Any doubt that the Denver Broncos might not be as good as they were last year has been erased. The defending Super Bowl champions are undefeated to start the 2016 NFL season, and that should continue when they visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 4.
Following victories at home against the Carolina Panthers and Indianapolis Colts, the Broncos had maybe their best win of the season in Week 3. They visited the Cincinnati Bengals as underdogs and left with a 12-point win over a potential playoff team.
Denver continues to showcase the NFL’s best defense. They held the Bengals to 17 points in Cincinnati, limiting Andy Dalton to a 72.8 passer rating. Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers’ offense should have an equally difficult time against the Broncos on Sunday.
Even in their first game without the injured DeMarcus Ware, Denver made life exceedingly difficult for Dalton. They sacked the quarterback four times, improving their AFC-leading total to 12 on the season. This time it was Shane Ray who was the defensive standout with three sacks, and Von Miller continues to play like the best linebacker in the NFL. As much as Dalton struggled, the quarterback put up better numbers than Cam Newton and Andrew Luck did in Denver’s previous two games.
In his second NFL season, Winston isn’t on the level of Newton, Luck or even Dalton, and it will show against one of the best defenses the NFL has seen in recent memory. The quarterback took advantage of a poor Atlanta Falcons’ defense in Week 1, but he was picked off four times for a 39.2 passer rating against the Arizona Cardinals—one of the league’s top pass defenses—in Week 2. Winston struggled when he was pressured against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3, and he should be under constant fire against Denver’s dominant pass rush.
Denver’s defense has been consistently terrific for over a year. There’s little reason to believe that trend won’t continue on Sunday, making it difficult for the final score to exceed the over/under of 44 points.
The Broncos will eventually be upset when their defense can’t make up for Trevor Siemian’s mistakes. Tampa Bay, however, doesn’t have the defense to exploit the quarterback’s weaknesses.
Tampa Bay has allowed more points than any NFL team, and their opposing passer rating of 106.4 ranks 29th in the league. Case Keenum might be worse than any other starting quarterback, and he managed to have a decent game against the Buccaneers, posting an 87.0 passer rating and leading the Rams to a 37-32 win. The Bucs allowed Matt Ryan to throw for 334 yards when they won the season opener, and Carson Palmer had a 124.9 passer rating against Tampa Bay in a 40-7 Week 2 blowout.
Siemian’s 300-yard, four-touchdown performance in Week 3 was an aberration, but he should have one of his best games of the season when facing Tampa Bay.
Favored by just three points at Las Vegas and online sportsbooks, via OddsShark, Denver shouldn’t have trouble covering the point spread on the road. The Buccaneers don’t have much of a home-field advantage, having gone 3-14 at home since 2014.
Prediction: Denver over Tampa Bay, 24-14