This is the ninth in a series of 32 NFL team betting previews in 32 days leading up to the league’s Sept. 5 season opener. We’ll count down the teams from the lowest season win total to the highest.
The Denver Broncos are coming off back-to-back losing seasons for only the first time since 1972.
Based on their 2019 season win total, Las Vegas oddsmakers don’t give the Broncos the best shot to buck that trend this year.
After Denver went 5-11 in 2017 and 6-10 last season under coach Vance Joseph, its win total is at 7 for its first-year under former Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio.
“Seven is the right number. There are four toss-up games,” said handicapper Kelly Stewart, a lifelong Broncos fan. “Good news is Vance is gone. He blew three games last year they should’ve won.”
The bad news for Denver is that it has the NFL’s second-most difficult schedule this season by two measures — its opponents’ 2019 season win totals and its opponents’ 2018 win percentage.
Besides four tough AFC West games against the Chiefs (10½) and Chargers (10), the Broncos will face the rugged NFC North — with the Vikings (9), Bears (9) and Packers (9) — and deep AFC South, with the Colts (10), Texans (8½), Jaguars (8) and Titans (8).
Denver also will host the Browns (9) and play at Buffalo (7) in late November.
The Broncos were 13th in scoring defense last season, allowing an average of 21.8 points, and should take a step up under the guidance of Fangio, a defensive guru.
Denver returns elite pass rushers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb, who combined for 26½ sacks, and four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris. It also added safety Kareem Jackson to a defense that helped make the Broncos the best under team in football with a 12-3-1 mark.
An anemic offense, which averaged 13.2 points in its final four games last season, contributed to those unders, finishing 24th in the league in scoring (20.6 points per game).
Denver still has several question marks on offense, starting with 34-year-old quarterback Joe Flacco, who replaces Case Keenum. Leading returning receiver Emmanuel Sanders is coming back from a torn Achilles suffered Dec. 5. Running back Phillip Lindsay returns after becoming the first undrafted offensive rookie ever to make the Pro Bowl.
“The bottom line is that Flacco will be the X-factor,” said Stewart (@kellyinvegas). “The defense will be improved from last year under Fangio.”
Under 7 (Even)
Make playoffs? No (-600)