Broncos Barely Avoid Rare Losing Season and Get Modest 'Over' Nod

Doug Upstone

Wednesday, August 8, 2018 12:58 PM UTC

Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018 12:58 PM UTC

Remember all the accolades John Elway was receiving when Denver was going to the playoffs and winning a Super Bowl, just like when he was a player? Those thoughts are fading fast at about a mile high.

John Elway was given a great deal of credit for developing Denver into a Super Bowl champion, However, the Broncos' rather rapid descent is also on his watch. It started with drafting quarterbacks who have shown they cannot win in this league or stay healthy. Despite his genius as a Hall of Fame player, Elway has built teams, rightly or wrongly, that were less dependent on the quarterback. In winning the Super Bowl in Peyton Manning's last year, he was a shell of his prior self and Denver won with one of the best defenses since the turn of the century.

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How has @casekeenum earned the trust of his teammates?

Let his Mic’d Up answer that for you 👇 pic.twitter.com/Ge47PwTKcC

— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 7, 2018
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One has to wonder if Case Keenum is really the answer to make Denver relevant again. Sportsbooks such as Bovada are not impressed as you can see with these NFL odds on the Broncos:

Odds to Win AFC West: +450 (4th)
Odds to Win te AFC: +1650 (9th)

Though the AFC West could be the most competitive division in the NFL, a few breaks, good or bad, could be the difference between first or last place.

2018: Un7.5
2017: Un8.5 (5-11 record)
2016: Un9 (9-7 record)
2015: Ov10 (12-4 record)

As you can see, Denver's projected win total has decreased each of the last four years. And this a very important year for the Broncos, who have not had back-to-back losing seasons since they had 10 straight from 1963-72.

Broncos Outlook

Offense: As Case Keenum proved last year, he would have been the perfect quarterback for Denver -- three years ago. After being a journeyman, Keenum had a great season with Minnesota in 2017. However, the Vikings had a great defense, a strong running game, and playmakers on the outside. The Broncos are trying to provide Keenum with such a team. The offensive line remains a question mark, but at least they have more to work with, trading for T Jered Veldeer and moving Ron Leary back to his preferred spot of right tackle.

Denver released 1,000-yard rusher C.J. Anderson and is looking for rookie Royce Freeman or others to explode onto the scene. At receiver, DeMaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are both 30 and in their ninth seasons, and last year saw a decline. Will a more accurate QB revitalize them?

Defense: Denver was third in total defense -- fourth against the pass and fifth against the run -- yet allowed 23.9 PPG (t-24th). Deplorable special teams and an offense that turned the ball over way too often left this group in horrible field position week after week. But don't be fooled, this is not the Orange Rush defense of a few years ago. Sacks and forced turnovers are way down from previous levels. The defensive line is mostly a group of pluggers, who can stop the run and there is depth.

Adding rookie Bradley Chubb should benefit Von Miller to rush the passer and make plays. In the secondary, Chris Harris Jr. is a top quality corner and Darian Stewart is an anchor at safety. The rest is less settled as Bradley Roby moves up from the nickel slot to full-time corner with Aqib Talib traded, and the depth in the secondary is marginal.

Bottom Line: In reviewing the Denver schedule, right now, at least half their games will be in the +3 to -3 point spread range. If the Broncos reduce turnovers, run the ball and play defense, a 10-6 record is possible. But if Keenum has to throw 30 times a game, the O-line does not come together and the secondary has injuries, another losing season awaits. For NFL picks, we'll lean toward the middle and say this a .500 club, making them a slight "over" play.

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