Uncertainty in Denver Makes Broncos a Risky NFL Pick This Season

Rivers McCown

Wednesday, August 5, 2015 10:38 PM GMT

One of the most fascinating teams to predict this preseason is the Denver Broncos. We look at the Broncos' odds to win Super Bowl 50 and at their season win total and we answer key questions that surround them.

One of the most fascinating teams to predict this preseason is the Denver Broncos. We look at the Broncos' NFL odds to win Super Bowl 50 and at their season win total and we answer key questions that surround them.

On the strength of the last two seasons, it seems odd that you can grab them from +1100 to +1500 to win the Super Bowl, and that their wins over/under hovers around 10 instead of closer to 11. I'd like to tell you I have a strong opinion on them, but I can see a lot of different scenarios playing out depending on the answer to two questions.

 

1) Is Peyton Manning Done?
Manning's scattershot deep accuracy practically knocked the Broncos out of the playoffs last year, where he couldn't connect on any of the one-on-one matchups the Denver offense generated. Granted, Manning was hurt. He's also almost 40 and liable to always be playing somewhat hurt.

If Manning's regression is permanent, and he's only up to being a caretaker-esque quarterback, the Broncos are probably going under their wins total, even with Demaryius Thomas back. If, instead, this was just a blip on the radar, his betting stocks (and those of his receivers) should be mostly intact. I expect a little less production without Julius Thomas, but nothing outrageously off, as long as bettors can count on Peyton Manning.

 

2) How will the Gary Kubiak Effect hit Denver?
The other factor is that the Broncos may no longer be running Peyton Manning's offense. Under Gary Kubiak, Denver has spent a large portion of the offseason with Manning under center, and they plan to hand the ball off to C.J. Anderson a lot this season to… let's say "manage"…Manning's health and what they ask him to do .

If you believe this is going to happen, C.J. Anderson's rushing title prospects (+1200 - +2000) look mighty appealing. I am a bit worried about the talent on the offensive line enabling that to happen, though. Projected starting center Gino Gradkowski was one of the main reasons Baltimore's line was abysmal in 2013. Denver may be forced to start a second-round rookie, Ty Sambrailo, at tackle due to Ryan Clady's injury.

My takeaway is that the Denver defense should be in better hands with Wade Phillips, and I expect them to do most of the dirty work to keep the Broncos from being an out-and-out bad team. But trying to forecast how much Manning and Kubiak will change things is hard, because we're relying on indicators rather than empirical evidence.

I would lean, at this time, towards the Broncos doing more running and Manning being good enough to make that seem silly at some point this year, which should put Kubiak on the hot seat in Year One if events conspire against Denver.