By Marc Mandell

The Denver Broncos are heading to sunny, warm Jacksonville for a match-up with the Jaguars. Only 5 games left in the season, so the time for shenanigans is kaput! No more spoon full of sugar. This medicine is going to go down rough, because there is no more time for reindeer games. It’s officially now or never for the Mile High Buckaroo’s. With all the story lines that are popping up this week from Broncos camp there is plenty to cover, so let’s get to it, shall we?

How many of you have heard about Jacksonville’s big free agent acquisition this past off season? Have you heard about all the sacks he has? All the forced fumbles he is responsible for? Me either. Malik Jackson has had a quiet season so far. These rematch games always carry a bit more weight, but without the killers on either side of Malik this year, Von and Ware, he just isn’t having the same impact. He has 4.5 sacks and is on pace for only 28 tackles this year, compared to 5 sacks and 34 tackles last year. It’s not that I think that he is a bad player, just that he’s not the main man type of guy. I do think he will have a good game against the team that drafted him, but more because the Denver Broncos O-Line is not great. Here’s his warning from earlier this week.

Take it easy Malik, your profile pic on twitter is you with your Super Bowl ring on. You know, the one you got with Denver last year? Your problem is your current team, not the former one.

In addition to Malik signing with the Shaguars, there is another former Denver Broncos player on the roster. You guys remember Julius Thomas? The TE that could catch anything but couldn’t block an unwanted phone call. His season isn’t that wonderful either. Again, he was injured early on this season. He only has 281 yards and only 4 TD’s. So yeah, not too wonderful for Mr. “I’m not going to block, just catch but only when I’m healthy and feel like it” Thomas.

The real threat from the Jags though, isn’t the TE or even Malik Jackson, it’s the tandem of Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns. This twosome could be a top three combo with a quality QB tossing the pig skin to em’. With Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon in the back field, as Houston put it last year, “We are a competent QB away from….”. Funny how it’s in the same division isn’t it? In all honestly though, it’s not that the Jaguars scare me, it’s more that I fear Denver will beat themselves. Here’s what I mean.

Now for part 1 of the bad news for Denver. Andy Janovich has been placed on IR after under going ankle surgery earlier this week. It means that Juwan Thompson is going to get another shot at some more field work, this time as a FB. Andy was having a wonderful year so far. He was doing so well that most of us were wondering why he wasn’t getting more playing time. So it’s up to Thompson now. We shall see if he can get it done.

Part 2. It’s looking like Paxton Lynch will get the start this week. This will be the number 1 reason Denver loses this week. For those of you who thought it was time to turn to the rookie anyway, be sure of these 3 things. First, he can’t play under center. Making the run game that much harder to get going. As if the ground attack hasn’t been struggling enough. Second, is his lack of skill when throwing the ball deep. He is about as accurate down field as Stevie Wonder would be. Third is his inability to read a defense. He is essentially a taller version of Tim Tebow. Sure he has athletic ability. Of course he has talent. So did Jamarcus Russell, and RGIII, and Ryan Leaf, and Brock Osweiler. I have serious doubts about him and would take Siemian over Lynch 10/10. I hope I’m wrong, but………

There is another wrinkle to this week. Kubiak has said that Sambrailo will get another opportunity. I was really hoping that Ty would show well last week against KC, as he was a high round draft pick. He didn’t. Like, at all. He had a truly rough series, or three of them rather. Once Stephenson entered the game Justin Houston was at the very least slowed down, allowing Siemian an extra second to throw the ball. This is why I have my doubts about Lynch. Sambrailo has had an extremely rough season, considering injury and the lack of production. Yet they still go back to him, even after what the entire nation saw last weekend. He was a second round pick. If Lynch is the future and management honestly believes in Lynch, why were they waiting to start him? With Ty making another appearance on the field, and Lynch calling the plays, it feels like this could be anything but a gimme game.

It’s time for the defense to get it back into gear as well this week. Last week was ridiculous. The penalties at the end of games are inexcusable for such a group. So many times this year they could have shut the game down, but found ways to give the fans strokes, heart attacks and ulcers. I expect more from this group. I know it’s all about expectation management, but this defense has shown that they can get it done without Malik. It isn’t as pleasing to the eye as it was last year, but results are all the same. Besides, they can’t wait much longer as the season is a very perilous position for the Broncos.

If it seems like I am being too harsh or curt, it’s because I am. This team can’t afford anymore hiccups, bumps, hampers, crashes, smacks or slip ups. With a sub par QB and double bogey offensive line, the defense and special teams need to be at their absolute best. I’m not mad at the special teams play of late, just disappointed. For Wade Phillips, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is. By 2 PM on Sunday afternoon, we will see if the step was achieved.

I’ve got a score of DEN 13-16 JAX. Three turnovers committed by the Broncos, and ill timed penalties by the defense will seal the game for the Jags. It’s hard for me to write, but I have to be real, as Denver has certainly returned back to Terra Firma.