When evaluating new quarterbacks, each team starts with one fact: wins and losses. If a team wins with a quarterback, they’re much more likely to feature him in subsequent years even if he struggles. Look at what the Baltimore Ravens have done with Joe Flacco, what the Dallas Cowboys are doing with Dak Prescott, and what the Jacksonville Jaguars are doing with Blake Bortles.
If Case Keenum wants to be the undisputed starter of the 2019 Denver Broncos, he has to make a playoff push this year. If he was a rookie, he would have a few years to bring results but as a journeyman starter on a two-year deal, he has to show results immediately. Coming out of the bye at 3-6, the Broncos will need to win out if they are to have any realistic chance at making the playoffs.
However, if the rest of the season goes anywhere as poorly as it did in the previous nine games, Keenum will be looking over his shoulder going into 2019. Here are a few reasons why Keenum has the potential to play better to finish the season and a rundown of the final seven games as number four likely sees it. To be clear, this is not a prediction for how the season will go but rather a look at how a player who is playing for his job is likely to look at the remaining seven games.
How Broncos’ Case Keenum Sees Remaining 2018 Schedule
Once in a season, there is not much that can be done to instantly save a bad season. However, the Broncos could have both stumbled into and purposely created an environment for Keenum to become more productive.
The Broncos lost center Matt Paradis and guards Ron Leary and Max Garcia for the rest of the season due to injury, tackle Garett Bolles hasn’t improved in his second year, and Jared Veldheer has been hurt intermittently throughout the year. Normally, this would be a bad thing for a quarterback but a worse offensive line could actually help the struggling journeyman. However, in 2017, Keenum was actually statistically better under pressure according to football outsiders. If the Broncos are to win out, they’ll need their quarterback to repeat the feat.
By trading wide receiver Demaryius Thomas to Houston, they freed up additional snaps for Courtland Sutton. While most experts expect Sutton to be a step back from Thomas initially, he could actually be the spark that this offense needs. With a higher number of targets per game, anything could happen. The offensive passing game is the biggest aspect of the Broncos that is holding back a team with an 11th-ranked defense and a 10th-ranked rushing attack. Even a slight improvement of the passing attack would push the Broncos over the top in a big way.
Finally, and as Keenum would likely say, the remaining schedule stacks up rather favorably for the Broncos and there are some reasons why the Broncos have a good chance to win each game.
Broncos At Chargers Week 11
Keenum would probably say that the first game of the last seven is one of the most difficult. The Chargers are red-hot and have won six straight games. However, the Broncos will be the fresher team coming off of a bye and will have had more time to prepare for what will be the biggest game of the season to this point. Finally, although this is technically an away game, it will likely feel like a home game since the Chargers are notoriously ignored by the local Los Angeles community. The last time that the Broncos played in a stadium outside Denver that was loaded with Denver fans, they won 45-10.
Steelers At Broncos Week 12
Case Keenum would likely say if asked that the second game of the final stretch is probably the most difficult. After a slow start, the 6-2-1 Steelers seem to be unstoppable, especially on offense after putting up 52 against the Carolina Panthers on Thursday Night Football. However, the Broncos have faced two seemingly unstoppable teams in the Kansas City Chiefs (twice) and the Los Angeles Rams and ended up losing those games by only a possession. The Broncos defense also held those explosive offenses to 30 points or less in all three games. The situation could be the same against the Steelers. If the defense can do it again, the Broncos will have a great shot to win at home.
Broncos at Bengals Week 13
Keenum would probably never talk about a team like this (he could be thinking it, however) but after a strong September, the Bengals seem to have fallen apart at the seams. Wide receiver A.J. Green could easily be out for this game as he is currently recovering from a toe injury and without Green, the Bengals were held to 14 or fewer points in two of their last three games (the other game being against the Buccaneers, who couldn’t stop a nosebleed).
Plus, it was reported that the Bengals have hired Hue Jackson which could only help the Broncos. Also, the Broncos played this team in 2017 and lost by only three. The Broncos are better this year than last even if the record doesn’t show it. This game should be a win for the Broncos.
Broncos at 49ers Week 14
This could be one of the easiest wins for the Broncos in 2018, although Keenum would probably never publicly say as much. Will it be C.J. Beathard or Nick Mullens starting? Neither quarterback should scare the Broncos, whose defense destroyed a similarly experienced Josh Rosen in primetime earlier this year.
Browns at Broncos Week 15
Keenum would never publicly condemn a team but he would likely join most in saying that the Browns are in disarray after firing head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. While they are coming off one of their greatest wins in years, they haven’t won an away game this year. Finally, interim head coach Gregg Williams should not scare anyone.
Broncos at Raiders Week 16
Keenum is probably quietly glad that the Raiders didn’t scoop him up during the offseason. The Raiders are easily the worst team in the NFL. Considering that they got rid of wideout Amari Cooper and leading pass rushers Bruce Irvin and Khalil Mack with no replacements, it seems pretty clear that the Jon Gruden era will start with a rebuild from top to bottom and the number one overall pick in 2019.
Chargers at Broncos Week 17
Assuming that the Broncos have won to this point, Keenum would probably call this one of the biggest games of his career. Denver will be red-hot while the Chargers could be in a position to rest their starters depending on how the seeding situation pans out. That would likely give the Broncos an assured win but if the Chargers end up having to play to win, Keenum should be excited to have home-field advantage. Assuming that events go according to plan, Keenum should be thinking that the Broncos will be in a win-and-in scenario.
Is There A Chance?
Keenum needs the Broncos to make a playoff push this year to save his job for another year. Thus, he is looking at the final schedule with extreme optimism. However, most experts and fans do not expect the Broncos to run the table during the final stretch of the season. The answer will become apparent very quickly. That being said, if the Broncos can pull off wins in the first two games against the Chargers and Steelers, they’ll be in the driver’s seat for the rest of the season. On the other hand, if they lose even one of those games, the Broncos will probably not finish over .500. Can the Broncos put on a performance for the ages, thereby saving Keenum’s job? One way or another, the answer is not far away.