Stats to know: Welker suspension impact

The Denver Broncos will be without wide receiver Wes Welker for the first four games of the season after he received a league suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on amphetamine use.

How will this impact the Broncos? Here are a few of the statistical storylines related to this news.

Passing-game impact

With Eric Decker having signed with the New York Jets and Welker suspended, the Broncos will be without two players who combined for 160 of the 268 passes caught by Broncos wide receivers last season.

Welker will be missed in the slot. He led the NFL with 89 targets out of the slot last season, ranked third in receptions with 57, second in receiving yards with 688 and tied for second in receiving touchdowns out of the slot with seven.

Welker tied for eighth in the NFL in total times targeted over the past two seasons, despite missing three games in that span.

The Broncos were forced to adjust their game plan when Welker was out those last three games in 2013.

Denver passed on 64 percent of its plays and averaged 6.8 yards per play when Welker was on the field. When he was not on the field, the Broncos passed 53 percent of the time and averaged 5.4 yards per play.

Emmanuel Sanders could be the Broncos' replacement in the slot. Sanders lined up in the slot for only 104 snaps in 2013, which was 76th among all wide receivers.

But the Broncos survived without him

The Broncos averaged 30.3 points, 336.0 passing yards and 6.5 yards per play in the three games Welker missed last season.

Manning with Welker
On/Off Field -- Last Season

Each of those ranked best in the NFL.

Broncos' first four won’t be easy

The Broncos' first four opponents this season are the Colts, Chiefs, Seahawks and (following a week off) the Cardinals.

Each of those four teams won at least 10 games last season. Their combined 2013 winning percentage is .703, the toughest first four games for any NFL team this season.

The Broncos do have the advantage of being at home for three of those four games.

Welker caught 48 passes for eight touchdowns in seven home games last season and had 25 catches with two touchdown receptions in six road games.