The Denver Broncos are off to their first 3-0 start since 2016 but planning for the postseason might be premature.
Denver’s three wins have come against winless teams, and two of those teams — the New York Jets and Jacksonville Jaguars — are led by rookie quarterbacks.
The Broncos will find out this week how good they are when they have to stop a former MVP instead of a novice when they host Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens.
While Denver has enjoyed relatively easy wins, including a 26-0 rout of the Jets last week, the Ravens (2-1) have played three games that went down to the final minute — and two of them were decided on the final play.
The most dramatic victory came in the last game when kicker Justin Tucker hit an NFL record 66-yard field goal as time expired. That came a week after a fumble by Kansas City preserved a one-point win over the Chiefs.
Tucker was named the AFC Special Teams player of the week on Wednesday.
“I’d like to think that this one is going to be tough to break,” Tucker said.
Baltimore will face a tougher but hurting defense in Denver. Linebackers Bradley Chubb (ankle) and Josey Jewell (torn pectoral muscle) underwent surgeries last week, and linebacker Jonas Griffith (hamstring) was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday.
The offense has been hit harder, especially in the receiving corps. Jerry Jeudy suffered a high ankle sprain in the first game and will be out until November, and K.J. Hamler was placed on injured reserve with a torn ACL suffered in the win over the Jets.
The Broncos signed wide receiver David Moore off the Las Vegas practice squad and elevated quarterback Brett Rypien from their practice squad to fill the roster spots.
Guards Dalton Risner (foot) and Graham Glasgow (left knee) are also injured.
“They’re both questionable right now,” head coach Vic Fangio said Wednesday.
In addition, nose tackle Mike Purcell (knee), running back Melvin Gordon III (ribs) and linebacker Andre Mintze (hamstring) were limited in Wednesday’s practice.
Despite those setbacks, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has been thriving. Bridgewater, acquired from Carolina before the draft, sits second in the NFL in completion percentage (76.8 percent) and has not thrown an interception.
“Quit doubting Teddy, man,” Broncos tackle Garrett Bolles said. “He’s a dog, man. The man can come in here and win the team over and continue to do the things that he’s going to do.”
With Hamler out, wide receiver Tim Patrick can expect more attention from Bridgewater and the Baltimore defense.
“It will be a true test,” Bridgewater said Wednesday of facing the Ravens’ defense.
Stopping Jackson will be a true test for the Denver defense. Jackson got another weapon when wide receiver Rashod Bateman was activated off injured reserve on Wednesday. Bateman, the 27th overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, had surgery on his groin in August. He may not be ready to play many snaps, if any, Sunday.
“A great route-runner, strong hands and he has some sneaky speed,” Jackson said of Bateman. “I feel he’s going to be hungry and ready when his time comes.”
The defense also got healthier when three players — linebacker Justin Houston, nose tackle Brandon Williams and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike — came off the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Jackson (back) did not practice Wednesday, along with several other players — safety DeShon Elliott (quad), linebacker Pernell McPhee (shoulder), tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle), tackle Alejandro Villanueva (knee), receiver Sammy Watkins (rest), defensive end Derek Wolfe (back/hip) and cornerback Tavon Young (knee).
–Field Level Media
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