Key Position Battles Could Provide Fuel for Broncos

After five, six, and seven wins in the previous three seasons, the Denver Broncos took a step backward last season. Injuries and less than stellar quarterback play led the team to a 5-11 record and their fourth straight losing season. 

The team was dealt a big blow when just ahead of the season opener, Von Miller was lost for the season with an ankle injury. Top receiver Courtland Sutton was lost to injury after the first week, and when all was said and done, Denver wound up having more money sitting on the IR than any team in the league.

Drew Lock showed flashes of being the answer at quarterback, but inconsistency led the team in believing he was not quite ready to assume the role of the franchise quarterback.

Bringing in Teddy Bridgewater to help solidify the quarterback position may also push Lock into elevating his game. But will it be enough to get the Broncos back on track?

According to BetUs — one of the top sportsbooks at Online Betting Sports –, the over/under win total for Denver this season is 8.5. Bettors taking the over have odds at -120, while those who think the Broncos will fall short of the win total have slightly better odds at -110.

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Who will win QB Battle

Ask Woody Paige, and he will tell you the job should be Lock’s and that it’s not really close. But Denver did not give Bridgewater $11.5 million to hold a clipboard and will get every right to be starting under center in Week 1. 

For those who put stock into preseason games, Lock outperformed his teammate in the first preseason game of the year. 

But only slightly. Lock finished with a perfect passer rating (153.3) after completing 5 of 7 passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns.

Bridgewater also tossed a touchdown on 7 of 8 passing for 74 yards. His passer rating was 144.8.

Again, this is just a preseason game against a Vikings defense that probably didn’t have a player who will see much action in the regular season. But the two QB’s did exactly what you want to see from players who are battling for the starting position.

Other key players

Melvin Gordon returns and is the featured back in the Broncos’ backfield. But for how long? Team favorite Phillip Lindsay is no longer on the team, but that does not mean Gordon does not have any competition. 

The Broncos traded up in the second round to select North Carolina running back Javonte Williams in this past year’s draft. 

Williams is a punishing back who racked up 723 yards after first contact last season while leading the country in broken tackles with 51. Williams may not unseat Gordon as RB1, but like the QB battle, it could be a good and healthy battle. Or it could end up sending Gordon packing, eventually. Time will tell.

Jerry Jeudy finished as the Broncos’ top receiver last season. The rookie out of Alabama hauled in 52 catches for a team-high 856 yards. He also scored three touchdowns.

Noah Fant led the team with 62 receptions, good for 673 yards, while Tim Patrick added 51 receptions for 742 yards. Patrick led the team with six touchdowns.

A healthy Courtland Sutton should help boost the Broncos receiver core, while Mike Boone (FA from Minnesota) and Royce Freeman give the Broncos one of the most talented backfields in the league.

Schedule Outlook

A fast start for Denver will be needed to reach the 8.5 wins for the season. Games against both New York teams and Jacksonville is certainly a good recipe for a quick start.

The Broncos open the season at the Giants, and according to Bovada — another one of the top sportsbooks at Online Betting Sports –, Denver opens as a 1-point favorite in NFL Week 1. Bettors taking the Broncos to cover the spread have odds at -115, while the Moneyline is at -120. 

NFL Week 4 has Denver on the road at Baltimore, while the team has its first divisional game in NFL Week 6 against Las Vegas. In NFL Week 7, the Broncos hit the road at Cleveland for a Thursday night affair.

Before finishing up the regular season with three straight divisional games, Denver has two winnable games at home against Detroit and Cincinnati in NFL Weeks 14 and 15 — both at home. 

Divisional Odds

According to BetOnline, Denver has +525 odds of winning the AFC West. Kansas City is the heavy favorite at -250 and also has the shortest odds at winning the Super Bowl at +500.

The Los Angeles Chargers have slightly better odds than the Broncos at winning the West with +500 odds.

Denver and Los Angeles play each other in NFL Week 12 and NFL Week 17.

Prediction

No matter who wins the starting quarterback battle, the team still has an uphill climb at reaching the 8.5 win total. Two games each against the Chiefs and an up-and-coming Chargers team will not do the Broncos any favors. But winning those first three games to start the season, as well as a few winnable games spread throughout the season, could allow the Broncos to hit the mark. 

2021-22 Season Record: 9-8, 3rd in AFC West

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