I probably don't need to tell you that winning a Super Bowl is expensive. By that I mean teams now lose key players after winning a Super Bowl because they can't afford them in free agency. It's a copycat league.
The salary cap is largely why no team has repeated as Super Bowl champion since the New England Patriots in the 2003-04 seasons. And I don't expect that the Denver Broncos will be able to do so this coming season.
I can't remember any reigning Super Bowl champion having more quarterback questions entering the next season since, well, probably the Broncos when John Elway retired after winning a second straight title. Of course, Peyton Manning retired this offseason, and the Broncos were going to release him regardless even if he didn't. But what surprised Elway, now the team's boss, was that Manning's backup, Brock Osweiler, decided to jump ship in free agency for Houston. So as of now, the team's starter will be Mark Sanchez. The Broncos traded up in the first round of the draft to take Memphis' Paxton Lynch, and he's the future under center but considered way too raw to help much in 2016. But that pick put an end to speculation the Broncos would trade for either the 49ers' Colin Kaepernick (they should have, in my opinion) or the Rams' Sam Bradford (no thanks).
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Denver had the NFL's top-rated defense last season, and it was spectacular in the Super Bowl win over Carolina. Game MVP Von Miller is back as the club slapped the franchise tag on him. But that meant it couldn't afford to re-sign a few other key members of that unit, losing the likes of lineman Malik Jackson and linebacker Danny Trevathan. It wouldn't surprise me at all if this team finished third in its own division, the AFC West.
The Broncos were 6-2 on the road last season, 5-3 against the spread and 4-4 "over/under." Denver faces only two away teams that made the playoffs in 2015; the home schedule is much, much tougher. The Broncos have a wins total of 9.5 at BetOnline , with the under a -150 favorite. I certainly can't see this team winning 12 games again. All things being equal, I'd project a 4-4 road record. So Denver would have to 8-0 unbeaten at home to match last year's record, and that's not likely. Odds below are for the home team.
Sept. 25 at Bengals (-3): Denver is off a home game vs. Indianapolis, while Cincinnati is off road games at the Jets and then the Steelers their first two weeks. So Bengals could be desperate at 0-2. Denver beat visiting Cincinnati 20-17 in overtime on a Monday in Week 16 last year, which would prove huge to get the Broncos the AFC's top seed. The quarterbacks that night were Osweiler and A.J. McCarron. Denver kicker Brandon McManus shanked a 45-yard field goal at the end of regulation but made a 37-yarder in OT. Then DeMarcus Ware pounced on a McCarron botched-snap fumble to end the game. Key trend: Broncos 5-4-1 ATS in past 10 as a road dog of at least 3 points.
Oct. 2 at Buccaneers (+2.5): Tampa is home to Los Angeles in Week 3. While the Broncos often have home-field advantage with the thin air, this could be tough for them in the likely heat and humidity in Florida this time of year. Denver is 6-2 all-time vs. Tampa and hasn't played there in 12 years. Key trend: Broncos 3-2-1 ATS all-time at NFC South teams.
Oct. 13 at Chargers (+3): Thursday night game. Denver is off a Week 5 home game vs. Atlanta, while San Diego is in Oakland the previous Sunday. It's the Broncos' first division game of the year. That's unusually late. Denver won 17-3 in San Diego in Week 13 last year. Trevathan, now with the Bears, had a 25-yard interception returned for a score. Osweiler threw for 166 yards and a TD. The Broncos have won the past five meetings with the Chargers and nine of the past 10 overall (including playoffs). Key trend: Broncos have covered four straight as at least a 3-point road favorite in series.
Nov. 6 at Raiders (+1): Sunday night game, and I think could be a changing-of-the-guard game. Denver is home to San Diego in Week 8, while Oakland is in Tampa Bay the previous Sunday. The Broncos won 16-10 in Oakland in Week 5 last season. Chris Harris Jr. returned a fourth-quarter interception 74 yards for a touchdown. Behind Manning, the Broncos didn't score an offensive touchdown. He was picked off twice. Key trend: Broncos have covered six straight as road favorite in series.
Nov. 13 at Saints (+1): This is ahead of Denver's bye week. New Orleans is in San Francisco in Week 9. Too bad Manning is retired as this certainly would have been a game he would like to have played, a rare trip to his hometown since he spent his entire career in the AFC. It's Denver's first trip to the Big Easy since 2004. You may remember Drew Brees' final game as a Charger was in the 2005 regular-season finale vs. Denver when he severely injured his shoulder. Key trend: Broncos 4-5-1 ATS in past 10 before a bye (any location).
Dec. 4 at Jaguars (+3.5): Denver off a Week 12 home game vs. Kansas City. Jacksonville is in Buffalo the previous Sunday. This is one of those tough 1 p.m. ET starts for the Broncos, just like the next week in Nashville. Denver won the last meeting 35-19 in 2013. It hasn't played in Jacksonville since 2010. Key trend: Broncos 4-6 ATS in past 10 at AFC South teams.
Dec. 11 at Titans (+5.5): Potential trap game here the Broncos as they host New England in Week 14. Tennessee comes off its very late bye week. Double trap game! Denver has won four of the past five meetings, last in 2013. Key trend: Broncos 7-3 ATS in past 10 overall as a road favorite of at least 5.5 points.
Dec. 25 at Chiefs (-1.5): One of the few games on Christmas, and this is the prime-time one on NBC. Denver is off that Patriots showdown the previous Sunday, while Kansas City is home to Tennessee in Week 15. Apparent huge edge to Chiefs. Denver had very little right winning in Kansas City in Week 2 last season, 31-24. Manning threw a tying touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders with 36 seconds left, and on the next play from scrimmage, Bradley Roby returned a Jamaal Charles fumble 21 yards for a touchdown with 27 seconds left. Manning had one of his better games of the year with 256 yards, three scores and only one pick. Key trend: Broncos 8-2 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
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