The Denver Broncos enter the 2020 season facing the twelfth-toughest schedule in the NFL. The Broncos .512 strength of schedule rating is challenging, especially for an extremely young offensive unit that’s getting less practice reps than usual. General manager John Elway did well in the offseason, drafting and signing players to support Denver’s franchise QB Drew Lock. However, the Broncos don’t have ample time to develop rapport and fluidity on the field, due to NFL Covid-19 protocols. It may be mid-season before the Broncos have any sort of rhythm on the offensive side of the ball.
The purpose of this article is to break up Denver’s 16-game season into four equal quarters, predicting the win-loss records. Once we’ve predicted the Broncos’ final regular-season win total, we’ll compare it to our NFL regular season wins odds. Our analysis aims to light the way towards a sensible over/under pick for Denver’s 2020 regular-season win total. Before we delve into these quarterly breakdowns, let’s see what we can learn from the Broncos’ 2019 season.
Broncos 2019 Record
2019 Regular Season Record: 7-9
Division Record: 3-3
Playoff Record: Did not make playoffs
The Broncos defense gave up the tenth-least points in 2019, despite missing two of its top defensive players. OLBs Von Miller and Bradley Chubb missed chunks of the 2019 season. Miller, the MVP of Super Bowl 50, is ready to rock after recovering from a recent bout with Covid-19. Chubb still has pain in his knee, and will likely be on a snap count to start the season. This defensive unit is still strong, and should hold their own in the second year of Vic Fangio’s grand scheme. What about the Denver offense?
Although they missed the playoffs, the Broncos ended the 2019 season with some reason for optimism. Denver’s modern-day messiah, QB Drew Lock, led the Broncos to a 4-1 finish to close out the regular season. Lock was most impressive in Week 14, whipping the Texans in Houston 38-24, behind three first-half TDs.
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The Chargers, Texans, Lions, and Raiders all fell to the Broncos, led by their intriguing rookie quarterback. A definite mystique surrounded Drew Lock, and the only game he lost was to the eventual champions. Lock looked befuddled in the Week 15 matchup against the Chiefs in Arrowhead, and it cost Denver a playoff berth.
Naturally, John Elway immediately sought to build around Denver’s new franchise quarterback in the offseason. Elway drafted WR Jerry Jeudy in the first round to complement Pro Bowl WR Courtland Sutton, giving Lock another weapon. TEs Nick Vannett and Albert Okwuegbunam were signed and drafted, respectively, to play alongside second-year tight end Noah Fant. The Broncos have high hopes that 2020 will be a breakout year for Fant.
Denver also signed free agent RB Melvin Gordon to join the Broncos’ backfield with fellow Pro Bowler, Phillip Lindsay. The Broncos are loaded with offensive talent, but their offensive line could be a real mess. The success of any NFL offense begins with the O-line, and the shakiness of this group throws the whole season into question. Starting RT Ja’Wuan James opted out of the 2020 season. Linemen are being shifted to and fro, as desperation stop-gap tactics are employed. Free-agent Graham Glasgow was signed to start at RG, but Glasgow is nursing an injured ankle. No starting center has been named. There’s a lot of uncertainty lined up in front of second-year savior Drew Lock as the 2020 season kicks off.
First Quarter Breakdown
The Broncos hold it together in Week 1, picking up where they left off, winning their home opener vs. Tennessee. Our Week 1 NFL odds show Denver as 1½ -point favorites in their clash with the Titans on MNF. Expect the Broncos to win by a touchdown or more. The Week 2 NFL odds aren’t as kind to Denver, who are traveling to Pittsburgh to battle the Steelers. The Steelers are six-point favorites here, and I believe Pittsburgh will cover the spread with room to spare. The Broncos will give them a fight, but the Steelers steadily overpower them in the end.
In Week 3, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat up the Broncos in Empower Field at Mile High. To add insult to injury, Denver loses a close road game to the NY Jets in Week 4. Just like that, the Denver Broncos are caught in a three-game slide.
Second Quarter Breakdown
The Broncos slide right into Foxboro for a pummeling in Week 5, getting destroyed by a pissed-off Patriots team. Denver pays the beating forward the following week, clubbing the visiting Dolphins in Week 6 slugfest. Kansas City comes to town in Week 7, and the Chiefs simply have too much firepower for Denver to contain. The Broncos go down swinging, but they do go down.
Denver regroups with a Week 8 bye, then heads to Atlanta to face the Falcons in Week 9. This game turns into a serious shootout, with Drew Lock and Matt Ryan each throwing for over 400 yards. The Falcons and Broncos trade leads all game, before Lock deals the fatal blow on a QB sneak late in the fourth, securing the lead for good.
Third Quarter Breakdown
In Week 10, it’s Drew Lock that gets gunned down, in Las Vegas. It’s exponentially less tragic than Tupac Shakur getting hit in a drive-by back in 1996, but it kills the Broncos. “Against All Odds”, Raiders’ QB Derek Carr throws five touchdown passes, torching the Bronco’s defense. Carr’s insane game fuels a blowout in Allegiant Stadium, foretelling the short-term future of the AFC West hierarchy.
The Broncos return home to withstand a late rally by the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 11. A flock of freezing fans in Empower Stadium breathes a collective sigh of relief. The following game whips the fans into a frenzy, as they watch their Broncos knock off the New Orleans Saints. Only three teams have better Super Bowl Odds than New Orleans (+1000), and Denver is not one of them. This is a huge win for the Broncos.
The high-profile victory against the Saints has the Broncos thinking playoffs until they lose in Kansas City during Week 13. The Chiefs smash the Broncos in a statement game, damaging Denver’s self-confidence and physical bodies at the same time. It’s hard to overstate the impact of this loss on the collective Broncos’ psyche.
Fourth Quarter Breakdown
The hangover from the Arrowhead massacre carries over into Carolina on Week 14. The Panthers capitalize on the Broncos’ sloppy play execution and mental errors, winning by a couple of touchdowns. Denver somehow manages to upset the Bills in Week 15, before thumping the Chargers in Los Angeles during Week 16. Denver closes out the regular season with a home loss to the Raiders, propelling Las Vegas to a playoff spot. The Denver Broncos go back to the drawing board, looking ahead to 2021.
Denver Broncos: Final Record Prediction
The Denver Broncos have the foundation to build a championship-caliber team on. However, the developmental restrictions inherent in the NFL’s Covid-19 protocols will hamper the ultimate potential for the 2020 Broncos. The difficult schedule Denver faces will play a role, as will the uncertainty of their O-line. In what fans will likely consider a disappointing season of growth, the Denver Broncos are predicted to finish 7-9.
Our regular season wins odds currently list 7 ½ as the magic over/under number for Denver. It’s a tough call, but the predictions made here indicate that betting on the under is the correct choice. Many Broncos fans I know are cursing me out as they read this, jabbering about 10-6, or maybe even 11-5. “Denver’s gonna compete for the AFC West crown in 2020 and make a deep playoff run, you watch!” If you believe that, then you’re probably smoking that “Mile High” green, and betting the over is a perfect choice.