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NFL Preview: Can Denver Buck the Competition in the AFC?

Denver Broncos 2017 preview

Two years ago, the Denver Broncos used an amazing defense to shut down Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50. Last season, Denver finished at 9 and 7. The easy answer to describe what happened from 2015 to 2016 is that quarterback Peyton Manning retired.

That doesn’t answer the whole story, though. Sure, Peyton retired after winning Super Bowl 50. But, if you remember, Peyton wasn’t all that effective in 2015. He missed numerous games. He threw plenty of ducks. Denver won the Lombardi Trophy in 2015 because of their excellent defense.

Denver Broncos 2017 Preview

The Broncos still have a good defense. Last season, it wasn’t nearly as formidable as it was in 2015. That’s the first thing to remember. The second thing to remember is that, yes, Denver started QB Trevor Siemian. But, Siemian played behind an offensive line that put him in danger in plenty of games.

Denver remains one of the better teams in the AFC. Are their Super Bowl 52 odds fair? Here’s our Denver Broncos 2017 preview!

New Coach…Better Broncos’ Defense

Gary Kubiak decided to retire. John Elway didn’t hesitate to hire Vance Joseph as his new head coach. Joseph was the Miami Dolphins’ defensive coordinator in 2016. He called defensive plays for a Fins unit that ranked 29th in the NFL in yards allowed per game at 382.6.  Sounds terrible, right?

It sounds like Joseph did a horrible job. But, he really didn’t. The 2016 Miami Dolphins allowed 23.8 points per game. That ranked 18th in the NFL.

Joseph is the type of coach that knows exactly where best to utilize his players. He did an excellent job with a much less talented defense than what he inherits in Denver. The Broncos ranked first in the NFL last season in pass yards allowed per game. Opponents only passed for 185.8. yards per game.

Stopping the rush is the big question. Last season, LB Brandon Marshall suffered hamstring issues. Hopefully, those issues are behind him. A healthy Marshall should help stem the rushing tide from 2016. Opponents averaged over 130 yards per game on the ground against the Broncos D.

If new players along the defensive line, including Round 2 pick DeMarcus Walker from Florida State, can help stop the rush, Joseph should help Denver return to its defensive glory days.

Has the Offensive Line Improved?

This is the second biggest question for the Denver Broncos. What you must love about President John Elway is that he makes no bones about it. He’s a football guy who looks at issues and tries to solve them. He doesn’t live in the stratosphere like other NFL suits that are always thinking about skill players.

Elway spent the 20th pick in Round 1 on Utah’s Garrett Boles. Boles has an excellent story. He’s a guy that was on the wrong path for a long time. Because he’s turned around his life, he’s got a lot of character. Boles should start Day 1 at the all-important left tackle position.

Elway didn’t just stop with Boles. He also signed a new right tackle in Menelik Watson, and a new right guard in Ron Leary. After sitting down with Joseph, the Broncos decided that they must become a power rushing football team. It makes sense.

The Broncos have two decent running backs, C.J. Anderson and Devin Booker. They also signed former Kansas City great Jamal Charles. If Charles is anywhere close to being the player he was at KC, watch out. At one time, Charles might have been the best running back in the NFL.

Who’s Going to Play Quarterback for the Denver Broncos?

Supposedly, the new offensive scheme, which employs a lot of short passes, and some spread formation, favors former Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch. Lynch played in 3 games last season. He threw 2 TD passes to 1 interception, and he completed 59% of his passes. He threw 497 yards.

None of Lynch’s stats should worry Denver fans. First, he was a rookie in 2016. Second, he played behind a bad offensive line. The fact that Paxton Lynch completed 60% of his passes is amazing. He’ll have every shot to win the starting quarterback position.

Lynch will have a chance to become the starting QB. Trevor Siemian might have to lose it, though. Siemian was remarkable in 2016. Siemian, like Lynch, was a rookie. Sure, he carried the football for -1 yards in 1 game in 2015. Can we really count that?

Siemian’s stats in the 2016-2017 NFL Season were unreal considering the circumstances. He completed 59.5% of his passes. His TD to INT ratio was 18 to 10. That’s better than Cam Newton’s TD to INT ratio at Carolina. He threw for 3,401 yards. His QB rating? 84.6.

Both Denver quarterbacks have a ton of ability. I think at the end, the Broncos go with Siemian. He became a co-captain halfway through last season because he impressed his teammates so much. That says a lot.

2017-2018 Denver Broncos Schedule

The Denver Broncos don’t have any easy schedule. When you play in the deep AFC West, there’s no way to have an easy schedule. The Broncos first 4 games of the season could determine their fortunes the rest of the way.

Denver battles 2 AFC West rivals in their first 4 games. Week 1 is a home battle against the Los Angeles Chargers. The Chargers are much improved this season. They might have the NFL Defensive Player of the Year suiting up for them in 2017 in Joey Bosa. The Bolts won’t be an easy out.

Then, in Week 4, Denver takes on the rival Oakland Raiders. That should be a huge game for both teams. Who does Denver play in Week 2? The Dallas Cowboys at home. In Week 3, Denver goes to Buffalo, another team that should be much improved this season.

It’s difficult for me to see Denver winning all 4 games. I don’t think they win 3 out of the 4. I’ll give them victories over the Chargers and the Raiders while Dallas upsets Denver in Week 2 and Buffalo upsets Denver in the Broncos first road game of the season.

Going into their Week 5 bye, the Broncos should be at 2 and 2.

Denver has 7 road games and 5 home games after their Week 5 bye. One of the home games is versus the New England Patriots on Nov. 12. I believe that’s a win for the Broncos. In fact, I think Denver wins all 5 of their home games after their Week 5 bye.

Denver’s road games? Those pose an issue. From Oct. 22 through Nov. 5, Denver battles the L.A. Chargers, the Kansas City Chiefs, and the Philadelphia Eagles on the road. On Nov. 26, Denver has a road game against the Oakland Raiders. On Dec. 3, the Broncos battle Miami on the road. Denver’s other two road games are Dec. 14 at Indianapolis, and Dec. 24 at Washington.

How many road games does Denver win this season? I’m going with 3 out of 8. What it means is that Denver’s record ends up at 10 and 6.

Denver Broncos Super Bowl 52 Odds

Right now, the Denver Broncos are at +2200 to win Super Bowl 52. Due to their tough schedule (I could be wrong on many of those games!), the Broncos fair odds are probably closer to +3000.

Then again, if I’m right, Denver might be a gift at 22 to 1 to win Super Bowl 52. Consider this: the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 with what amounted to a lame duck quarterback. Don’t believe me? Peyton went 13 out of 23 for 141 yards in Super Bowl 50. He threw a pick while not throwing a single TD.

Denver beat Carolina 24 to 10. The Broncos won via their defense.

Denver’s secondary remains arguably the best in the NFL. If Brandon Marshall can be the run stopper he usually is while Joseph gets the unit to buckle down versus the rush, the defense could become the best in the NFL again. On offense, if Siemian or Lynch can lean on a rushing attack that averages over 100 yards per game, the offense should be much better this season than it was last season.

That’s the thing. If I’m right, if Denver goes 10 and 6 and makes the playoffs, I think they’ve got a heck of shot of winning the AFC this season. Therefore, although fair odds are closer to 30 to 1, I’m not complaining about 22 to 1.

If Denver makes the playoffs, they might be the team to beat to win the AFC. 22 to 1 to win Super Bowl 52 could be a gift.

 

 

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Written by D.S. Williamson

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