2010 NFL Predictions: Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos were all smiles through the first 6 weeks of the 2009 season when they got off to a fast 6-0 start. But those smiles were quickly wiped off their faces when they lost eight of their final 10 games and missed the playoffs.
Improving on last season’s 8-8 record will not be an easy task for head coach Josh McDaniels, especially without last year’s two best players. Pro Bowl wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who caught 101 passes for 1,120 yards and 10 scores, is now a Miami Dolphin, and first-team All-Pro linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who led the NFL with 17 sacks, could miss the entire 2010 season with a torn pectoral muscle.
Offense: The Broncos were just the 20th-best scoring offense in the NFL last season, averaging 20.4 points per game. Led by quarterback Kyle Orton, they did most of their damage through the air. Orton put together a solid 3,802-yard, 21 touchdown season while leading the 13th-best passing offense in the NFL.
Despite the additions of Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow, Orton is expected to remain the starter. However, his leash will likely be short. Whoever is getting the snaps will certainly miss having a playmaker like Marshall. His departure opens the door for Eddie Royal to have a big season. The team is also expecting big things from first round draft pick Demaryius Thomas.
The Broncos would like to run the football better to take some of the pressure off of their quarterback, but that could be hard to do with such an inexperienced line. Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter are promising backs, but they could find yards tough to come by while running behind a pair of likely rookie starters in J.D. Walton and Zana Beadles. The Broncos are hoping left tackle Ryan Clady, who suffered an offseason knee injury, will be ready for the opener.
Defense: The Broncos finished a respectable 12th in terms of scoring defense last season, but that stat is a bit deceiving when you consider how poorly the defense performed down the stretch. In fact, the Broncos allowed 27 or more points in seven of their last 10 games.
Led by the ferocious pass rusher Dumervil, the Broncos did rank No. 3 in the NFL in pass defense, allowing only 186.3 yards per game through the air. Having a pair of Pro Bowl defensive backs like Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins didn’t hurt matters either. But we will likely see Denver’s pass defense struggle now that Dumervil could miss the season.
Denver’s biggest weakness was its run defense. The Broncos ranked No. 26 in the league against the run, giving up 128.7 yards per game. They were in desperate need of a big run stuffer in the trenches, and they were able to land ex-Charger Jamal Williams.
Prediction: 3rd AFC West – Losing a playmaker like Marshall hurts, and now the team has been dealt an even bigger blow with the injury to Dumervil. Without these two key guys, I can’t see the Broncos challenging the Chargers. I also think it will be difficult for them to hold off the Raiders now that Oakland has upgraded the quarterback position. Check out all of my division winners picks in my 2010 NFL predictions preview.
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