Every week, we take some time to sit down and exchange questions with the folks that run the SB Nation website for the Minnesota Vikings’ opponent for that particular week. We’ve reached that time of the week again, as we get closer to the Vikings’ matchup against the Denver Broncos.
This week, yours truly exchanged questions with Ian St. Clair of Mile High Report, SB Nation’s home for everything about the Denver Broncos. You can see the answers I sent to his questions here or on the front page of the site, and the answers that he sent to my questions can be found below.
1) After a disastrous 2022 season, Russell Wilson appears to have had a bit of a renaissance this season. Is the reasoning behind this transformation as simple as hiring Sean Payton or is there more to it than that?
It’s as simple as hiring Sean Payton. In fact, he’s the main reason for the turnaround of the whole franchise. Competent coaching matters and the Broncos finally have it with Payton and his coaching staff. The fact we can say that after what happened in Week 3 when Denver allowed 70 points to the Miami Dolphins is pretty incredible. But that’s a testament to the belief that Wilson and the whole team have in Payton. The Broncos have the confidence they can beat any team in the NFL and that Payton and the coaching staff will put them in the best situations to have success.
The big thing with Wilson, and this is true for the team, is Payton demands excellence. He doesn’t sugarcoat things. Payton is honest about his evaluations, and you better put in the work. No one can question Wilson’s work ethic; he just needed that shove to get him back on track.
2) The numbers say that the Broncos have the worst defense in the league in both points and yardage allowed, but it appears that they’re significantly better than that and have forced nine turnovers over the past two weeks. What is the best way for a team to have success against Denver’s defense?
The numbers on defense get skewed from the fact they gave up 70 points and 726 yards of total offense, including 350 rushing to the Dolphins. The Broncos defense has been much better since the second half of the Chicago Bears game. The following week, the points per game and yards per game came down significantly. It’s not great by any means, but it’s better. The best way to beat Denver’s defense is what the Buffalo Bills did when they had success — run the ball. The Broncos defensive front struggles to get a consistent push up the field and win the line of scrimmage. Josh Allen struggled against the Denver defense, James Cook did not. The reason is running the football. The Vikings should take the same blueprint and try to replicate it on Sunday night. That’s how Minnesota can have success against the Broncos defense.
3) George Paton was an assistant to Rick Spielman in Minnesota for many years and finally made the leap to go out on his own when the Broncos came calling a couple of seasons ago. What do Broncos fans think of the George Paton Era so far?
When it comes to Paton, it’s hit and miss. In terms of the NFL Draft, Paton has been excellent. As a roster-builder through free agency and trades, he’s been terrible. The feeling around Broncos Country is it’s a matter of when Paton is no longer with the team not if. It’s partly because of what I mentioned above but also the other Payton. Whether that sentiment is true or not remains to be seen. If there were a way to have Paton run the Draft and have someone take care of free agency and trades, that would be ideal.
4) Give us one “under the radar” player for the Broncos that you feel will be integral to the team’s success on Sunday night.
Typically I would go with Jaleel McLaughlin, but I don’t think he’s under the radar anymore. Still, keep an eye on the undrafted rookie running back. Ja’Quan McMillian has been phenomenal the last two weeks for the Broncos defense. He’s seemingly come out of nowhere to make a difference like he has in the Denver secondary. McMillian was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2022. Given the opportunity in Week 8 against the Kansas City Chiefs, he’s taken advantage of it since. In the win over the Bills, McMillian set the tone for the defense with a forced fumble on the first play from scrimmage. Since the Broncos have the best cornerback in the NFL right now in Pat Surtain II, to get this type of performance from McMillian is huge and only makes the defense that much better. We’ll see if he can continue this trend on Sunday night, especially if Justin Jefferson returns for the Vikings.
5) The DraftKings Sportsbook has set the over/under for this one at around 44 points. Given the way that these two teams have played defensively over the past few weeks, is that number a bit on the high side? How do you see Sunday’s game playing out?
The under is definitely the safe bet for Sunday’s game and just about every Broncos game that doesn’t involve the Dolphins. And I agree, that number seems a tad high. I think 40 seems like a better number. Of course, now that I’ve said this, both teams will explode for 24 points. As for the game, Mile High Stadium is going to be rocking on Sunday for the first time since the Super Bowl year. It’s going to feel like a Broncos home game again. With how the team has been playing over the last three weeks, especially the last two, I think the Broncos take advantage of the game being at home, Payton and the coaches have another great plan and win 24-17.
Thanks again to Ian for taking the time to sit down and answer our questions!