There are plenty of reasons to be concerned going into this season. The defending championship pressure is tangible, as Mark Schlereth described in “America’s Game: 1998 Broncos.”
Relief. Just…**exhales**…thank you. Glad that one’s over. I remember after Super Bowl 32 staying up all night at the party, goofin around. I remember goin to the party – Super Bowl 33 afterwards, havin something to eat, and goin up to my room and going to bed. Exhausted. Absolutely exhausted. That was the difference. Defending the crown versus chasing the crown. It’s a task; it’s a monumental task.
This defense is up to the task. The beginning of the offseason was marked by the traditional “The Super Bowl champion is losing everyone!!!” pearl clutching stories. Losing Danny Trevathan hurts. Especially against the Patriots, as they now have two giant gorillas who can run a sub 4.6 40 yard dash.
Losing Malik Jackson hurts more. What made last year’s defense so especially devastating was the fact that Wolfe and Malik got a laughable amount of one on one’s due to the pressure generated off the edge. It’s a real question whether the Broncos have the personnel to replicate their success cutting through the center of an offense.
However, they’re bringing back 11 of the 13 best players from one of the greatest defenses in NFL history. The entire #NoFlyZone returns with an upgrade from the draft in Justin Simmons, and the grand wizard of it all – Wade Phillips.
The offense was truly awful last year, and even though there is little hope for an explosive one this season, it should be much more competent.
The Broncos are not your typical defending champion. They are considered a fluke by the general public and the masters of the desert.
Vegas lists them at 17-1 odds to repeat, behind six teams – three of which the Broncos beat to win a title last year. The defense completely shut down the highest scoring offense in the NFL seven months ago. And the Broncos are 3.5 point underdogs at home in this week’s rematch.
Unlike the 1998 Broncos, there is no widespread expectation for this team to repeat; quite the contrary. The punditry has declared this to be the season in which Andy Reid finally figures out how clocks work, the Raiders stop being so Raidery, and even the Chargers with their undead QB overtake the defending champs.
It’s been five years since anyone outside the mountain time zone claimed this territory, and given that the 2016 Broncos look like a more complete version of the one who just won a Super Bowl, a sixth looks to be well within reach.