The Denver Broncos endured a disastrous season in 2017 under first-time head coach Vance Joseph. Things started off promising, as the team began the year 3-1. However, when the offense began to sputter, things quickly spiraled into an eight-game losing streak. In the end, the Broncos finished the season 5-11, going from first to last in the AFC West.
But 2018 is a new year for the Broncos, who still feel their Super Bowl window is open. Denver signed Case Keenum over the offseason with the hope that a serviceable quarterback will make all the difference in the world. However, the Broncos still appear to face a long road back to the top.
Oddsmakers aren’t buying into the Broncos at all this year. Denver is at +4500 to win the Super Bowl. However, the Broncos won Super Bowl 50 behind a great defense and a steady quarterback. If Keenum does provide the answer, Denver’s defense could return to form and make the Broncos an interesting dark horse. On the other hand, oddsmakers project them to win just seven games in 2018. But again, if Keenum’s presence can make the offense average, that’s a number the Broncos can surpass.
Of course, despite Keenum’s brilliant season in Minnesota last year, there are questions about whether he’s the real deal. Is he a late bloomer or a one-season wonder? It’s a legitimate question, although Keenum was one of the most accurate passers in the league and threw just seven interceptions in 2017. If he can merely limit his turnovers, he’ll be a massive upgrade for the Broncos at the quarterback position.
There’s also an argument that he’ll have better playmakers around him in Denver than in Minnesota. When healthy, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders can be a lethal duo. What the Broncos are missing is depth at that position. Denver is hoping that rookies Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton can provide a third or fourth receiving option and insurance in case Thomas or Sanders gets hurt. The team also has high hopes for tight end Jake Butt.
Meanwhile, the Denver backfield will have some new faces. Devontae Booker didn’t make much of an impact last year and now he figures to split carries with rookie Royce Freeman, who offers a fair amount of upside. Of course, an improved offensive line will go a long way toward helping the Broncos this season. If free agent signing Jared Veldheer can solidify the job at right tackle and former first-round pick Garett Bolles continues to develop at left tackle, the Broncos should be in good shape up front. However, there is no guarantee things work out that way.
Defensively, most of the key pieces from that Super Bowl team a few years ago are still in place. Aqib Talib is no longer at cornerback, but Bradley Roby should be more than ready for a bigger role. Chris Harris is also one of the best in the business at the other cornerback spot. Justin Simmons, Darian Stewart, and Su’a Cravens also give the Broncos a formidable trio of safeties.
Of course, the key to Denver’s defense is their vaunted pass rush. Von Miller is capable of being the league’s defensive MVP, especially if teams also have to pay attention to the likes of Shane ray, Shaw Barrett, and rookie Bradley Chubb. The likes of Domata Peko and Derek Wolfe should make for a solid defensive line, allowing the edge rushers to go to work. The key, however, is for the offense to actually get a lead. That didn’t happen all that much last season, which meant the Broncos couldn’t unleash their pass rush.
Obviously, there are plenty of lingering questions about the Broncos heading into 2018. But they do boast more potential than most teams that won only five games the previous season. Another Super Bowl run seems unlikely, but if Keenum comes anywhere close to replicating his 2017 campaign, anything is possible in a wide-open AFC West.
|Sep 9||Seattle Seahawks||4:25 PM|
|Sep 16||Oakland Raiders||4:25 PM|
|Sep 23||@ Baltimore Ravens||1:00 PM|
|Oct 1||Kansas City Chiefs||8:15 PM|
|Oct 7||@ New York Jets||1:00 PM|
|Oct 14||Los Angeles Rams||4:05 PM|
|Oct 18||@ Arizona Cardinals||8:20 PM|
|Oct 28||@ Kansas City Chiefs||1:00 PM|
|Nov 4||Houston Texans||4:05 PM|
|Nov 18||@ Los Angeles Chargers||4:05 PM|
|Nov 25||Pittsburgh Steelers||4:25 PM|
|Dec 2||@ Cincinnati Bengals||1:00 PM|
|Dec 9||@ San Francisco 49ers||4:05 PM|
|Dec 15||Cleveland Browns||4:30 PM|
|Dec 24||@ Oakland Raiders||8:15 PM|
|Dec 30||Los Angeles Chargers||4:25 PM|
Aside from two games against the Chiefs, the Broncos play just two games against teams that made the playoffs last season and both come at home. That could end up playing to Denver’s advantage in a possible bounce-back year.
