Last year, in John Fox’s first season at the helm in Denver,
the Broncos got hot down the stretch, in large part due to some Tim Tebow
magic, and won the division with an 8-8 record (7-9 ATS, 9-7 to the Over). They faced a schedule that was right around
the league average in terms of toughness, yet were outgained by 0.4 yards per
play while finishing -12 in turnovers.
Fox returns as the head coach, as does offensive coordinator
Mike McCoy, but the Broncos have a new defensive coordinator; former Jaguars
head coach Jack Del Rio. Del Rio served
at the same position under Fox in Carolina prior to his ascension in
But nobody in Denver is talking about the coaching staff –
they’re talking about Peyton Manning. Manning
is 36 years old, coming off a lost season and four neck surgeries. He’ll be throwing to a largely unproven group
of receivers - -no WR on the squad has more than 124 career catches. And Denver doesn’t have much of a Plan B if
Manning doesn’t work out – backup Caleb Hanie was nothing short of a disaster
in Chicago last year and rookie third stringer Brock Osweiler has looked awful thusfar.
That being said, nobody is writing off the four time MVP
Manning. The offensive line in front of
him looks solid, with every starter back from last year. And WR’s Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas
have looked like legitimate playmakers throughout the month of August.
Plus, the Broncos defense packs a real punch with a pair of
great pass rushers (Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil), plus the addition of key
free agent cornerback Tracy Porter from New Orleans – the same guy who’s pick
six against Manning clinched the Super Bowl for the Saints a few years
back. Denver also ranks well above the
league average with both their punting and kicking games.
We’ve seen legitimate two way action on the Broncos over the
past few months, with most shops lining the Broncos at 8.5 or 9 wins. Bettors bet Denver Under the total rather
heavily in early betting, but we’ve seen the pendulum swing the other way in
recent weeks as money has come on the Over.
It’s surely worth noting that the Broncos face a much more
difficult schedule than they did last year – one of the NFL’s toughest. Between now and Thanksgiving weekend, the
Broncos face the Steelers, Falcons Texans, Patriots, Saints, Bengals, Panthers
and four tough divisional games. Five of
their six divisional games last year were decided by a TD or less (Denver went
2-3 in those tight games).