NFL Handicapping: What's Ahead for Broncos in 2014-15
by Trevor Whenham - 2/6/2014
Well, that was ugly. Really, really ugly. I was negative about the Denver Broncos all year and never once believed that they were going to win the Super Bowl. Despite all my doubt and negativity, though, I could never have even remotely imagined an outcome like we saw on Sunday. They were crushed. Peyton Manning was insulted when someone suggested that the effort was “embarrassing,” but if that wasn’t embarrassing then no team in the history of football has ever been embarrassed.
While it will take a long time to figure out what actually happened and how things could possibly go that badly, there is a more pressing issue — trying to figure out what to expect from these guys next year. They are still the co-third choice to win it all next year at 10/1, according to Bovada, so it will again be very important to have a sense of what this team is capable of and how to bet on them. It will be even more important than usual to get a good sense of the team because the public isn’t likely to be as blindly loyal, so it will be more important to have an accurate sense of the team in order to find value.
When you are attempting to determine what could come from this team next year, here are seven factors to consider:
Manning: I could go on about Manning forever, but much of it has already been beaten into the ground. There are two things I will touch on, though. First, though I think that the whole Manning legacy discussion is tired and overplayed, there is absolutely no way in my mind that you can suggest that his legacy is anything other than diminished by this performance. It was just plain terrible in a situation where he needed to be much better. You can’t make the argument that he is the best ever when he puts up a performance like that in that situation. Second, given his struggles in this game, and in the postseason in general, and when you combine that with his advancing age, I just don’t see how you can trust him when the pressure it at the highest.
Offensive line issues: The offensive line had been a strength for much of the year. In the Super Bowl, though, they did a remarkable impression of a group of turnstiles. The relentless pressure on Manning was the biggest reason for Denver’s struggles. That’s concerning — especially because while Seattle has a solid defensive line, they certainly shouldn’t be as good as they looked on Sunday. The Seahawks clearly cracked the code for pressuring the Broncos, and without major changes other teams are going to be able to learn from that. Denver has a big problem to address here.
Speed: The Seahawks are a young and fast team, but that doesn’t entirely account for how slow and plodding the Broncos looked on both sides of the ball. Injuries were a contributing factor on defense, but there is a definite need to upgrade the speed and athleticism of this team if they want to be able to compete with the best of the NFC.
The NFC: All season I talked about how I perceived that the NFC was much deeper and just plain better than the AFC. In the Super Bowl the size of the gap was exposed in vivid color. The gap isn’t going to get any smaller, either. Seattle and San Francisco should be as good as ever, Carolina and Arizona are poised to move forward off of very good seasons, the Packers will have a healthy Aaron Rodgers and should be dangerous, and New Orleans should have life in them. The Broncos, even if they can win the AFC again, are poised to run into another very good, and battle-tested, NFC champion, and I just don’t see how they can close the gap in any hurry.
Coaching: What in the world did those coaches do in the two weeks between the AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl? John Fox had been there before, so he should have known what was needed. His team was unprepared from the very first snap, though, and the degree to which he and his staff were outcoached at every step of the way is so shocking that it should be impossible. It was an absolutely shameful coaching job, and it really leads you to question whether this is the group that can take the team where they need to be. When your entire coaching staff can’t come up with the idea of needing a silent snap count on the first drive of the game then they deserve all the questions they get.
Mindset: A setback like that could fire the team up to seek revenge, or it could destroy their souls and beat the life out of them. It could go either way, and until we see them play we can’t really be sure which will be the case. The degree to which you feel they will be fired up or that they will feel sorry for themselves has a major impact on what you expect from them next year, and how you bet as a result.
History: A lot of people will call on the supposed Super Bowl curse to justify the opinion that the Broncos will struggle next year. The truth, though, is that hasn’t really been the case in recent years. This year San Francisco bounced back from their Super Bowl loss to post a record that was actually a half game better than the season before. The year before New England was a No. 2 seed with a 12-4 record and made it to the AFC Championship. In each of the last six years the team that lost the Super Bowl has had a solid season the next year. There are a lot of reasons to be negative about this team, but a supposed curse that captures the attention of the lazy public isn’t one of them.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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