There's a reason that no team has repeated as Super Bowl champion since the New England Patriots in the 2004 season. Winning a Super Bowl is very expensive as you either have to pay top dollar to re-sign your best players or lose them.
So it really wasn't a shock that the Denver Broncos slipped to a 9-7 record last year and missed the playoffs. It was the franchise's worst mark since 2011, the year of Tim Tebow in the Mile High City and pre-Peyton Manning's arrival. Of course Manning retired following the Super Bowl 50 upset of Carolina. He needed to walk away as the Broncos won the Super Bowl almost in spite of Manning instead of because of him.
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Don't go blaming replacement Trevor Siemian, either, for the Broncos failing to make the playoffs. Denver chose to let Brock Osweiler, Manning's groomed backup, leave for big money in Houston (wise decision). In 14 games, Siemian completed 59.5 percent of his passes for 3,401 yards, 18 touchdowns and 10 picks, good for a rating of 84.6. Not great but better than what Osweiler, a major flop, accomplished. By comparison, Manning completed 59.8 percent of his passes for 2,249 yards, nine TDs and 17 picks for a rating of 67.9 in 10 games during the 2015 regular season.
The 2016 Broncos weren't as good because the running game took a nosedive and the defense wasn't close to the level of that NFL-best 2015 unit that lost a few key players in free agency. If those two areas don't improve this year, it won't matter who wins the quarterback battle in training camp. The Broncos' veterans report on July 26 in Englewood, Colo. Denver GM John Elway was hoping to lure Tony Romo this offseason, but Romo opted for the Fox TV booth. Siemian will battle 2016 first-round pick Paxton Lynch in camp for the starting job. That's certainly a lot more interesting than the QB competitions on the Jets or Browns. The 6-7, 244-pound Lynch filled in for Siemian twice as a starter in 2016, but it was largely a redshirt year. Determining a QB is new coach Vance Joseph's first job, and he has said there's no leader heading to camp.
Denver was 4-4 on the road last season, 4-4 against the spread and 3-5 "over/under." The Broncos travel to three playoff teams in 2017: Kansas City, Oakland and Miami. The home schedule looks much tougher (thanks to Dallas and New England). The Broncos have one stretch of three straight road games and two other back-to-backs. That's tough. I project a 3-5 record. Odds listed for the home team .
Sept. 24 at Bills (-1): The only road game in the first six weeks, which is amazing. The Broncos better get off to a good start at home or the season could be over by Halloween. Denver comes off hosting the Cowboys in Week 2. This is the team's first visit to Buffalo since a Christmas Eve appearance in 2011 -- a game in which Tebow was intercepted three times. Key betting trend: Broncos 5-5 ATS in past 10 at Bills.
Oct. 22 at Chargers (pick'em): First meeting of these rivals in Los Angeles. Broncos off a Week 6 Sunday night game vs. the Giants. Denver lost its final trip to San Diego in Week 6 last year on a Thursday, 21-13. Then-coach Gary Kubiak was out with a medical condition. Siemian threw the ball a whopping 50 times and completed 30 for only 230 yards and one TD. It ended Denver's NFL-record streak of 15 straight divisional road victories. Key betting trend: Broncos had won & covered five straight at Chargers before last year.
Oct. 30 at Chiefs (-3): Monday night. Denver simply doesn't play well in Kansas City without Manning under center. That was the case in Week 16 a year ago, a 33-10 loss. Siemian was 17 of 43 for 183 yards and a game-ending interception, and the only TD drive he led came after a pick gave him the ball at the Kansas City 6. The loss officially eliminated the Broncos from the playoffs. Key betting trend: Broncos 7-3 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Nov. 5 at Eagles (-1): Not just a short week but a 1 p.m. ET kickoff too. Also ahead of a home showdown with the Pats. This one's a trap all-around. Could be matchup of first-rounders from last year in No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz vs. Lynch (No. 26 overall). It's Denver's first trip to Philly in eight years. Key betting trend: Broncos 6-4 ATS in past 10 at NFC East teams.
Nov. 26 at Raiders (-3): Denver hosts Cincinnati the previous Sunday.It's the Broncos' first trip to the Black Hole since the NFL owners approved the franchise's relocation to Las Vegas. Denver lost in Oakland 30-20 in Week 9 last year. The Broncos had 33 yards rushing and allowed 218. Denver also had 12 penalties and two turnovers. Key betting trend: Broncos 5-5 ATS in past 10 as road dog in series.
Dec. 3 at Dolphins (-1): Joseph was Miami's defensive coordinator last year, and new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy faces his disciple Adam Gase. The Fins' head coach worked with McCoy in Denver and helped build offenses for Tebow and Manning. Key betting trend: Broncos 3-7 ATS in past 10 at AFC East teams.
Dec. 14 at Colts (-1): Thursday night; Broncos off a likely home win over the Jets. It's the only dome game for Denver in 2017. The Broncos beat the visiting Colts 34-20 in Week 2 last year. Von Miller had a strip-sack of Andrew Luck late in the game that was returned 15 yards by Shane Ray for the clinching touchdown. Key betting trend: Broncos 2-7 ATS all-time at Indy.
Dec. 24 at Redskins (+1): This will be the Broncos' fourth and final game in the early time slot in the Eastern time zone.Denver leads the series all-time, 7-6. It last visited the Redskins on Nov. 15, 2009, and lost 27-17. Key betting trend: Broncos 5-5 ATS in past 10 as road favorite of 2 points or fewer.
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