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Is Case Keenum Holding The Broncos Back?

After a 2-0 start, the Denver Broncos have lost three straight games and are at a crossroads after five games with a daunting home matchup against the 5-0 Los Angeles Rams on deck in Week 6.

The downfall started with a road loss at Baltimore and a heartbreaking home defeat to the Chiefs and star quarterback Patrick Mahomes on Monday night in which they squandered a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter. It all came crashing down last Sunday in an embarrassing 34-16 loss to the Jets on the road in which their defense allowed 323 rushing yards, making Isaiah Crowell a fantasy star. The Broncos are now 1-11 in their last 12 road games and are spiraling downward.

It begs the question: What can we expect from their offense and defense moving forward?

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Through five games, it's clear that Case Keenum is holding this offense back. He was a revelation in Minnesota last year in a career year, but he had a much better defense to lean back on and a better supporting cast on offense.

It's never a good sign when you have more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (five). The 30-year-old has looked overmatched most of the time and has held onto the ball too long far too often. Denver ranks 18th in the NFL with 256.8 passing yards per game and 27th in points per game (20.0) with Keenum running the show.

He's completed just 63.5 percent of his 192 attempts and has a mediocre 7.11 yards per completion. He went three straight weeks without a touchdown pass, and two of his three TDs against the Jets came deep into garbage time.

Even with enticing matchups upcoming against the Cardinals (Week 7), Chiefs (Week 8), Texans (Week 9) and Steelers (Week 12), fantasy owners can't realistically consider Keenum as anything more than a low-end QB2.


Running Back

If Keenum has been this offense's weakness, their running game -- comprised of promising rookies Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman -- has been their strength. They're averaging 137 ground yards per game (third in the NFL) and a league-high 5.6 yards per carry.

It's a testament to John Elway's 2018 draft class that also includes receiver Courtland Sutton (more on him later). Freeman was the darling of training camp and the preseason, so it's been an upset that Lindsay has seen more work with 57 carries for 328 yards (5.8 YPC) and one score. The Denver native also has eight catches for 65 yards (8.1 yards per catch) and a touchdown.

Freeman has seen eight fewer carries for 250 yards (5.1 YPC) and three scores while catching only four passes for 21 yards. The third-round pick has been plenty productive, but Lindsay has just been that much more impressive with his quickness, elusiveness and decisiveness out of the backfield.

It doesn't help Freeman's cause that Denver will likely favor Lindsay whenever they're in comeback mode, which might be more often than not this year. But these two have provided a perfect change of pace to each other in this backfield and should remain fantasy relevant all year.

As of right now, Lindsay has been slightly more valuable to fantasy owners on the RB2/3 borderline, especially in PPR formats. Freeman remains in the RB3/flex mix and is the better bet for goal-line usage as more of a between-the-tackles runner.


Wide Receiver

Denver's receiving corps of Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and Courtland Sutton is better than the average receiver stable in the NFL. So then why has this passing offense been so mediocre? Hint: See Case Keenum.

Most of Thomas' production this year was the result of garbage time against the Jets (his 42-yard touchdown came late in the fourth quarter with the game well out of hand). Before last Sunday, he hadn't topped 63 yards in a game. He's caught 25 of 39 targets and continues to battle drops.

Sanders has been a bit more productive with 33 catches and has had double-digit targets twice (Week 1, Week 5), but aside from his 135-yard, one-touchdown performance in the season opener, he's been nothing special.

Sutton should eventually be at least a strong No. 2 wideout in the NFL. He caught his first career TD pass in the loss to the Jets and is a strong receiver with good size (6-foot-4, 216 pounds). However, playing third fiddle in an inconsistent offense won't help him carve out a fantasy role. The rookie out of SMU has a bright future in the NFL, though.

Unless Keenum drastically improves, which is unlikely, both Thomas and Sanders will be inconsistent for fantasy owners as touchdown-dependent WR3s. The chemistry in this passing game has been severely lacking.


Tight End

The Broncos haven't gotten much production from the position since Julius Thomas caught 24 touchdown passes in a two-year span in 2013-14 back in the days of Peyton Manning. The season-ending injury to Jake Butt doesn't help matters this year.

Jeff Heuerman should be the main pass-catching tight end over the course of the remainder of the season. He doesn't invoke fear in opposing defenses and has 11 receptions on 19 targets for 107 yards over five games.

Denver asks their tight ends to block much more frequently than they ask them to run routes. Even with the tight end position being a wasteland for fantasy owners outside of around five or six names, Heuerman doesn't deserve starting consideration.



Ever since Denver's blowout loss to the Seahawks in Super Bowl 48, their defense has been their strength. It led them to a Super Bowl win two years ago, but it's far from elite in 2018.

To start, they're not as deep in the secondary after Aqib Talib left to play for the Rams. While Bradley Roby is more than capable of being a starting corner on the outside, he was roasted for two long passing plays by Robby Anderson in Week 5.

As mentioned earlier, they allowed the Jets tandem of Isaiah Crowell and Bilal Powell to run all over them, and they rank third worst in rushing yards allowed per game at 139.6. Denver's interior defense is also a weakness, as they allow 15.4 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends.

Their pass rush, which was supposed to be the strength of this unit, hasn't been as good as anticipated. After posting four sacks in the first two games, All-Pro pass rusher Von Miller has zero sacks during the three-game losing streak.

Finally and perhaps most concerning, the Broncos are allowing a third-down conversion rate of 47.7 percent (21-for-44) in the last three weeks. They'll need to do a much better job of getting off the field to give Keenum and this offense more chances to sustain drives.

Denver's defense/special teams is no longer a must-own in fantasy, and they should only be used in very favorable matchups such as Week 7 against the Cardinals and rookie QB Josh Rosen.

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