Every off season, I try to predict the Broncos regular season record based on the team’s schedule, new acquisitions, and releases. Here’s a breakdown of my prediction.
Week 1: Denver at Jacksonville – Jacksonville is known for their college football team. Not their pro team. Doubt me? Ask Tim Tebow and the new Broncos fans we have from Jacksonville and the surrounding area. The team has had trouble filling its seats and there’s a reason why. In the last two seasons, they’ve gone 12-20. In the off season, they haven’t done much to improve their roster. All hope lies with David Garrard. The Broncos have notorious strong starts to the season, and with all the hype surrounding the game because of Tebow’s return to Florida, Josh McDaniels will have the team focused. Winner: Broncos
Week 2: Seattle at Denver – It’s the Broncos first home game of the season, and with one win and some Rocky Mountain Thunder behind them, the team should perform well against the Seahawks. Seattle went 5-11 last season under Jim Mora. Mora was fired shortly after the season ended and USC’s Pete Carroll took over as head honcho. I think it’s going to take some time for Carroll and his new coaching staff to adjust to the NFL’s schemes. Certainly by week 2, they won’t have a firm grip on anything. Side note: Guard Ben Hamilton will make his return to Denver. Winner: Broncos
Week 3: Indianapolis at Denver – The Colts are always contenders so long as Peyton Manning holds the reign. The QB simply gets better every year. Even in the team’s first year without Tony Dungy since 2002, they started the season 14-0 and finished 14-2. The Colts looked like they were going to win the Super Bowl in the first half until the Saints opened the 2nd half with an onsides kick. Talk about a swing in momentum. Unless Peyton Manning gets hurt and needs to be replaced by former Broncos Tom Brandstater, this game is all Colts. Winner: Colts
Week 4: Denver at Tennessee - The Titans started last season 0-6, but then finished 8-8. They have a lot of talent offensively, but Vince Young is a headcase. Chris Johnson in the backfield will be the ultimate test for the Broncos newly acquired defensive line and Bo Scaife is always a mid-field threat. The Titans were 28th on defense last year. This may be the game where we see some kind of a change in QB or at least a few Tebow options. Side note: Chris Simms will make his return to the Mile High City as a backup QB. Winner: Broncos
Week 5: Denver at Baltimore – The Ravens game last year was the catalyst in the Broncos demise. Before their game in Baltimore, the Broncos were 6-0 and on top of the world and on the front of most national sports publications. After that game, the Broncos spiraled to an 8-8 record overall. Give credit to the Ravens staff for figuring out how to stop the hottest teams in the league. Joe Flacco is a great young gun to watch. Now he’s got Anquan Boldin to toss to also. Going into Lucas Oil Stadium and grabbing a win is not in my crystal ball. Winner: Ravens
Week 6: New York Jets at Denver – Mark Sanchez is the pilot and brings his team in for some very smooth landings. The Jets may have been the more popular New York team last year going 9-7 in the regular season and then becoming the league’s Cinderella team in the playoffs. After a loss to the Colts in the AFC Championship game, Rex Ryan is hungry for more. No receiver in the league has been able to get off of Revis Island, and the Jets’ offense has undoubtedly improved. Santonio Holmes opposite Braylon Edwards gives Sanchez plenty of options. The Jets are great defensively as well. They were ranked #1 in total defense last year. Side note: Former Charger LaDanian Tomlinson is familiar with Denver and will bring leadership and guidance to this young group. Winner: Jets
Week 7: Oakland at Denver – Finally, a division rival comes into town. After a fairly tough schedule to begin, the Broncos will get to face an opponent whose worst enemy is themselves. It’s a shame JaMarcus Russell isn’t there anymore because Jason Campbell is a definite upgrade. As usual, the team is full of individual talent, but no one seems to be able to build the team concept. The Raiders have had 8 consecutive losing seasons, and finished last year 5-11. No wonder seats aren’t being filled and the local T.V. blackouts ensue. Winner: Broncos
Week 8: Denver at San Francisco – This begins the Broncos ultimate jet setting trip. The game takes place in London and the 49ers are no joke. They finished last season 8-8, and they were ranked 4th on defense. Frank Gore will present another opportunity for the Broncos defensive line to prove themselves. A week before this game, the 49ers will have faced a tough opponent in the Carolina Panthers. That’s a tough schedule for San Fran – an east coast trip followed by a trans-Atlantic trip. That’s why I have to give the edge to Denver. Winner: Broncos
Week 9: Bye – Rest up after half the season and a trip to London.
