foe” segment on the Denver Broncos, PredominantlyOrange.com editor, Kim Constantinesco, suggested that the Denver starters would likely play “into the third quarter.” With that timeline in mind, here are Ramblin’ Fans five bold prediction for the first half of the game…
1. Sam Bradford will have his best statistical night of the preseason
Technically, Bradford’s best game of the preseason came against the Cleveland Browns, going 5 of 8 passing (with 2 drops) for 102 yards and a touchdown, all in only 14 offensive snaps. However, the game against the Packers was not too shabby either, finishing 8 of 12 passing for 156 yards, including a should-have-been touchdown toss to Tavon Austin in the redzone.
To juxtapose those numbers, the Denver Broncos pass defense has been atrocious so far this preseason. According to Pro Football Focus’ rankings, the Orange and Blue are the 16th rating pass rushing defense and 21st rated pass defense. Now, with the suspension of Von Miller, that number will likely plummet even further. Of course, all of those rankings are heavily skewed by 2nd- and 3rd-team performances. However, last week, the Seahawks scored 33 of their 40 points in the opening half of the game, 17 point coming in the first quarter. Can’t blame the backups for that …
2. Daryl Richardson will score his first career touchdown
Last week, we made this same bold prediction prior to the teams’ pregame announcements. We would later learn that the St. Louis Rams’ coaching staff would be starting Isaiah Pead, seemingly as a “final interview” for a shot at supplanting Daryl Richardson on the depth chart. He failed. However, as a result, Richardson only saw four offensive snaps against the Green Bay Packers; an impressive statement given that Richardson still made a highlight reel play on a 24 yard catch-and-run on a wheel route out of the backfield. Richardson is long overdo for his first NFL goal line crossing. It would fitting for him to get it on during a nationally televised game against one of the AFC favorites.
3. Tavon Austin will end the night with 5+ receptions, at least one 25+ yard punt return, and his first touchdown
Last week, we shot for the moon in offensive predictions, prophesying that Daryl Richardson, Jared Cook, and Tavon Austin would score their first touchdown in a Rams’ uniform. Aside from the Richardson “benching,” we were close; with Austin being overthrown on a would-have-been-walk-in-touchdown pass, and Cook turning a 7 yard curl into a 37 yard catch-and-run, deep into Packers’ territory.
In only 16 offensive snaps against the Packers, Tavon Austin was targeted on 7 pass attempts from Sam Bradford, catching 4 passes for 28 yards. He showed an innate ability to find the soft spot in the zone, and demonstrated the first-step quickness that had draft analysts salivating over his film from West Virginia. There is no outside linebacker, safety, or cornerback on the Broncos defense that can contain Austin within the first 5 yards. Look for him to see plenty of targets… with, hopefully, a couple coming in the redzone.
4. The St. Louis Rams run defense will limit Montee Ball to under 3.0 yards per attempt
Whoever created the Denver Broncos’ preseason schedule must think very highly of the NFC West, playing all four of their games against our division. With games against the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers out of the way, it is the Rams’ turn to join the NFC West “defensive pissing contest. ” Montee Ball, the Broncos rookie rusher, has managed a mere 37 yards on 11 carries so far this preseason. Both defenses held the Broncos’ halfback to under 30 total rushing yards, and neither allowed a rushing attempt over 10 yards. Ball will likely see 8 to 10 carries against the St. Louis Rams tonight. Assuming the Rams’ don’t go on another “missed tackle” spree, they should hold him to under 3.0 yards per carry. Take that, NFC West!
5. Greg Zuerlein will hit a 60+ yard field goal
Last week, Jeff Fisher essentially killed two of our “bold predictions” before the game had even started. The first came with the announcement the Daryl Richardson would be watching most of the game from the sideline. The second came on the announcement that goal for the night was to “score touchdowns, not field goals.” Hence, even when St. Louis Rams were in prime Greg “the Leg” real estate, the coaching staff allowed the offense to “go for it” on 4th down.
However, against the Denver Broncos, all of the planets have aligned for Greg Zuerlein to show off his massive leg. Currently, there is a tie for the “longest” made field goal in NFL history, with Tom Dempey, Jason Elam, Sebastian Janikowski, and David Akers all nailing a 63-yarder. Two of those four players hit their long-range bomb in Mile High Stadium. However, the unofficial longest NFL field goal was hit by Ola Kimrin against the Seattle Seahawks in 2002. Kimrin nailed a 65-yard attempt, during a preseason matchup, playing for… you guessed it, the Denver Broncos. Colorado appears to be sanctuary for kickers looking to drive the football from afar. Look for Zuerlein to join the fraternity of 60+ yard field goal makers tonight.