NFL Picks: Super Bowl Champion Broncos Open Preseason With QB Questions At Chicago

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, August 9, 2016 10:29 PM UTC

Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016 10:29 PM UTC

So much for the NFL preseason kicking off last Sunday with the Hall of Fame game. Instead, the first day of the preseason schedule is Thursday and the Super Bowl champion Broncos visit the Bears with the game a pick'em on a total of 35.

Denver Broncos vs Chicago Bears  

Broncos What To Watch For
Arguably no team has a more important preseason than the champion Broncos. Of course Peyton Manning, the NFL's greatest regular-season quarterback ever, retired after Denver upset Carolina in Super Bowl 50. So all eyes are on the rather uninspiring competition between Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian to replace Manning.

Supposedly the competition is even heading into Thursday, but it would be a mammoth upset if Sanchez doesn't win the job. He has six years of experience, led the Jets to two AFC Championship Games and played fairly well at times the past two seasons as Sam Bradford's backup/injury replacement in Philadelphia. He was traded to Denver in March for a conditional late-round draft pick in 2017. Sanchez is expected to start Thursday, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

The folks in Chicago will know Siemian as he played for Northwestern from 2011-14. He was a seventh-round draft pick last year and didn't throw a regular-season pass. Siemian is more mobile and athletic than Sanchez, and Coach Gary Kubiak will have you believe that Siemian has a legitimate shot to win the job. Both guys will play a quarter in the first half Thursday. They also have been sharing first-team reps in camp 50-50 and are listed as co-starters on the first depth chart of the year.

Denver drafted its QB of the future in Paxton Lynch of Memphis with the No. 26 overall pick this year, trading up to get him, but Lynch isn't ready for NFL action yet that counts. He's expected to play the entire second half vs. Chicago, though.

The Broncos largely won the Super Bowl because of the NFL's best defense, but you won't see two key members (at least) of that unit Thursday in linebacker DeMarcus Ware and cornerback Aqib Talib. Ware is recovering from offseason back surgery, and Talib allegedly shot himself in a Dallas nightclub this offseason. He's actually back at practice but not ready for game action yet and could face an eight-game suspension in the regular season.

Denver was 3-1 in the 2015 preseason, 3-1 ATS on NFL odds and 2-2 'Over/Under'


Bears What To Watch For
Chicago has a lot of guys with Denver connections on the team, including head coach John Fox, special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers, offensive line coach Dave Magazu, defensive line coach Jay Rodgers and a handful of players led by quarterback Jay Cutler and linebacker Danny Trevathan, who was signed away in free agency this offseason. Fox was dumped by the Broncos after the 2014 season even though that team was 12-4 in the regular season and won the AFC West title. But Denver was upset at home in the divisional round in the playoffs by Indianapolis and team president John Elway felt a change was needed to win a Super Bowl. He certainly proved to be right.

Fox and new GM Ryan Pace really weren't left with much talent from the previous regime when they took over with the Bears last year. The team did improve by one win to 6-11 but was last in the NFC North for a second straight year. You could see that the Bears were much better-coached, however. Fox brought offensive coordinator Adam Gase with him from Denver, and Gase was able to coax the best season in a Bears uniform out of Cutler. In fact, Gase did such a nice job that the Miami Dolphins made his the NFL's youngest head coach this past offseason. Fox promoted quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains to replace Gase so the scheme should be very similar. Loggains has been an offensive coordinator previously, with the Titans from 2012-13.

You will not see two of the Bears' best players on Thursday. Outside linebacker Pernell McPhee remains on the physically unable to perform list following offseason knee surgery. Top receiver Alshon Jeffery, who was injury-plagued last season, is dealing with another hamstring issue and won't play. Late last week, the Bears learned that starting center Hroniss Grasu tore his ACL and was lost for the season. It's not clear if Chicago's 2015 first-round pick, receiver Kevin White, will play. He missed all of last year. I think White will be out there for a bit. Ditto the 2016 first-rounder, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd.

The Bears were 3-1 last preseason, 3-1 ATS on NFL picks and 0-3-1 O/U.

Denver will be a better regular-season team but perhaps the Chicago players will actually want to win this meaningless game for Fox. And the Bears are at home.


Free NFL Picks: Bears -112 & 'under' 35 -110 
Best Line Offered: Bears -112 at Pinnacle and 'under' 35 -110 at Bet365

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