Posted Tue Sep 6th by Monty
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The Broncos still have problems, the greatest being their run defense. The interior of that defensive line is still full of retreads; middle linebacker Joe Mays truly has his work cut out for him. All five positions on the offensive line come with questions as well. (Will Ryan Clady return to form? Can the interior guys improve from a year ago? Is rookie Orlando Franklin ready to start 16 games at the NFL level?).
But there’s a lot of talent on this team, too. A lot more than national “experts” may notice.
The problem is, this talent only goes one level deep. It’s a side effect of rebuilding. The talent gap between the Broncos’ starters and backups is wide and dramatic. The Broncos have done a good job acquiring youthful, skilled players (three promising rookies starting from Week One, and a fourth, Julius Thomas, who figures to see the field early and often), but their depth is lacking. “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” as the saying goes, and neither was a football dynasty.
And make no mistake, John Elway has his sights on nothing less. That’ll take time. As ugly as the word is, the Broncos are in a “rebuild.”
So, more than any season in recent memory — more even than the injury-plagued disaster of 2010 — the 2011 Denver Broncos are at the mercy of the injury bug. This offseason and preseason, the bug has been relatively kind, but the Broncos need the following players to both stay healthy and excel in order to make the playoffs:
- Kyle Orton
- Ryan Clady
- Elvis Dumervil
- Von Miller
- Champ Bailey
If all of these players finish the season with 14+ healthy starts… If Ryan Clady and Elvis Dumervil return to pre-2010 form… If Kyle Orton takes the next step… If Champ Bailey maintains his form and if Von Miller fulfills his promise… we’re talking about an 11-win Broncos football team.
11 wins. Imagine that.
But, you might have noticed, that’s a lot of “If’s.” No single one of those “If’s” is outside the realm of possibility, but banking on all of them coming true is foolhardy.
The Rundown: Let’s look at the Denver Broncos 2011 schedule and predict the wins and losses, one game at a time. They’ll start hot with an easier schedule but cool off before the bye. They go 3-0 against the Raiders, Bengals and Titans before falling to the Super Bowl champion Packers and the Chargers at home. 3-2 at the bye.
They win against Miami and Detroit before losing four straight – at Oakland, at Kansas City, vs. the Jets, and at San Diego. They’re 5-6 heading into Minnesota and pull out a squeaker. The Broncos are .500, 6-6, when Jay Cutler and the Bears come into town, and while I feel like I’m betraying some sort of Broncos trust by saying this, I think they lose to the defending NFC North champs. They upset the Patriots at home then blow a December road game in Buffalo before finishing with a home win against the Chiefs.
The Prediction: The 2011 Denver Broncos will finish 8-8, tied for 2nd in the AFC West with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The dreadful season that was 2010 will be redeemed. The Broncos will return to relative relevance. But it will take them at least another offseason to rebuild, and reconquer.