Posted Sat Aug 25th by Jon Heath
The September issue of ESPN The Magazine is now available on newsstands and online. An NFL Preview edition, the mag features playoff picks and predictions by ESPN contributors—and they apparently think highly of the 2012 Denver Broncos.
Preseason Power Rankings had Denver ranked 14th (with San Diego, Kansas City and Oakland ranked 16th, 17th and 25th respectively). The mag’s playoff picks had Denver going all the way to the Super Bowl.
In ESPN’s playoff bracket, the Broncos defeat Houston in the Wild Card round before going on to defeat Baltimore in the Divisional round and topping New England in the AFC Championship. Denver does have one bump in the road, as ESPN projects them losing Super Bowl XLVII to Green Bay in New Orleans.
The mag projects a 12-4 regular season record for Denver and cites a 41.4% chance of winning the division and 60.2% chance of making the playoffs. Per ESPN, the Broncos’ Vegas odds of winning the Super Bowl are 14-1.
The four losses forecast come in Week 5 @ New England, Week 8 vs. New Orleans, Week 11 vs. San Diego and Week 15 @ Baltimore. In each game Denver’s margin of loss is one point or less (e.g. a 26.1-to-25.4 projected loss to the Ravens).
The ‘Insider’s View’ calls Denver’s linebackers their best unit and their defensive line the worst unit, citing the LB’s rushing abilities and the DL’s inability to stop the run in recent seasons. Signing quarterback Peyton Manning was dubbed the team’s ‘Key Move’ of the offseason. We can confirm this.
ESPN’s KC Joyner (who is a joke in my book) tried to debunk the ‘perception’ that cornerback Champ Bailey is still one of the NFL’s best corners. Joyner backs up his claims by pointing out that Champ has only recorded 11 interceptions since the 2007 season. And yes, he was serious.
Joyner conveniently forgot that Nnamdi Asomugha recorded just 11 interceptions from 2003-10 and was still regarded as the best cornerback in the game during that time period. That is because interceptions are an overrated stat when it comes to cornerbacks; defensive backs that are thrown at a lot have a higher chance of recording interceptions.
But guys like Nnamdi and Champ (not so much Nnamdi anymore, who seems to have fallen off a performance cliff) are not often targeted by (smart) quarterbacks and as a result, they do not get a lot of opportunities to record interceptions. When Bailey is targeted, he often—but not always—breaks up the pass or hauls it in himself.
It’s not surprising to see Joyner raining on the parade. He probably doesn’t like the Broncos. After all, he’s hated Peyton Manning for years.
Meanwhile, Mel Kiper Jr. had some nice things to say about rookie cornerback Omar Bolden, who was dubbed the team’s ‘Rookie Sleeper’ by the magazine.
“The tape shows that Bolden has the talent of a first-round pick,” wrote Kiper. “But the three-year starter at Arizona State dropped to the fourth round after missing his senior year with a torn ACL. If he stays healthy, there’s no reason Bolden can’t be a starter and perhaps part of the reason Bailey is ultimately moved to safety.”
Oh boy. He just had to throw that last line in there.
Apparently ESPN doesn’t think as highly of Bailey as we do, or Champ does himself. The eleven-time Pro Bowler has constantly stated he feels great and has no desire to move to safety. The coaching staff has never hinted at changing Bailey’s position, even when speaking of the future. But for whatever reason, the media can’t seem to comprehend Bailey finishing his career as a cornerback.
“I still feel like a corner,” Bailey told the Denver Post in May. He still has the speed of a cornerback and can still cover like a cornerback, so why the rush to move him?
“[Before I move to safety] it [would have] to make sense to me. I’m not looking to play safety,” Bailey said. “So it would have to make sense, if it doesn’t make sense I’m not doing it. I’m not going to do it just to do it, to save money on the cap or something.”
Bailey went on to note that his legs feel great and until they no longer get the job done, he’ll have no desire to change his position. Champ did admit however that if he does start to lose a step, he’ll know when it’s time to change positions (if it does come to that).
“I’m a realist, though, if I see myself on tape and I think it’s time to make a move, I’ll know it’s time to make a move, I’ll be the first to see it, I’ll be the first to know it,” Bailey said, smiling. “In my mind, though, I might not say it right away, I might wait for somebody to ask.”
As of now, Bailey is still performing well as a cornerback. So you can buzz off, Joyner and Kiper.
What do you make of ESPN predicting Denver to make the Super Bowl? Would you rather have the team fly under the radar and surprise everyone? Or are you embracing finally being recognized as a contender for the first time in over six years? Dish out your thoughts in the comments below!