Phillip Lindsay's Early-Season Struggles Could Shape Denver's Week 3 Game Plan

Lindsay could be used differently against the Packers on Sunday

Lindsay's First Two Weeks

After going undrafted in 2018, Phillip Lindsay exploded onto the scene in Denver, finishing his rookie campaign with 1,278 all-purpose yards and 10 touchdowns (nine rushing). Lindsay was nothing short of a hot commodity entering this year.

However, word spreads fast in the NFL and it didn’t take long for other teams to notice his rare blend of quickness, agility and willingness to take a hit fighting for an extra yard. 

In 2018, Lindsay clearly established himself as the lead back in Denver, averaging 5.4 yards per carry and constantly helping his team move the chains. But in 2019, the story seems to have changed. While two weeks is small enough of a sample size to take Lindsay’s early struggles with a grain of salt, there’s still plenty to be concerned about. 

Through the first two weeks, Lindsay has averaged a mediocre 3.3 yards per carry compared to last year’s 5.4. Although that doesn’t seem like too wide of a margin, in the NFL, that’s a noticeable disparity. It’s clear that opposing teams have honed in on him when he’s been on the field, stacking the box to prevent him from seeing any open space.

A running back’s week-to-week production is often dictated by game script and unfortunately for Lindsay, Denver has trailed the vast majority of their first two games. Because Denver has had to play from behind most of the time thus far, the run game has been forced to play second fiddle. 

Between Lindsay’s early struggles having only totaled 79 yards on 24 carries and Denver as a whole scoring only 30 points between their first two games, the buzz around the Broncos isn’t exactly optimistic. 

The Royce Freeman Impact 

Arguably the biggest factor of Lindsay’s slow start to his sophomore season is due to his fellow teammate and running back, Royce Freeman. Ultimately, in order to be effective and produce during a game you must be on the field. 

With Freeman’s early successes this season, Lindsay has often found himself on the sideline looking on and if you’re expecting that to change in the near future, don’t hold your breath.

Freeman is currently averaging 5.2 yards per carry thus far through two games and not only does he have more rushing yards than Lindsay through two games (110 rushing yards to Lindsay’s 79), but he has out-produced Lindsay with less carries. 

In a league like the NFL with the high volume of turnover between both player and coach, there isn’t any time for coaches to play favorites.

This is a results-driven business and It may not be too long before we see Freeman take over as the featured back with Lindsay playing the change of pace roll. As for now, you can feel confident that Freeman will at least continue to eat up Lindsay’s snaps. 

Judging by the fact that BetQL’s NFL Model labels over the consensus total (43) as a ★★★★★ bet in a projected close contest this week, expect Freeman and the Broncos offense to put points on the board.

Green Bay's Run Defense

BetQL’s Dashboard has the Broncos +7.5 as the favorable bet on the spread in this matchup (and the Packers moneyline, which means the model projects a Packers win by seven or fewer points). 

Green Bay, under first time head coach Matt Lafleur, has his team off to a hot start. Typically, the first thing we think of when the Packers come to mind is the often-exhilarating Aaron Rodgers, but it’s been Green Bay’s defense that has made all the headlines. After two weeks, the Packers defense has only given up a total of 19 points, ranking 2nd in the NFL, behind only the New England Patriots. 

The Packers have recently invested heavily on their secondary spending first round picks on both Jaire Alexander (cornerback) and Darnell Savage (safety) in 2019. Kevin King (cornerback) was an early second round draft pick in 2018 as well as the addition of Adrian Amos in free agency this past offseason. 

The Packers have high expectations with their new secondary and up until this point they have lived up to them. Because of Green Bay’s strong secondary, Denver’s offense might call even more running plays this week. 

Further, since Lindsay has made an impact as a pass-catcher, expect him to be utilized more in that fashion as opposed to running between the tackles.

Even though Green Bay only gave up 16 points last week to the Vikings, Dalvin Cook still had an impressive outing rushing for 154 yards. Although the game script could certainly swing in Green Bay’s favor if they get out to an early lead, expect a ground-and-pound attack led by Freeman (and complemented by Lindsay) in Week 3 as the Broncos try to avoid falling to 0-3. 

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