Week 10: Kansas City at Denver - Now the AFC West schedule really cranks into gear. A visit from the Chiefs is never an easy one to handle. The one-two-three punch of Matt Cassel, Jamaal Charles, and Thomas Jones brings a new element to the offense. The Chiefs finished 4-12 last year, but really made the last win of the season against the Broncos a crushing blow. Regardless of the Chiefs record, they’re never a team to take lightly. That week of rest will do the Broncos well in this game. Winner: Broncos
Week 11: Denver at San Diego – It’s about time for the Broncos to finally meet the Bolts. From this point on, each game is so meaningful for both of these teams as far as wrapping up the AFC West title. A trip to San Diego usually results in a high scoring game. This game could come down to special teams. Philip Rivers is the best QB in the division and he’s capable of anything. The Chargers went 13-3 last season winning their last 11 straight. As usual, they were one and done in the playoffs. Winner: Chargers
Week 12: St. Louis at Denver - St. Louis is a baseball city, not a football city. This should be the easier team from Missouri to face this season. With a 1-15 2009 season (lone win coming against the Lions), the Rams can only get better, right? They picked up Sam Bradford with their #1 pick in the draft and got big name offensive tackle, Rodger Safford, along with 9 other rookies in this year’s selection. This game cannot be taken lightly, however. We know that when the Broncos slip on an apparent “easy game,” they have a tough time recovering. Winner: Broncos
Week 13: Denver at Kansas City – Sticking to the Missouri theme, the Broncos will face the Chiefs for their final meeting. In years past, it’s been at this point in the season when the Broncos completely crumble, blowing their chance at a playoff spot. The season can either be won or lost at this point in time. Arrowhead is a hard place to win because the fans are so rowdy. If the Broncos defensive line stays healthy, I think they’ll be able to contain the Charles and Thomas backfield duo. If not, this game is all Chiefs. Another issue to contend with is the Chiefs secondary. They’re a reliable bunch and our receivers are in question at this point in the off season. Winner: Chiefs
Week 14: Denver at Arizona – The Cardinals went 10-6 last year and lost to the Saints in the NFC Divisional round of the playoffs. They are a different team this year with Matt Leinart at QB instead of Kurt Warner (retired). Anquan Boldin is also no longer with the team. I think we’re going to see a struggling Cardinals team. This is another game that could go either way, but the Broncos end-of-season focus will be there. Winner: Broncos
Week 15: Denver at Oakland - In their third straight road game, this is a tough way for the Broncos to wind down the season. Anything can happen in the Black Hole. Many visiting (and home) offenses have been known to have vanished. Gone. Done. Endzone no more. The Raiders, however, have seen some changes on defense. For instance, last year’s leading tackler, Kirk Morrison, is no longer with the team. He was a great defensive leader for this squad, and without a replacement, the Raiders could give up some big plays. Again, if the focus is there, the Broncos should put this one away. Winner: Broncos
Week 16: Houston at Denver – Last year, the Texans finished 9-7, just a game better than the Broncos. They were in the top tier offensively and middle of the pack defensively. This is another one of those teams that has a lot of talent and just needs to find a way to harness it into a playoff team. Matt Schuab is a solid QB with a great target in Andre Johnson. In the three weeks prior to meeting up with Denver, they will have faced the Titans and Ravens, not to mention playing a game in the harsh city of Philadelphia. That’s a rough way to end the year. Winner: Broncos
Week 17: San Diego at Denver – What a way to open up 2011. On Jan. 2nd, the Broncos will host the Bolts in what could be a game that decides the AFC West King. At this point in the past, the Chargers have had full momentum while the Broncos have been left for dead. Signs at Invesco will read “Chargers: One and Done” and “Rivers = Crybaby.” In recent years, this has become a great NFL rivalry with or without Jay Cutler. Josh McDaniels even got into the act when he allegedly taunted Charger players in pregame warmups. I’ll go with home field advantage here, and hopefully, a vastly different Broncos team than in years past. Winner and division champ: Broncos
Overall record: 11-5
Thoughts and comments are welcome.
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