3rd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Denver Broncos

The AFC West is the next division up in our preview of all 32 NFL teams, beginning with the Denver Broncos, the team that won the division — and Super Bowl 50 — last season.

The Broncos were in a weird position this offseason coming off a Super Bowl title. Their veteran QB Peyton Manning retired, while young QB Brock Osweiler was a free agent, eventually signing a big contract with the Texans, forcing the Broncos to enter the 2016 season without the two quarterbacks who played snaps for the team in 2015. The news was better when trying to keep their best defensive player, eventually inking LB Von Miller to a six-year extension that made him the highest paid defensive player in league history.

Manning and Osweiler split quarterback duties pretty evenly last season, putting up decent numbers — 4,216 yards, 19 touchdowns, 23 interceptions. WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders put up good numbers; Thomas had 105 receptions for 1,304 yards and 6 touchdowns while Sanders grabbed 76 catches for 1,135 yards and 6 touchdowns. RB Ronnie Hillman had 863 yards and 7 touchdowns on 207 rushes, and RB C.J. Anderson carried the ball 152 times for 720 yards and 5 touchdowns. But it was the defense that really carried the team to its first Super Bowl title since 1998, allowing 296 points — the fourth-fewest in the league — with 14 interceptions.

It’s a good thing the Broncos signed Miller to the long-term extension because they’re likely going to have to rely on their defense again this year, with a quarterback corps that includes the likes of veteran Mark Sanchez, rookie Paxton Lynch — the team’s first-round pick in this year’s draft, and Trevor Siemian, who was the team’s seventh-round selection in the 2015 draft. Siemian, who started the team’s third preseason game, has been named the starter to begin the season. Sanchez — the only one of the three who has experience in the league, appears to be third on the depth chart. Whoever ends up getting the bulk of the work under center has Thomas and Sanders to throw to. In addition to Hillman and Anderson, RB Devontae Booker joins the team’s running game this season after being selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft.

The Broncos start their season with the Thursday night Opening Kickoff game that the Super Bowl champion traditionally gets, this time hosting the Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 rematch. After a home game with the Colts, the Broncos hit the road for the first time in Week 3 to take on the Bengals. Week 7 is likely circled on the Broncos’ calendar; that’s when they host the Texans — and Osweiler — on Monday night. That game is followed by divisional contests, hosting the Chargers in Week 8 and visiting the Raiders in Week 9. The Broncos’ bye comes in Week 11, leading into a home game with the division-rival Chiefs. Week 15 has the Patriots coming into Denver, followed by a visit to the Chiefs on Christmas night in Week 16. The Broncos then end their season at home against the Raiders. The Broncos won the AFC West and, eventually, the Super Bowl last season without a big statistical season out of the quarterback position because the defense was that good. With the trio they have at quarterback this season, they’ll likely have to get another big season out of Miller and his defensive mates to find success this season. I don’t think it’ll work out for them. I think they’ll take a step back this season, and I’m projecting a 8-8 record.

Source: http://www.denverbroncos.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com

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