Just by the title, I’m sure that you will see this as a provocative article. Heck, look the above picture of Peyton Manning. He’s giving me that Peyton face of disapproval, like I just dropped a pass or ran a route incorrectly. Look, there may be those who love our Denver Broncos as much as I, but nobody who loves them more. However, I don’t place emotion over rational thought. I am a realist and I think that Broncos Planet has to prepare themselves for a 12-4 or 11-5 kind of season. The good news is, that should still be good enough to win the AFC West and host at least the divisional playoff game. Additionally, I think we are the most complete team in the AFC and are still the team to beat in the conference. However, if you juxtapose the 2013 schedule to that of 2014, this coming season obviously more difficult.
This is not my official prediction for the season. There is a long training camp and preseason schedule to endure. There are going to be injuries; that’s just the nature of such a violent, collision sport like football. The good Lord willing, the injury bug will miss our locker room; relatively speaking. Also, there are going to be teams we face that will virtually come out of nowhere and become a playoff team in 2014 after missing the playoffs in 2013. That said, I will save my predictions for the week prior to the September 7th kickoff against Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts.
First let’s compare the strength of schedule of last years’ opponents to that of this years opponents. In 2013, the Broncos came into the season with the easiest strength of schedule in the NFL. In 2014, we have the second most difficult schedule. You needn’t look any further than our inter-conference schedule: the NFC West. We know all to well about the Seattle Seahawks (13-3) and how their 2013 ended (I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit). And I’m sure most of you know that the San Francisco 49ers (12-4) have been participants in the past three NFC Championship games, going to Super Bowl XLVII. Then there is an Arizona Cardinal team (10-6) that would have made the playoffs if it wasn’t for a putrid NFC North in which an 8-8 Green Bay Packers team got in with the automatic divisional championship bid. Head coach, Bruce Arians should only has them flying higher this season (see what I did there?). Lastly, the Los Angeles…er, uh, St. Louis Rams (7-9) are one of those aforementioned teams that could possibly go from last place to the playoffs with the current makeup of its roster. The Rams should have one of the most formidable defenses in the NFL. Their big question mark is the health of quarterback, Sam Bradford. If he’s healthy and plays all 16 games, I believe they make a playoff run.
Of course, we have our own division, the AFC West. As things stand at this point, I believe that we go (no worse than) 4-2 inside the division. For the record, one of those two losses will NOT be to Oakland. I just think that San Diego and Kansas City will be a year better and let’s face it, we have a big target on our backs after three straight division titles and being the defending AFC Champions. lastly, I have too much respect for Chiefs’ head coach, Andy Reid to think that they will not have a say in what happens in the division.
The big target on our backs isn’t only in the cross-hairs of our divisional rivals, we play the 2013 division champions team from each of the other three AFC divisions: New England, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati. None of which are gimme’s and all of which believe that they can be the conference representative in Glendale, AZ. on the first Sunday in February, 2015.
Now the good news is, this schedule should make this extremely talented team battle tested; the lack of which is something that may have worked against us in Super Bowl XLVIII.
I also previously mentioned injuries. There are still questions about how healthy and/or ready some key pieces to the puzzle are going to be once the ball gets kicked off for real. In 2013 there were some very serious injuries suffered by Von Miller, Ryan Clady, Chris Harris, Rahim Moore, and Kevin Vickerson. In fact, Miller, Harris, and Vickerson are all starting camp on the PUP (Physically Unable to Perform) list. The past couple of seasons have seen concussion issues for Wes Welker and a rash of injuries for off-season acquisition, Aqib Talib. So a lot needs to go our way in the training room if we are going to match or exceed our win total in the past two seasons. Either way, head trainer, Steve Antonopulos is going to have his work cut out for him.
So with all of that working against us, I think a 12-4 season would be more impressive than the last two 13-3 seasons. If we exceed 12-4, then I really like our chances to hoist the Lombardi Trophy.