Last year’s Denver Broncos offense was one of the best in NFL history. Will it stay that way in 2014? And what can they do about the defense that got eviscerated at Super Bowl XLVIII?
Jason’s final record on his final NFL picks for 2013-14:
49-41-2 ATS (+7.7 units)
1-1 ML (+0.71 units)
16-20-1 Totals (–5.6 units)
Total units won: +2.81
Wow, those Denver Broncos sure were awful, huh? Losing 43-8 at Super Bowl XLVIII to the Seattle Seahawks – a bunch of low draft picks and a goofball coach? Horrible. Blow up the Broncos and start over.
Okay, that takes care of the peanut gallery. For the rest of us, it’s time to praise the Broncos for what they did accomplish in 2013, and look ahead to what they can do to improve in 2014. The sooner we get a handle on this, the more prepared we’ll be for the next NFL betting season. Don’t want to miss out if Denver goes 15-4 SU and 11-7-1 ATS again.
Stay the Course
The 2013 Broncos offense set all kinds of NFL records, so it would be incredibly short-sighted to hit the panic button over the results of one single game against the historically good Seahawks defense. There’s a chance that Peyton Manning (115.1 passer rating) will retire if his surgically-repaired neck doesn’t clear the physical he takes in March, but that doesn’t seem likely at this point, and three of his four top targets – Demaryius Thomas (92 catches, 14 TDs), Wes Welker (73 catches, 10 TDs) and Julius Thomas (65 catches, 12 TDs) – are under contract for 2014.
The rest of the offense should only need some minor bodywork. RB Knowshon Moreno (4.3 yards per carry, 60 catches, 13 TDs) had an excellent year; however, he’s an unrestricted free agent with bad knees who’s turning 27 in July. Running backs are a fungible commodity anyway, especially in Denver. There will also be some holes to fill on the offensive line, but those can be taken care of in the draft. No sweat.
The more pressing need for the Broncos, as everybody knows, is in the secondary. This was the biggest of a very small handful of problems in Denver, and it only got worse when Chris Harris (60 tackles, 13 passes defended, three INTs) tore his ACL during the Divisional Round. Champ Bailey (three starts in 2013) is an expensive shell of his former self going into his age 36 season, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (19 passes defended, three INTs) is an unrestricted free-agent looking to get paid.
This is why it’s expected the Broncos will focus on cornerbacks at the 2014 Draft. They’ve got the No. 31 pick, and the latest mock drafts are pointing at Bradley Roby, a lightning bug from Ohio State at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds. Also under consideration: Jason Verrett from TCU, who’s smaller (5-foot-9, 170 pounds) and less athletic than Roby, but still very quick – and with less off-the-field baggage. Either player would be worth a shot.
Grabbing a bunch of coverage prospects in the draft would also help Denver’s special teams unit, which ranked No. 21 in efficiency during the regular season. Kick-return coverage was especially bad for the Broncos in 2013. It’s not a major issue with all those kick-offs sailing out of the end zone, but it’s still an issue – witness Percy Harvin’s touchdown at the start of the second half of Super Bowl XLVIII.
Again, Denver’s offseason shouldn’t be all that complicated. The fine folks at Bodog and Bovada have the Broncos listed fourth on the NFL futures market at 10-1 to win Super Bowl XLIX. But there’s also no question that the championship window is closing quickly. Manning might only have one more magical season in that right arm of his. After that? Well, Tim Tebow is always available.