ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --Once again, the Broncos have game-breaking receivers set to line up across from their cornerbacks, with DeAndre Hopkins and stellar rookie Will Fuller looming with the Houston Texans on Monday night.
Another week, another challenge -- just like the ones that Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby have passed so many times in recent years.
Since the start of the 2015 season, the Broncos have allowed just three 100-yard games to opposing wide receivers in 22 regular-season games, and just four overall. No wide receiver has broken 100 yards against the Broncos in the regular season since Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown last Dec. 20.
Overall, the Broncos lead the league since the start of the 2015 season with just four 100-yard receiving performances allowed in the regular season. The average team has allowed 9.2 in that span. Three other teams immediately trail the Broncos with five 100-yard games since the start of the 2014 season: Arizona, Dallas and Minnesota.
This season, the Broncos have allowed just 95.2 yards per game to opposing wide receivers -- 74.6 yards lower than the league average.
The flip side of that is that 53.6 percent of the receiving yards and 50.8 percent of the receiving first downs allowed by the Broncos have come from tight ends and running backs, well above the league averages of 35.5 and 34.6 percent, respectively.
There is a method to the madness, however -- the fact that throwing to the wide receivers is a more efficient way to move the chains and pick up yardage on a per-attempt basis.
Throughout the league this year, one out of every 2.64 attempts to a wide receiver has resulted in a first downs, and wideouts have averaged a gain of 7.82 yards every time they were targeted.
By comparison, one out of every 3.13 attempts to a running back or a tight end move the chains, with players at those positions averaging 6.87 yards every time they're targeted.
It's hard to argue with the result; although the first-possession issues are frustrating, the Broncos have held opponents to 18 points per game -- an average of 8.4 points below their season-long averages.
What the Broncos need to do is get the per-target production in line with the league averages; right now, running backs and tight ends are moving the sticks once every 2.72 times they're targeted, while averaging 7.47 yards every time per targeted attempt.
If they can do that, with Talib, Harris and Roby maintaining their performance on the outside, the last two weeks will be just an aberration in the defense's big picture.