The 2014 Denver Bronco training camp is underway! We have done it Bronco fans – we have endured another offseason! Depending on how you take Bronco losses, this offseason may have been quite difficult considering the last time the Broncos played, they were thrashed 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII! A new season brings renewed hope, especially if you’re a Bronco fan, considering the team that has been assembled for 2014. Even though optimism is high, there are still many questions remaining about this team and the upcoming season. Please continue reading for some of those questions and my answers which are fueled by my enthusiasm, excitement, and passion!
Jul 24, 2014; Dove Valley, CO, USA; Denver Broncos huddle before the start of training camp activities at the Broncos training facility. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
- Will the Broncos have a hangover from Super Bowl XLVIII?
While the offseason was painful due to the outcome of Super Bowl XLVIII, I am thankful the start of another football season is right around the corner. The question Bronco fans obviously have is how the Broncos will respond this season considering how surprisingly poor they played in Super Bowl XLVIII. During OTA’s Bronco players were using the number “35” as a motivator! An NFL season is long so fans must mentally prepare themselves and pace themselves – the Broncos will not win the Super Bowl in September, October, or November, but obviously the outcome of those games will indicate if they have a chance at another NFL championship. Before the loss in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Broncos lost the Super Bowl a total of four times (Super Bowls XII, XXI, XXII, and XXIV). Following those “super” years, the Broncos combined regular season record was 33-19-1; the best season being 10-4-1 following the 39-20 loss against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXI and the worst season, a paltry 5-11 campaign following the Super Bowl XXIV loss to the San Francisco 49ers, 55-10. Only time will tell if the Broncos have really moved past the dismal performance in Super Bowl XLVIII.
- Can Peyton Manning and the offensive unit surpass, even reach, the offensive statistics that the team reached in 2013?
If you look back on the offensive output of the 2013 Broncos it is quite impressive. While the past season will always have a sour taste because of the Super Bowl loss, Bronco fans, and football fans for that matter, can’t deny the fact that the 2013 Broncos offensive unit was superb in the regular season. The bar was set so high in 2013 that if the 2014 Broncos offense can reach that level again I would expect a great season. If they surpass the 2013 stats, I will have to sit back and shake my head in amazement. Not only will it be difficult to achieve that output for a second season in a row, I would expect it to be a bit tougher this season because teams will be out to stop the high-powered offense – more this year than last year! Below are the offensive statistics compiled in 2013; the league standing is in ( )
Points per game: 37.9 (first)
Total points scored: 606 (first)
Number of plays from scrimmage: 1,156 (first)
Yards per game: 457.3 (first)
First downs per game: 27.2 (first)
It is cliché, but regardless of what you’re doing, there is always room for improvement. As I was reviewing the statistics from 2013, there was one stat that I am sure the Broncos coaches are addressing early this season – FUMBLES! In 2013 the Broncos fumbled the ball 27 times, which put them tied at fourth in the league (a stat that you don’t want to be near the top in). The Detroit Lions (28), Washington Redskins (30), and the Buffalo Bills (32) were the only teams who fumbled more. The most disturbing fact regarding the fumbles in 2013 was that while the Broncos were fourth in fumbles, they lost more of the fumbles than the teams above them. Can you imagine how potent they will be when they improve in this area?
- Will new Denver Bronco players immediately contribute?
The short answer to this question is “yes, because they have no choice – John Elway brought them in for one reason and that was to win the Super Bowl.” By now, Broncos Country is getting more used to the names of the new Colorado residents – Emmanuel Sanders, Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware, and T.J. Ward. While Sanders was brought into replace Eric Decker, the other three were brought in for one simple reason, in addition to winning the Super Bowl, and that is to make the Orange Crush actually capable of crushing their opponents. While the Broncos offense was high-powered last season, the defense was anything but, ranking 19th in total yards allowed per game (356) and 22nd in points allowed per game (24.9). DeMarcus Ware has already stated that the Broncos want to have a top rated defense to go with a top rated offense. If that happens, get ready to watch some awesome football games dominated by the Broncos on both sides of the ball. The anticipation of wanting to watch these new players in orange and blue is almost too hard to handle!
- Will the Broncos sweep the AFC West?
