DENVER -- In a parallel universe Dak Prescott would be starting at quarterback for the Broncos on Sunday, and Paxton Lynch would be a backup with the Cowboys as Tony Romo starts. But there is no Bizarro World.
On Planet Earth, Romo Sunday will be in a TV booth (in New Orleans, not Denver); Lynch is in a sling; Prescott is 14-3 in regular-season starts for the Cowboys, and Trevor Siemian – not Lynch or Prescott or Romo or Kyle Sloter – is the Broncos’ quarterback.
And the best two quarterbacks at Mile High Stadium, with five Super Bowl victories, will be upstairs. Troy Aikman will serve as the FOX telecast analyst, and John Elway will be in his luxury suite.
This world is bizarre.
A victory, and the Broncos could be in position to go 6-0 and be considered among the AFC powers. A victory for the Cowboys, and they would be touted as one of the two top challengers – Green Bay is the other – for the Super Bowl from the NFC.
Big game for both teams
Can the Broncos slow down the Dynamic Duo of Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, who early wasn’t schedule to be here? Can the Broncos’ offense beat and beat up the Cowboys’ defense, and will Siemian continue to improve and continue to prove he could be the longstanding quarterback? --(Does anybody remember Super Bowl XII?)
In tribute to a neighborhood near downtown Denver, here are Five Points:
*The Broncos’ defensive line against Elliott.
The Broncos were among the worst in the league stopping the run last season, and they still are renovating the front door to the defense.
On Friday the Broncos announced that veteran Jared Crick would undergo back surgery and be out for the entire season, and free agent Ahtyba Rubin had been signed. The 31-year-old Rubin started every game with the Seahawks at nose tackle the past two season, but was released when Seattle traded for Sheldon Richardson on Sept. 2.
A week ago the Broncos brought up undrafted free agent Tyrique ‘’Meat Loaf’’ Jarrett from the practice squad and cut Kyle Peko. Crick, Zack Kerr and Derek Wolfe have been troubled with injuries, and Wolfe, the Broncos’ best linemen, had to leave last week’s game against the Chargers.
The Broncos have five new faces in 2017 in the three-four – Rubin, Jarrett, Kerry, Shelby Harris and Domata Peko Sr. Wolfe and Adam Gotsis, in his second season, are the two players remaining from 2016.
The mix-and-match wall did hold San Diego running backs to 64 yards, but Elliott (who had 104 in the Cowboys’ opener) and Prescott, who will run, offer a more serious examination of the rush defense.
*Compare Dez Bryant and Demaryius Thomas.
Both were drafted in the first round of 2010 (Thomas surprisingly ahead of Bryant), and both signed new, nearly-identical $70 million contracts on the same day in 2015.
In their eighth seasons, D.T. and Dez have been stellar receivers with somewhat startling statistics. Thomas has more catches and yardage (551 and 7,771 yards) than Bryant (464 and 6,664), but Bryant has 67 touchdown receptions to Thomas’ 52. And D.T.’s team has played in two Super Bowls (and won one) while Bryant has never reached a championship game.
*Who will have the superior Sunday?
*Von. The Broncos’ all-timer rushing linebacker was selected the star of the first game, despite not having one sack, but Von Miller was the disrupter. Dallas will try to double- and triple-team Von, but can he get to Prescott and help shut down Zeke?
*The Broncos’ offensive line gave up four sacks (although Siemian should have thrown the ball away on two), but did open enough lanes for C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles to rush for 120 yards. However, Ron Leary, who was one of the Cowboys’ best offensive linemen until signing with the Broncos in the off-season, is uncertain because of being in concussion protocol, and Menelik Watson was often ineffective. What will be retooled offensive line do against a Cowboys’ defense that is not so unique?
*Dak and Trev? Prescott admitted in media interviews the past week that he missed his flight to Denver (and arrived on a later plane) for a pre-draft visit with the Broncos, and he believes his tardiness may have cost him a chance to be picked by John Elway. Also, Prescott had been arrested on a DUI accusation days earlier. (The charges eventually were dropped.)
But, even though Elway never has addressed the subject, the Broncos were – like the Cowboys – more intrigued with Paxton Lynch. When the Cowboys declined to pay the price to move up in the first round of the draft, the Broncos did. And the Cowboys got Prescott in the fourth round – one pick ahead of running back Davontae Booker, who was chosen by the Broncos.
I believe, though, that the problem Elway had with Prescott was the Mississippi State quarterback was deemed a Tim Tebow clone throughout his college career. Prescott idolized Tebow, wore the same jersey number (15) and even named his dog “Tebow.” They had the same coach – Dan Mullen.
Elway didn’t want another Tebow.
So, Dallas has Dak, and Denver has Trev, and the twain meet on Sunday.
In the real world.