The Denver Broncos are one night away from their first preseason game of the 2017 NFL season, looking to bounce back from a disappointing finish seven months ago. The team followed up their Super Bowl season by missing the playoffs, unable to defend their championship in the postseason.
Denver faces an even greater challenge to reach the 2018 NFL playoffs. With both the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs going 12-4 last season, the AFC West is probably the best division in football, and the odds are against the Broncos making it back to the postseason.
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The Broncos are currently projected to finish in third place in the AFC West. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook gives Denver +210 betting odds to make the playoffs and -260 odds to miss the postseason. Oakland and Kansas City are odds-on favorites to reach the playoffs, and the Los Angeles Chargers have almost the exact same odds as Denver, though they are ranked as the No.4 team in the division.
A playoff run for Denver certainly isn’t out of the question. The team managed to finish above .500 with a 9-7 record in 2016, and the Broncos’ season likely would’ve lasted more than 16 games if they played in the NFC.
It was an unfamiliar feeling for Broncos’ fans since the team had been in the playoffs in each of the previous five years. Denver had won at least 12 games in four straight years, reaching two Super Bowls and winning the title in February 2016.
With Peyton Manning’s retirement came a setback. Trevor Siemian took over the reins at starting quarterback, finishing in the bottom third of the league in several major categories. Denver’s defense took a step back from being one of the most dominant units in recent memory, and the result was a single-digit win season.
It isn’t clear who will be Denver’s starting quarterback in Week 1. After throwing for 3,401 yards, 18 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and an 84.6 passer rating in 14 games, Siemian will compete with Paxton Lynch for the No.1 spot on the depth chart.
After Lynch was taken No.26 overall by the Broncos in the 2016 draft, he posted a 79.2 passer rating in three games. If Denver wants to return to the playoffs, one of the two quarterbacks will have to be improved in 2017.
Trevor Siemian, pictured walking off the field after defeating the Oakland Raiders 24-6 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Jan. 1, 2017 in Denver, will need to be improved if the Denver Broncos want to make the NFL playoffs. Photo: Getty Images
“I can’t tell exactly when, but probably a week or so I just kind of felt a little more comfortable, like things were clicking for me and I got a big-picture thought of how we’re trying to attack scheme and defenses,” Siemian said Tuesday, via The Denver Post. “I just felt comfortable … getting going and also getting a feel for all the guys. First, second, third (team), it doesn’t matter — just getting a feel for how guys run, what they do well and I think we’re all in a good spot right now.”
Denver certainly doesn’t need a superstar quarterback to win games. Just look at what happened in 2015 when Peyton Manning was a shell of his old self and arguably the worst starting signal caller in the league.
The Broncos’ defense will be good enough to keep them competitive in most games, though exactly how dominant they are will decide how far they go.
Von Miller is arguably the best defensive player in the league. Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. might give Denver the NFL’s No.1 starting cornerback tandem. Even after taking a small step back in 2016, the Broncos still ranked fourth in both points allowed and total defense.
Siemian and Lynch have plenty of weapons to work with on the offensive end. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders are coming off three straight 1,000-yard seasons, and the combination of C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Charles should give Denver a formidable backfield.
Denver is scheduled to play in the last game of Week 1, visiting the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday, Sept. 11.