As a team starts the journey of a trip that hopefully ends with a Lombardi Trophy, the first stop has to be a division championship. The Broncos have won three consecutive AFC West Championships due to the fact that they have basically dominated the other three teams in the AFC West. Over the last three seasons the Broncos have compiled a record of 14-4 against the AFC West teams, which is a 78% winning percentage. When you break down this achievement to the team level the Broncos are 4-2 against the San Diego Chargers, and 5-1 against both the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs. Three of the four losses over the last three years against AFC West teams came in 2011 while Kyle Orton and Tim Tebow were quarterbacking the Broncos, and the only loss Peyton Manning has had against the AFC West (as a Bronco) occurred last season in the last home game of the season when San Diego beat the Broncos 27-20 on a Thursday night. It will be challenging to continue the dominance over the AFC West because the three other teams are attempting to put teams together than can stop the Broncos. If you’re in the AFC West, you have to acknowledge that the road to the Super Bowl currently goes through Denver. Is dominating the AFC West a difficult task for the Broncos? Yes, but it is a requirement if they hope to win their fourth consecutive division championship.
- How will the Broncos do against the NFC West, arguably the toughest division in football?
The first road trip of the season for the Broncos occurs in week three and is in of all places, Seattle Washington against the Seattle Seahawks. While emotions will be high on both sides and the 12th Man will be in mid-season form, the game will ultimately be determined by which team executes better. Seattle will no doubt have a strong defense that the Broncos will have to find a way to score against. Dare I say it, but the Broncos can’t perform any worse against Seattle in week three than they did in Super Bowl XLVIII, but you never know. The hype leading up to this game, regardless of how both teams perform during the first two weeks of the season, will not be as much as the Super Bowl hype obviously, but it may come close. Being only week three, I won’t say this is a must win game for the Broncos when considering the schedule and win-loss records, but it is a must win for the Broncos and their confidence as the season progresses.
After a bye week, the Broncos will welcome the Arizona Cardinals to Sports Authority Field for contest number two against the NFC West. This game may appear easy on paper but this could be a trap game for the Broncos considering there has been so much attention given to the Broncos, the Seahawks, and San Francisco 49ers. Rightfully so, the Cardinals may feel like the forgotten stepchild of the NFC West and may want nothing more than to come to Denver and pull an upset. The Broncos, if they’re true Super Bowl contenders, must steam roll the Cardinals.
Sunday Night Football in week seven features not only the marquee match up of the week, but possibly the season, when the 49ers visit Denver. This game will feature all the hype as the week three matchup against the Seahawks, if not more. Hopefully both teams will enter the game with respectable records, which make the game more meaningful. The Broncos are breaking out the alternate jerseys for this nationally televised game and will be in all blue! If the Broncos can win in week three and then knock off the 49ers in week seven, it would no doubt put them at the top of the NFL Power Poll. As much as Broncos Country would love to see the Broncos beat the Seahawks and 49ers, it is quite realistic they could go 0-2. One month after the 49ers game, the Broncos close the books on the NFC West with a week eleven trip to St. Louis. Like the Cardinals, the St. Louis Rams will probably be pretty tired of hearing about the dominance of the western most teams in their division, as well as the Broncos, so they will put up a fight no doubt. The game is in a dome so the Broncos need to be ready; it doesn’t have to be pretty – they just have to head back to Denver with a win!
One month after the 49ers game, the Broncos close the books on the NFC West with a week eleven trip to St. Louis. Like the Cardinals, the St. Louis Rams will probably be pretty tired of hearing about the dominance of the western most teams in their division, as well as the Broncos, so they will put up a fight no doubt. The game is in a dome so the Broncos need to be ready; it doesn’t have to be pretty – they just have to head back to Denver with a win!
- Will running back Montee Ball fill the void left by Knowshon Moreno?
Montee Ball doesn’t have a lock on the starting running back spot, but entering training camp he will most likely be penciled in as the starter. Assuming Montee Ball is the starter in week one, he not only has to fill the shoes of ex-Bronco Knowshon Moreno (now in Miami), he has to bring a legitimate running threat to the Broncos offense in order keep some of the pressure off Manning and the passing game. In 2013 Moreno rushed 241 times for 1,038 yards and ten touchdowns. At a minimum, the Broncos starting running back in 2014 needs to equal this output, if not exceed it. Elway obviously believes he has the personnel to produce these stats; only preseason will tell if it’s Montee Ball. Entering training camp, a lot of people say that Ball’s pass protection is suspect, not good considering he is protecting a 38-year old quarterback. A tremendous opportunity is in front of the running back from the University of Wisconsin entering his second NFL season – let’s hope he seizes it and becomes a great story for the 2014 season!
- Will Broncos achieve revenge against three losses from the 2013 season – Indianapolis, New England, and Seattle?
