Are the Denver Broncos closer to a Super Bowl than we think?

Super Bowl XLVIII - Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos
Super Bowl XLVIII - Seattle Seahawks v Denver Broncos / Focus On Sport/GettyImages

Is it being too generous to suggest that the Denver Broncos are closer to winning a Super Bowl than we think, especially given what's happened with the team in recent years? You may read this headline and immediately close the article, which I would understand, but I also think there is some merit to this argument, and I want to break it down here.

The first and biggest question we must ask is what makes a team a true Super Bowl contender? There are objectively some aspects that need to be true for a team to win a Super Bowl, and the evidence is clearly in the recent Super Bowl-winning teams.

The biggest factors that contribute to a Super Bowl contender are, in no order:

  • Coaching
  • Quarterback play
  • Strong offensive and defensive lines (winning in the trenches)
  • Strong pass rush (can you get to the QB consistently?)
  • Above average to elite play in the secondary
  • Above average wide receivers

Some of these may all seem pretty arbitrary, but I think if you look back at the most recent Super Bowl champions, you'll see that all of them have covered all of these listed aspects of a Super Bowl team. The Kansas City Chiefs, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Los Angeles Rams have been the most recent Super Bowl champions.

Tell me, of those SB teams, what didn't they have among what I listed above? To me, each of those teams had all of the listed qualities. I think this is virtually an objective truth, and I want to break down each one to see how close the Broncos really are to having a Super Bowl team.


I mean, Sean Payton is one of the most successful head coaches of this generation and is an offensive mastermind, never ranking less than 12th in points scored in each year as a HC outside of one. He's won over 63% of his games in the NFL and his current career as a HC in terms of wins translates to 10.6 wins, on average, over a 17-game season, so there's evidence to say that the Broncos will win 10 or 11 games this year. Payton has also won a Super Bowl, and there aren't many coaches right now in the NFL who would present an appreciable upgrade over Payton.

Quarterback play

Recency bias aside, Russell Wilson has been one of the most efficient QBs in the history of the NFL. He's won a Super Bowl, been to another, and has a winning record in the playoffs. He's won over 100 games over his career and if last year was just an outlier instead of the new normal, the Denver Broncos could get the old Wilson back from his days in Seattle where the team was a Super Bowl contender each season.

Strong in the trenches

Mike Clay of ESPN ranked the Denver Broncos offensive line 9th in the NFL. PFF ranked the Broncos' OL 11th in the NFL. It's clear that the additions Denver made this offseason have propelled this unit to be one of the better ones on paper, and what is also nice is that Sean Payton's offensive lines, historically, have been very solid. It's a real possibility that this ends up being one of the better units in the NFL. As for the defensive line, I'd say Denver upgraded that this offseason as well.

They replaced Dre'Mont Jones with Zach Allen, who is just as good, and also added Frank Clark, who not only has a ton of playoff experience but has proven to be an effective player as a DE and as a stand-up EDGE rusher. The defensive line appears to be a strong unit for the Denver Broncos.

Strong pass rush

This is the biggest question mark for the Broncos defense. It's easy to say that this unit has the potential to be great, and I think they do, but Randy Gregory cannot stay on the field and Baron Browning might not even be ready for week one. On paper. though, this unit is strong. Gregory and Browning form a nice duo on the outside. Backups like Jonathon Cooper, Nik Bonitto, and maybe even Chris Allen could take a step forward in 2023, which would greatly help the unit. Both Zach Allen and Frank Clark are also above average pass rushers along the defensive line, so we cannot count out the interior pressure. Denver truly does not need to have an elite pass rush, but it needs to be average, at the very least.

Secondary play

Well, if nothing else, the Denver Broncos have typically always had a strong secondary, and they feature the best CB in the NFL and the best S in the NFL in Patrick Surtain II and Justin Simmons. K'Waun Williams is an excellent slot cornerback and Damarri Mathis looks like a promising player in year two. I don't expect this unit to have many issues at all and I think they still remain one of the best in the NFL. Denver just knows how to play in the secondary, and it's hard to argue otherwise.

Wide receiver play

The importance of the wide receiver is becoming more amplified in today's NFL. Teams are using high draft picks and really stretching their checkbooks to get elite wide receivers on their team. The NFL is a pass-first league now and that isn't going to change. Fortunately, Denver has a great stable of WRs. It is easy to suggest that the unit can be great if it can stay healthy, but that's really all it may take. Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, and Tim Patrick are one of the best WR trios in the NFL and it's a shame we haven't been able to see them all together in the offense.

Additions like Marquez Callaway and Marvin Mims Jr, who I've seen compared to Brandin Cooks, also elevate this unit. The WR room does not have a weakness at all, and I am telling you right now, if this unit can stay on the field, it'll be one of the best in the NFL. Jerry Jeudy is a true WR1, and both Sutton and Patrick are very quality second and third options.

When you look at the big picture, on paper, Denver has what is needed in the modern-day NFL to win a Super Bowl. I am definitely not saying that they win this year, next year, or the year after, but the most important positions are in place. The big question is, obviously, can the team stay healthy and execute enough to make it happen?

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