They’ve been called the worst 4-0 team ever. They have been underdogs twice out of the first four games. They are underdogs again this week, at home. Oddsmakers put the season win total over/under at seven games.
Whether it is their 8-8 record last season that included a December collapse, their quarterback, Chicago castoff Kyle Orton, or their head coach, Josh McDaniels, first-year as a head coach and the youngest in the league at the time he was hired, the Broncos are as disrespected as any 4-0 team in recent NFL history.
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Either Las Vegas has not figured out these Broncos yet or they are anticipating another collapse similar to last season. Denver opened up the 2008 season with three straight wins but that quickly gave way to a 4-4 record by early November. A mid-season surge left Denver 8-5 needing only one win to sew up the AFC West. However, three straight losses to close the season sent the Chargers to the playoffs and sent Mike Shanahan packing.
There are only five undefeated teams in the NFL and only three, the Broncos, Saints and 49ers, are 4-0 against the number.
Where the oddsmakers may be underestimating the Broncos the most is on the defensive side of the ball. While they have covered all four lines this season, by eight points or more each time, the Broncos have also gone under all four games. The Denver defense has allowed only 26 points this season, yes just 26. The second best defense in the NFL, the Falcons, have allowed more than double that, and they have only played three games!
Denver held the Bengals to seven points, the Browns to six points, the Raiders to three points and the Cowboys to 10 points. The Broncos rank second in total yards allowed, third in pass defense and fifth in rush defense.
The addition of safety Brian Dawkins to an already strong secondary may have been one of the most overlooked moves of the offseason. The combination of Dawkins and the best shutdown corner in the league, Champ Bailey, gives Denver the best secondary in the league.
Even with all the impressive defensive stats and the offense that ranks ninth in total yardage in the league and is fresh off a game-winning drive led by Kyle Orton and Brandon Marshall against the Cowboys, the Broncos will enter Sunday as a three-point underdog at home against the New England Patriots. If that was not bad enough many are considering the Patriots as an obvious bet at -3.
A win against the Patriots would not only put the Broncos at 5-0 but would also legitimize the season. More important than trying to legitimize the season, the Broncos might be treating this game as a must-win situation. The schedule is downright brutal after Sunday. Denver has to travel to San Diego and Baltimore before hosting Pittsburgh on Nov. 9.
You can trust that the Broncos will treat Sunday as a must-win game. And on top of that McDaniels has been looking forward to this game since the schedule came out. He joined the Patriots’ staff in 2001 and coached in many different capacities under Bill Belichick before leaving after last season.
The disrespect card is an easy one to play this week for the Broncos and with the Patriots coming to town as favorites you can expect the Broncos to rally around that disrespect angle.
The Broncos have not been dominant by any means in starting 4-0 but the Patriots have not exactly impressed either after a 25-24 win thanks to a Bills meltdown in Week 1 and a 16-9 loss to the Jets. Last week the Patriots nearly gave up a fourth quarter lead to the Ravens before holding on, 27-21.
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Everyone keeps waiting for the wheels to fall off for Denver and that first loss but if their play on Sunday mirrors what we have seen so far this season, those people are going to have to keep waiting.