Broncos Season Win Total Prediction
Eschewing the modern NFL’s run-and-gun M.O., defense-driven Denver just demonstrated that not every championship team has to be constructed the same way. But can Gary Kubiak & Co. craft a sequel that measures up to last year’s masterpiece?
The Broncos didn’t care about concocting the most aesthetically pleasing experience in Super Bowl 50. Rather, they relied on grit, ferocity and execution to down Carolina. Those characteristics originated during the regular campaign and only intensified once the playoffs commenced.
Now, the challenge becomes learning how to handle that proverbial best shot on a weekly basis. Denver underwent an ample amount of roster turnover in recent months, too, giving handicappers slight pause in terms of picking the organization to rule the AFC West again. Ultimately, though, online sports book Bovada.lv favors the Broncos to claim nine victories.
After several seasons of focusing on Peyton Manning’s offensive wizardry, any 2016 profile of the Mile High City’s squad must begin on the other side of the ball. Linebacker Von Miller parlayed his astonishing performance vs. the Panthers into a lucrative contract extension. The cantankerous negotiations, however, spilled out into the public realm and created unwanted noise on the heels of April’s draft. Bottom line: General manager John Elway eventually rewarded Miller with $70 million guaranteed, and there’s no reason to believe the perennial Pro Bowler won’t continue to terrorize opposing signal-callers.
Miller’s excellence as an edge rusher simplifies matters for everyone else up front. DeMarcus Ware figures to keep assuming a specialist role, so look for rookie Adam Gotsis and former first-rounder Sylvester Williams to get numerous chances to shine. Two of Miller’s second-level partners in crime, Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett, are also on the rise.
Denver did lose the valuable Danny Trevathan to free agency. Yet Elway acted quickly to retain Brandon Marshall, whose steadiness at inside linebacker frequently allows Miller the luxury of freelancing. Moving to the secondary, try identifying a better corner tandem than Aquib Talib and Chris Harris. Bradley Roby and Lorenzo Doss offer quality depth at the position, too. Basically, defensive coordinator Wade Phillips possesses more toys than the Kardashian-West brood.
There’s a less exciting unit to dissect as well. Mark Sanchez arrives from Philadelphia to take over the main quarterback duties, as Manning retired following one of the greatest careers in league history. National types love to ostracize the inventor of the Butt Fumble. Nonetheless, consider that the 2015 Broncos finished 31st in passer rating. With his body succumbing to injury at every turn, Manning threw 17 interceptions. Sanchez won’t rewrite the record books, but he’ll serve as an acceptable placeholder until No. 1 selection Paxton Lynch proves his readiness.
OC Rick Dennison will undoubtedly acknowledge Sanchez’s limitations and adjust the play-calling accordingly. To that end, expect an increased workload for C.J. Anderson. Despite a poor start last fall, the California native wound up with 720 yards on the ground and five touchdowns. Meanwhile, Utah product DeVontae Booker could unseat Ronnie Hillman as the No. 2 option in the backfield.
When Sanchez does decide to go long, he’s blessed to have a pair of premier threats on the outside. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders combined for 181 catches, 2,439 yards and 12 scores a year ago. Underneath, Jeff Heuerman seems primed to develop into the club’s next ultra-reliable tight end. Tackle signings Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson promise to ensure that these weapons receive plenty of time to gain separation downfield.
While taking nothing away from last season’s group, let’s just say that it benefited from an uncommonly high number of breaks. The Broncos were 11-2 in tilts decided by a touchdown or less. They even needed a second-half rally in Week 17 to fend off Kansas City for the division crown. The scale must level out here.
TUESDAY NFL FREE PICK: DENVER BRONCOS OVER 9 WINS (-135)