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NFL 2013-14 Season Preview and Predictions

NFL 2013-14 Super Bowl Predictions and Pick

Denver Broncos (51/10)

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The Denver Broncos won their last eleven regular season games last year before losing in the AFC Divisional round in double overtime to the eventual Super Bowl Champions, Baltimore Ravens. This year with everyone scrambling around to get their “2014 Super Bowl Champion” picks in, we’ve found ourselves on the same page as Vegas, who has set the Broncos as one of the top two favorites heading into the year (the San Francisco 49ers being the other). There are three main reasons for our selection, which has nothing to do with being on Vegas’ side. First, the Broncos enter the season with the easiest schedule in the NFL. Second, anyone whose starting quarterback is Peyton Manning is going to be a threat- let alone with the weapons he has at his disposal. Third, and lastly, if it’s even possible, we believe the Broncos to be an improved team after a busy off-season.

Now, we’ve spent numerous hours poring over the data on the correlation of strength of schedule and success- both regular season and Super Bowl. Although there doesn’t appear to be a strong pattern or any decent theory it can not go without saying that having the easiest ranked schedule at the beginning of the season cannot hurt ones chances of success.

Focusing in on the past two years, I’ve come across a couple signs which point to the right direction for the Broncos. First, taking the five teams who were projected to have the easiest schedule in the 2011 and 2012 seasons, we see a playoff appearance in 6 of the 10 teams. Also, the combined records of the five teams in 2011 were 47-33 while the 2012 teams were also 47-33. That’s a 59% win record, which is generally good enough to get into the post season.

Although this is not a game changer, I still believe it to warrant mention here, even if it’s a minor player compared to the proceeding information.

Second, Peyton Manning is a very (very) good quarterback. Last year, returning to the football field after multiple neck surgeries Manning’s career was a big question mark. He answered, with a quarterback rating of 105.8, the second best in his career and best since his 121.1 in 2004. The reason for his success is several-fold. First, the offensive line of the Broncos did a great job in protection. Although he was sacked 21 times, which was 5 more and 10 more times than the previous two years respectfully, it was mostly due to the lack lustre running game and his loss of mobility, not protection.

Manning also has two great emerging wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Last year, the 6’3” 229 pound Thomas had 94 receptions for 1,434 yards and 10 TDs. His counterpart Decker, also 6’3” and weighing 214 had 85 receptions for 1,064 yards and 13 TDs. These two big, young receivers had help from pass receiving tight ends, Jacob Tamme, and Joel Dreessen. These two combined for 93 catches and 7 TDs to help out Manning.

With weapons like this at Manning’s disposal, no defense will be safe, and before we conclude, let’s not overlook some of the offensive improvements which will only make Manning even more lethal.

We believe the Broncos to be an improved football team from last year, and this improvement will take them to the Super Bowl.

One of the receivers not mentioned above was slot receiver Brandon Stokley. Although always being one of Manning’s favorites from the slot in Indianapolis, the Broncos let him go and up graded the slot with one of the best receivers (slot or wide) in the NFL, Wes Walker. Walker has worked with Tom Brady in the New England Patriots system, where they run a similar offense in the sense that they use spread sets with a pass receiving tight ends and a speedy slot receiver. He should be a great upgrade from Stokley this year, and will only help free up his fellow receivers Thomas and Decker, as well as provide support for the running game.

The rushing attack of the Broncos was pedestrian last year, and that led Willis McGahee to be released on June 13. This year, second year man Ronnie Hillman will be behind Manning. Along with him will be highly touted second round draft pick and tough runner from Wisconsin Montee Ball. We believe this to be an upgrade from last year, and expect the sixteenth ranked rush offense to improve. Although not talked about at length here, Ball could be the breakout rookie of the year, and will be a great asset at running back.  

On the defensive side of the ball, some may think with the losses of Elvis Dumervil and D.J. Williams would put the third ranked passing and third ranked rushing defense in a tough spot this following year... we think their new arrivals will fill the rolls great.

Terrance Knighton will come in and shore up the nose tackle position, helping out the new starting linebackers replacing Dumervil and Williams. The extra half second he will provide, and gap he will plug will allow the perhaps not as quick Stewart Bradley and Shaun Phillips to make plays. In the secondary the Broncos added Quentin Jammer to add some depth, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to play opposite hall of fame corner Champ Bailey.

In conclusion, we believe the odds of 51/10 to be a great play to make. The regular season will not be a problem for the Broncos. Manning is a big time player, and all ready has a Super Bowl ring to prove it. Along with the new arrivals to help Manning in the slot and the ground game, as well as the defensive improvements, the Broncos are primed to win their first Super Bowl in nearly two decades.