3 Reasons Oddsmakers are Wrong About the Broncos
When 2020 began, the oddsmakers opened their NFL over/under projections with the Denver Broncos sitting at eight wins. On the heels of three consecutive losing seasons, setting the mark at eight wins, especially in light of last year's 7-9 finish, seemed fair from the outside looking in.
However, that was before NFL free agency. The self-same oddsmakers have since decided to revamp their over/unders for 2020, docking the Broncos by a half-game (7.5).
Allow me to explain why the oddsmakers are wrong to even fiddle with the eight-win line and why I would take the 'over' on the 2020 Broncos regardless.
1. Offseason = Incomplete
Whether you liked what GM John Elway did in free agency or panned it, the truth is, a complete evaluation with 2020 implications cannot be rendered before the NFL Draft. After all, when it comes to roster building, each NFL offseason is defined by two distinct but important sections on the calendar — free agency and the draft.
As an example, if at this time in 2019 you were to base your Broncos projections on what Elway did in free agency, which included the acquisition of Joe Flacco, the signing of S Kareem Jackson, OT Ja'Wuan James and CB Bryce Callahan, you would have drastically fallen short of accuracy.
The 2019 campaign would have taken on a dramatically different complexion without the contributions of the draft class, from players like QB Drew Lock, to LG Dalton Risner, TE Noah Fant and DE Dre'Mont Jones. Each left an indelible mark on the team and without them, the Broncos likely finish with just three wins.
The lesson? Wait to see what Elway does in next month's draft before jumping to conclusions on the Broncos' offseason haul vs. personnel departures.
2. No Longer Wandering the QB Desert
The biggest reason the Broncos struggled post-Super Bowl 50 is that every QB acquisition Elway made was the wrong one. From drafting Paxton Lynch in the first round, to allowing Trevor Siemian to openly compete with him for the starting job, to signing Case Keenum and acquiring Flacco, Elway couldn't get out of his own way and made the wrong call at every turn.
That is, until the Football Gods finally smiled upon him once again, plopping Lock right in his lap in the second round of last year's draft. Lock should have been a first-round pick but the Broncos got him on day two, despite passing on him thrice times earlier.
In his five starts last season, Lock was far from perfect. But what he showed was that he has the type of intangibles NFL teams covet to match his rare physical tools.
Aside from watching Lock improve week-by-week, the most impressive aspect of his rookie campaign was seeing him captivate the locker room, with the entire roster closing ranks around him by season's end. His stats were solid but unlike all the other rookie QBs who started in 2019, Lock's impact translated to wins in the standings.
He would lead the Broncos to a 4-1 finish and provide the team with palpable momentum heading into 2020. With a new offensive coordinator in Pat Shurmur hired specifically to ensure Lock's second-year development has every coaching tool necessary to succeed, to think that the Broncos will finish at or below their seven-win total from last year seems sketchy.
What happens next for the Broncos in free agency & the draft? Don't miss out on any news and analysis! Take a second and sign up for our free newsletter and get breaking Broncos news delivered to your inbox daily!
3. Fangio Growth
Vic Fangio's maiden season as a head coach was replete with a steep learning curve but the 61-year-old navigated it with aplomb, learning as the season went along. Surprisingly, despite him being a defensive-minded coach, Fangio was atypically bold when it came to decision making, which only increased in magnitude as the season wore on.
Whether it was going for it on fourth down, two-point conversion attempts, or airing it out under two minutes with the game being tied, Fangio showed a serious propensity for rolling the dice. His feel for knowing when to take those chances improved dramatically over the course of the full 16-game season.
Fangio's defensive scheme is renowned but it is a complex one. It takes time to assimilate and fully sink in on the players. That can be verified by simply researching all of his past stops as a defensive coordinator.
Eventually, Fangio's scheme, and his 'way' of going about reaching and interacting with players, clicks and his defenses have a penchant for taking a quantum leap forward. It was palpable at times last season how much the Broncos' players were thinking when they were on the field, instead of reacting, especially in the first half of the year.
With more time on task and a full season of Fangio's scheme and coaching philosophies under their belt, I like the Broncos' odds of really taking a step forward in his second year as head coach. Step by step, Fangio has reshaped the Broncos in his image and with a budding franchise quarterback in hand, 2020 could be the year this team returns to more than just a semblance of competitiveness.
If Elway's last two draft hauls are any indication, the Broncos' 2020 draft class could be all that remains in putting the finishing touches on his mini-rebuild. Holding 10 picks in the draft, including five selections in the top-100, the Broncos have the chance to close the distance in the AFC West
The Super Bowl-Champion Kansas City Chiefs are the 800-pound gorilla atop the hill the Broncos are trying to climb. Just based on the law of averages, though, I'm inclined to believe that something's going to give in that Division rivalry that dates back decades.
Does that mean the Broncos will win the AFC West? I'm not ready to say that or make any specific prediction — not until the draft is the books.
When it comes to over/under, again, I'm taking the over. When it's all said and done, it's my suspicion that the Broncos finish closer to nine wins than seven. Check out the video above for additional insight into my thoughts on the matter.