EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 10th of 32 preseason previews in 32 days leading up to the NFL season opener Thursday, Sept 5.
Win total last 5 years: 41
LVH over/under wins (11½)
Word out of Denver is that this Thursday is the important date in the season, On that day, Von Miller’s appeal of his four-game suspension for allegedly violating the league’s drug policy gets heard.
So it would be wise to hold off all bets on the Broncos going over or under 11½ wins. If Orange Crush loses the “ap-peal” (sorry couldn’t resist the pun) then trying to beat Baltimore and the New York Giants in Week 1 and 2 becomes a very large task.
“I’m confident about it. Everybody is confident about it,” Miller said after the Broncos beat San Francisco 10-6 in their preseason opener. But it doesn’t really matter if Denver beats Seattle, St. Louis or Arizona in games that don’t count in the standings.
The Denver defense looked solid against the 49ers and backup QB Brock Osweiler received good reviews from the coaching staff. That’s fine for Brock, because he won’t play much if Peyton Manning stays healthy.
There’s less talk about Manning’s health this season after a wonderful return to form last year. Denver won 13 games and had the Ravens beat in the playoffs until blowing a late lead and losing at home 38-35 in overtime.
The Denver Post paints this negative picture if Miller’s appeal is lost Aug. 15.
“You can kiss goodbye the Broncos’ chance of being the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. Forget the four turnovers Denver created against San Francisco scrubs. The Broncos got pushed around by the Niners in the lone possession (Colin) Kaepernick played.
“Without the services of Miller in four games, it would be hard to envision this defense being able to shut down Baltimore’s Joe Flacco or Eli Manning of the New York Giants during September, let alone acting like one of the league’s top three defensive units.”
Denver did acquire DE Shaun Phillips (Chargers) and promoted LB Nate Irving to overcome the loss of Elvis Dumervil in plugging a hole at middle linebacker with reasonable efficiency.
At running back second year player Ronnie Hillman (San Diego St) will get a long look as the main man in the ground game to help take some of heat off of Manning. But make no mistake the big offseason addition of Wes Welker to join Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas will have Manning throwing most of the time.
Athlon Sports rated the Denver draft a C, but it will be good enough if top pick 313-pound defensive tackle Sylvester Williams out of North Carolina comes through.
Denver is an overwhelming 2/9 favorite to win the AFC West, so a postseason bid is pretty much a lock. But another playoff loss won’t sit well, especially to a 38-year-old QB who makes good commercials.
Sunday: Detroit Lions.
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].