The predictions of a poor season for the Denver Broncos might ultimately prove true, but after two weeks and as many wins, they are headed toward becoming one of the NFL's surprise teams.
New coach Josh McDaniels took heat for trading quarterback Jay Cutler, but credit McDaniels for another move -- hiring Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator.
Nolan is using Elvis Dumervil as a pass-rushing threat, and safety Brian Dawkins, a free-agent signee, has solidified the secondary. It's early, but Denver's defense ranks No. 1 in the league in scoring, allowing a total of 13 points, and No. 2 in yards allowed.
The Gold Sheet handicapper Bruce Marshall is 2-0 with recommended plays on the Broncos under the total. Denver is a 11/2-point favorite at Oakland today, and Marshall is backing the Broncos and under 361/2.
"The real revelation in Denver has been the defense, which bears no resemblance whatsoever to last year's stop unit that blew assignments at an alarming rate and was schematically out of sorts," Marshall said. "Credit Nolan for changing the formula, installing a 3-4 look better suited to the Broncos' talent. The new Denver stop unit is for real."
The Broncos are burning the clock offensively, using Kyle Orton's short passing and an improving ground threat with rookie Knowshon Moreno alongside workhorse Correll Buckhalter.
"As long as turnovers don't distort (the game) and result in quick touchdowns, expect another low-scoring 'under' with the Broncos probably (winning)," said Marshall, who outlines other Week 3 games:
• Kansas City at Philadelphia: The Eagles were 6-2 against the spread as a home favorite last year, and 3-1 laying at least 7 points. Edge: Eagles.
• Cleveland at Baltimore: Surprisingly, this series went over the total in the past three games and 4-0-1 in the past five. Ravens coach John Harbaugh is 7-2 ATS at home and 15-5 overall. The Browns have no covers in their past six games. Edge: Ravens, over.
• Green Bay at St. Louis: The Rams are on a 7-14 ATS slide. The Packers are 17-7 ATS on the road for coach Mike McCarthy since 2006. Edge: Packers.
• Atlanta at New England: Patriots coach Bill Belichick is just 3-11 ATS in the past 14 at Gillette Stadium. But the Falcons were 4-5 ATS away a year ago. Edge: Falcons.
Compiled by Las Vegas Review-Journal sportswriter Matt Youmans.