Look for the Broncos in a bounce back in 2017

Rick Gosselin

The Denver Broncos failed to defend their Super Bowl championship in 2016. But listeners and readers of the Talk of Fame Network believe 2016 was the aberration for the Broncos, not 2015.

We asked our followers in last week’s poll who would win the AFC West, and the Broncos edged out the Oakland Raiders. The Broncos received 40.9 percent of the vote, followed by the Raiders at 39.6. The defending AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs were a distant third with 15.6 percent support, followed by the Los Angeles Chargers at 3.9 percent.

As usual, the Talk of Fame Network hosts disagreed. In fact, all three – Ron Borges, Rick Gosselin and Clark Judge – voted for the Raiders.

“The Raiders have almost everything ... except a new stadium,” Judge said. “A star quarterback (Derek Carr). A star running back (Marshawn Lynch). Marquee receivers (Amani Cooper, Michael Crabtree). Offensive line. Even a season of home sellouts in a city they're going to leave. OK, so the defense leaks. But they reached the playoffs last year with it, and they'll reach the top of the division this season with it.”

Borges believes it’s all about the quarterback. Carr was an NFL MVP candidate in 2016 until the 15th game when he suffered a season-ending broken fibula. Carr quarterbacked the Raiders to a 12-3 start and had them atop the AFC West. But without him, the Raiders lost the regular season finale against Denver with Matt McGloin at quarterback, which cost them the division title, then lost in the wild-card playoff round to the Houston Texans with rookie Connor Cook at quarterback.

“The best quarterbacks rule in these kind of races, and in the AFC West, that's Derek Carr,” Borges said. “As long as Derek Carr stays in one piece, I like the Raiders.”

The Broncos return the best defense in the division. Denver finished in the Top 5, allowing the third fewest points in the league, but an inexperienced and scrambled quarterback position cost the Broncos. Trevor Siemian and rookie Paxton Lynch combined to pass for only 20 touchdowns against 11 interceptions, and that offensive inefficiency doomed the Broncos to a 9-7 finish.

The same two quarterbacks will compete for the starting spot this summer. The defense also will be one elite pass rusher light with the retirement of DeMarcus Ware. But just 17 games ago the Broncos were Super Bowl champions -- and many of the players with those championship rings are back. Voters in our weekly poll obviously like that pedigree.

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