Week 1: vs Seattle – Win
This game is close to a tossup, but the Broncos are at home and their defense is just as good as the Seattle defense. Plus, the Broncos did get off to a strong start last season, so they can do it again.
Week 2: vs Raiders – Win
This is another tight game that will be tough to call. But with the home-field advantage, the edge has to go to the Broncos. The Raiders aren’t exactly a sure thing this season either, so Denver seems like the safer bet.
Week 3: at Ravens – Loss
Heading to the east coast is never an easy thing for the Broncos. This figures to be a defensive slugfest, and that ultimately favors the home team, as the Ravens escape with a close win.
Week 4: vs Chiefs – Win
A Monday night at Mile High will be too much for Kansas City’s young quarterback Pat Mahomes. Miller will be chasing him around all night, giving the Broncos a huge division win early in the year.
Week 5: at Jets – Loss
A second trip to the east coast in a three-week span doesn’t feel like a good omen for the Broncos, and on a short week to boot. A tired team comes to the Meadowlands and struggles against the lowly Jets in a serious setback for the Broncos.
Week 6: vs Rams – Win
The Broncos turn into a Jekyll & Hyde routine. One week after a terrible loss to the Jets, they take down the mighty Rams at home. Keenum proves he has moxy while leading the Denver offense to a game-winning touchdown in the 4th quarter.
Week 7: at Cardinals – Loss
Another short week means another loss for the Broncos. A Thursday night road trip to Arizona turns into a disaster for Denver, whose running game is too consistent to beat good defensive teams on the road.
Week 8: at Chiefs – Loss
Beating the Chiefs at home is one thing, but going into Arrowhead and stealing a win is something else. Andy Reid won’t let Mahomes endure another game of being chased down by Denver’s pass rush. He makes the adjustments necessary to beat the Broncos.
Week 9: vs Texans – Win
After back-to-back losses, the Broncos start to feel the heat and they respond accordingly. Deshaun Watson is something special, but so is the Denver defense, as the Broncos get the better of another young quarterback.
Week 10: Bye
Week 11: at Chargers – Win
Denver’s running game decides to show up this week, which enables them to get out to an early lead against the Chargers. From there, the Denver defense keeps up the pressure on Philip Rivers to secure a much-needed road win.
Week 12: vs Steelers – Win
If nothing else, the Broncos are proving difficult to beat on their home field. The thin Mile High air gets to the aging Ben Roethlisberger, who can no longer get away from elite pass rushers. Once again, it’s the Denver defense leading the way in a win.
Week 13: at Bengals – Loss
Another long road trip ends with a disappointing loss. More importantly, the team’s trip to Cincinnati snaps a three-game winning streak in which the Broncos really started to look like a playoff team.
Week 14: at 49ers – Win
Denver’s pass rush has proven too much for a few young quarterbacks this season, and that’s the case once again with Jimmy Garoppolo, as the Broncos do well to get right back on track.
Week 15: vs Browns – Win
Last year’s rough season taught the Broncos not to take anything for granted. That lesson pays off in this game, as the Broncos are careful not to overlook the Browns, helping them win convincingly.
Week 16: at Raiders – Loss
On a Monday night in Oakland, things come crashing down. Jon Gruden out-coaches Joseph, as Derek Carr has one of his best games of the season in a crushing loss for the Broncos.
Week 17: vs Chargers – Win
With the fate of the AFC West on the line, the Broncos come up big behind a solid performance from Keenum. This is Denver’s 10th win of the season, putting them in decent position for a playoff spot.