To me, the word “devastating” adequately describes the regular season losses to the Indianapolis Colts and the New England Patriots, and the Super Bowl loss to Seattle! Starting with the Super Bowl, it is obvious why this one hurt so much – it was for another championship! Long time Bronco fans have endured their fair share of Super Bowl sadness and this just added to it. Unlike the regular season games against the Colts and Patriots, the Broncos were never really in the Super Bowl and that adds to the pain as well. If the Broncos can win in Seattle it will not replace the pain of the Super Bowl loss but it will give Broncos Country a little bit of satisfaction. You know, if the Broncos do win in Seattle, their fans will still say they beat us in the important one, which is true.
It would have been nice to see Peyton Manning win in his return to Indianapolis but there was just too much to overcome. The Broncos did put up a valiant effort but fell a bit short; Ronnie Hillman’s fumble toward the end of the game doomed the homecoming for Manning. No doubt, in week one, when the Colts visit Denver, the entire Bronco team, and the fans, will be more than ready to welcome Andrew Luck and the Colts to Colorado. Luck might want to contact the Baltimore Ravens and see how their week one trip in 2013 turned out after they beat the Broncos in the 2012 playoffs.
After the Super Bowl loss, the hardest loss to take was the loss to the Patriots in week twelve. At halftime the Broncos were in complete control, which is uncommon when playing the Patriots at home. The game unraveled for the Broncos in the second half and ultimately went into overtime. A tie was looking very realistic considering neither team was able to move the ball in the overtime period. Wes Welker mis-communicated a punt, it bounced and hit Bronco Tony Carter and that was basically the end of that game. The Broncos have another visit scheduled to Foxborough in 2014 – let’s hope this time they can dominate the Patriots and Tom Brady for four quarters. Needless say, that will not be an easy task since the Patriots will remember the 2014 AFC Championship game in Denver and will want to avenge the 26-16 loss in front of their home fans.
- Can the Broncos be undefeated at home?
Why is it crucial to win your home games the casual fan may ask? I have heard a number of players say in the past that you’ve got to win at home if you want a shot at your division. A division championship will catapult you into the playoffs and a good opportunity for a shot at the Lombardi Trophy. Is it absolutely critical for a team to win their home games if they want to win the Super Bowl, probably not…. unless you’re the Denver Broncos. The Broncos have represented the AFC a total of seven times in the Super Bowl and have won it twice. Their record at home in the seasons when they were crowned champions of the NFL? You guessed it: 8-0. See below for the Broncos records at home when they went to the Super Bowl. So, can the Broncos win every game in 2014 that is played at Sports Authority Field in Mile High Stadium? The team is on a mission so I think they will do it. I think they can do it, I didn’t say it would be easy!
Home record for the Broncos when they went to Super Bowl
1977: 6-1 (Lost Super Bowl XII)
1986: 7-1 (Lost Super Bowl XXI)
1987: 7-1 (Lost Super Bowl XXII)
1989: 6-2 (Lost Super Bowl XXIV)
1997: 8-0 (Won Super Bowl XXXII)
1998: 8-0 (Won Super Bowl XXXIII)
2013: 7-1 (Lost Super Bowl XLVIII)
- Will the departure of Pat Bowlen be a positive impact or negative impact?
By now, the impact or sting of Pat Bowlen relinquishing control of his beloved Broncos has probably subsided a bit due to the start of training camp and the focus on football. I am guessing that the players and coaches, being professionals, will put their emotions aside and work on improving every time they step into a meeting or onto the field. Not to say they will forget Mr. Bowlen, they just know they have a job to do and absolutely nothing will be handed to them, it will have to be earned. All that being said, Pat Bowlen deserves a tremendous amount of credit and praise for what he has done with the Broncos, the NFL, and for the city of Denver, as well as the entire Rocky Mountain region. I can’t imagine anything else motivating a team more than an owner like Pat Bowlen facing the situation he is facing. Before Bowlen’s decision was announced, I knew the Broncos would enter this season with one goal in mind and that would be to finish what they couldn’t do last season and that is to hoist the Lombardi Trophy. Given the state of the Broncos now and the Bowlen announcement, I expect them to be more driven. Any die-hard, passionate fan of the Broncos has obviously been following this story and has seen the comments about winning the Super Bowl and John Elway saying “This one’s for Pat.” Not that you can write (or predict) what occurs during the five month NFL season but man oh man, can you imagine if that actually occurred? If you cried when John Mobley knocked down Brett Favre’s fourth down pass in Super Bowl XXXII, you better have a box of tissues ready if that happens?
Training camp started a few days ago and I’m so ready for the season to start. A small part of me is frustrated that we have to endure preseason but deep down I know it’s crucial to a team as they prepare for the grind of the season. Be patient Broncos Country, before you know it the Broncos will be on Sunday Night Football getting ready to battle the Colts. Then, we’ll start to get answers for all the questions we have about the 2014 Denver Broncos!