The team from the Mile High City is on the rise.
The Denver Broncos are running the ball and stopping the run — they did neither well last season — and have a surprisingly effective quarterback in Trevor Siemian.
As a result, they are 2-0 with impressive home victories over the Chargers and Dallas, and will try to keep it rolling Sunday at Buffalo. There, the Broncos will face Rick Dennison, their former offensive coordinator who holds that title with the Bills.
One of the changes that has given Denver a lift is Mike McCoy returning to his role as offensive coordinator after being fired as coach of the Chargers. Siemian, a seventh-round pick in 2015, has flourished in McCoy’s offense and has held a starting job that most people thought would go to Paxton Lynch, the team’s first-round pick in 2016.
On defense, the Broncos are coming off stifling Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, holding the 2016 NFL rushing champion to eight yards in nine carries. The Bills are expecting a stronger showing from LeSean McCoy, who had nine yards in 12 carries Sunday in a loss to Carolina.
“To stop the run, it’s an attitude,” said Denver nose tackle Domata Peko, an impact offseason addition. “You have to go out there and draw a line in the sand and say, `I’m not going to move back it. Nobody is going to push me around.’ That’s the attitude that we have here.”
The defense rests, constantly
When Carolina plays host to New Orleans, it will be more than another game between NFC South rivals. It will be the NFL’s best defense — so far — versus its worst.
OK, so the sample size is small, but after two games, the Panthers are feeling good about their defensive play, and the Saints are feeling … the same way they’ve felt the last few years — lousy.
In victories over San Francisco and Buffalo, Carolina has given up only six points — one field goal in each game — and a paltry average of 196.5 yards.
“When you watch teams play, they don’t run to the ball as we do,” Steve Wilks, Carolina’s defensive coordinator, told reporters Monday. “And yes, it’s very impressive. It’s exciting. But it’s something that we demand.”
The Saints are at the opposite end of the spectrum, surrendering 512.5 yards per game and seven touchdowns. Then again, those came in losses to Minnesota — a red-hot performance by Sam Bradford — and the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots.
“It’s embarrassing, especially when you put in all this hard work, all the success that we had in the preseason,” said Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro, who was benched during the Patriots game. “Even though it’s just preseason, we’d never really done those things since I’ve been here, since really my rookie year. We’ve got to get it fixed. We’re already 0-2. It’s just going to be hard to come out of that hole.
“Everybody knows in this league, once you get yourself in a hole, it’s really, really hard to climb out.”
The Chargers have absorbed consecutive heartbreaking losses, each ending with missed field-goal tries, one deflected and the other sailing wide. Likewise painful for them is that the rest of the AFC West is a combined 6-0.
One of those division opponents, Kansas City, visits Carson on Sunday. The Chiefs have a budding star in rookie running back Kareem Hunt, who ran for two touchdowns in a 27-20 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday.
Hunt, who scored three times in a season-opening win at New England, is the first player in NFL history to have at least three rushing touchdowns and two receiving touchdowns in his first two career games.
If you’re looking for someone who scored more than five touchdowns in his first two games, you’ll have to turn back the pages almost a century. In 1920, Dutch Sternaman scored six for the Decatur Staleys.
When they drew up Monday night’s matchup between Dallas and Arizona, the NFL’s schedule makers were undoubtedly thinking about a showdown between two of the best backs in the game, the Cowboys’ Elliott and the Cardinals’ David Johnson. That has been scuttled now that Johnson is sidelined, having undergone surgery for a dislocated wrist.
But this game does feature Cowboys tight end Jason Witten and Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, each of whom has played for only one team, has been selected to 10 Pro Bowls, and is a likely first-ballot Hall of Famer.
How popular are the Patriots in Boston?
Their postgame show Sunday had better ratings than the Emmy Awards.
Follow Sam Farmer on Twitter @LATimesfarmer