Under first-year head coach Vic Fangio, the Denver Broncos finished last season with a 7-9 record, thanks in large part to wins in four of their final five games. The quarterback in those five games was Drew Lock, and now Lock is set to begin the year as the starter while surrounded by some new weapons. Denver is hoping to return to the postseason for the first time since the 2015 season, which ended in a Super Bowl victory.
According to odds-makers, the Broncos’ over/under win total is set at 7.5. Before we make our pick, we’re going to assess the changes Denver has made to their team, including their work in the draft, and analyze their upcoming schedule, all in an effort to decide whether the over or under is the right play.
Denver spent their offseason prioritizing their offense. The biggest splash in free agency was RB Melvin Gordon, who inked a two-year deal with the team after five years with the division-rival Chargers. They also signed TE Nick Vannett, who split last season between the Seahawks and Steelers. Along the trenches, the Broncos handed a large four-year contract to former Lions OG Graham Glasgow, one of the best guards in the league. They also added a new punter, signing Sam Martin, Glasgow’s former teammate in Detroit.
However, there were some key departures as well. Longtime CB Chris Harris Jr. left Denver after nine seasons but stayed in the AFC West, signing a two-year deal with the Chargers. DE Derek Wolfe, who has also been with the organization since 2012, agreed to sign with the Ravens. Connor McGovern, Denver’s starting center, also left town to sign with the Jets. Other minor departures include S Will Parks and RB Devontae Booker, as well as the still-unsigned Joe Flacco, who began last season as Denver’s starting QB.
For the draft, the Broncos honed in on getting Lock some weapons. They feel they got a good one in Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy, who some experts had as the top receiver in the draft class. Jeudy should start right away, and possibly joining him is Penn State WR K.J. Hamler, who Denver took in the second round. Other notable picks made during the draft include possible new starters in CB Michael Ojemudia from Iowa and C Lloyd Cushenberry III from LSU. They also drafted Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam to give Lock another talented pass-catcher.
As mentioned the other day for the Chiefs preview, the Broncos and the rest of the AFC West are slated to play the AFC East and NFC South this season. That means matchups against the Buccaneers and Saints, as well as the Patriots and Bills, two AFC playoff teams from last season. Overall, they have the 12th-toughest schedule in the NFL, with their opponents combining for a .512 winning percentage in 2019. It’s the toughest schedule among the four teams in the division.
Aside from a matchup against division-rival Kansas City on the road, Denver’s toughest road games come against the Patriots, Steelers, and Chargers. They get a little bit of a break with home against Buffalo, New Orleans, and Tampa Bay. Their two at-large opponents are the Titans at home and the Steelers on the road, their first two games of the season. Oddly enough as well, Denver doesn’t play a divisional game until Week 7 against Kansas City.
The Broncos have certainly improved offensively, where they struggled the most last season. They also added new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur, who has a track record of success as the OC with Minnesota and Philadelphia. In addition, most of Denver’s losses last season came with Flacco as the QB, as Lock’s five starts ended with four wins.
Even with a tough schedule, they got some breaks with their home and road games. The schedule should be another reason along with an improved offense as to why Denver should challenge for a playoff spot this season. So with the win total set at 7.5, give me the OVER 7.5, with 8 or 9 wins looking likely for the Broncos.
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