Denver’s 2020 campaign was over before it ever really got off the ground with key players like Von Miller (ankle), Courtland Sutton (knee), Ja’Wuan James (opt-out), and Jurrell Casey (biceps) done for the season before the calendar even flipped to October. Denver is caught in the middle of one of its worst runs in franchise history as it continues to struggle to find a solution at quarterback since Peyton Manning retired after the 2015 season. They’ve missed the playoffs (-200) in five straight seasons and they have losing campaigns in their last four years after they finished with a 5-11 record (9-7 ATS).
The Broncos scored the fifth-fewest points per game (20.2) and they allowed the eighth-most points per game (27.9), which resulted in an 8-8 totals mark. Denver finished with a 4-6 mark in one-score games and an 0-5 record in games decided by three scores or more, and they ended the year with the league’s fourth-worst point differential (-123).
Denver’s 2021 win total (7.5) rose by half a victory thanks in large part to the additional game on this year’s schedule. The Broncos fell two wins shy of their 2020 win total and they locked in their under with their 10th loss of the season to the Chargers in Week 16. Entering this season, I have the Broncos power rated as the 21st-best team in the NFL (+4500 to win Super Bowl LVI), as the 11th-best team in the AFC (+2000 to win the conference), and as the third-best team in the AFC West (+550).
Spreads are first-look lines from the SuperBook, which were released in early June.
|1||@New York Giants||-1||4:25|
|3||New York Jets||-5.5||4:05|
|6||Las Vegas Raiders||-3.5||4:25|
|7||@Cleveland Browns||+7||8:20 (Thurs)|
|8||Washington Football Team||-3||4:25|
|12||Los Angeles Chargers||-2.5||4:05|
|13||@Kansas City Chiefs||+9.5||1|
|16||@Las Vegas Raiders||+2.5||4:25|
|17||@Los Angeles Chargers||+3||4:05|
|18||Kansas City Chiefs||+3||4:25|
The Broncos will face the second-easiest schedule this season based on 2021 win totals (per Sharp Football), and they couldn’t ask for a better start with matchups against the Giants, Jaguars, and Jets in the first three weeks. They also have a pristine stretch late in the season in Weeks 14-16 against the Lions, Bengals, and Raiders, all of which are lined at seven wins or worse. The Broncos will leave Denver just once in a six-week stretch in Weeks 10-15 with their only road trip to Kansas City in that span. They also have just one primetime game on the road against the Browns on TNF in Week 7, and they have just one game against an opponent coming off a bye in Week 13 against the Chiefs.
The Broncos have relatively easy games to start the season against the Giants and Jaguars, but they’re just one of four teams to open the year with two road games. Denver’s most daunting stretch of games comes in Weeks 4-9 when they face five teams that are lined at 8.5 wins or better in the Ravens, Steelers, Browns, Football Team, and Cowboys. The Broncos also have a pair of matchups each with the Chiefs and Chargers in the final seven weeks of the season.
Key Off-season Moves
|Teddy Bridgewater (QB)||Patrick Surtain (CB)||Ja’Wuan James (RT, Bal)|
|Bobby Massie (RT)||Javonte Williams (RB)||Phillip Lindsay (RB, Hou)|
|Mike Boone (RB)||Quinn Meinerz (OG)||Nick Vannett (TE, NO)|
|Ronald Darby (CB)||Baron Browning (LB)||Elijah Wilkinson (OT, Chi)|
|Kyle Fuller (CB)||DeMarcus Walker (DE, Hou)|
|Shamar Stephen (DT)||Jurrell Casey (DT)|
|Cameron Fleming (OT)||Jeremiah Attaochu (LB, Chi)|
|A.J. Bouye (CB, Car)|
|Jeff Driskel (QB, Hou)|
|Ja’Wuan James (OT, Bal)|
2021 Season Odds
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
|Season Win Total (O/U)||8.5 (-130/+110)|
Season Prop Movement
Win Total: 7.5 (-110) in late March to 8.5 (-130)
Super Bowl: +6000 in early February to +4500
Reasons to Bet Over the Season Win Total
The Broncos ran into some bad injury luck early last year, which derailed their season from the jump. They lost key starters in OLB Von Miller, WR Courtland Sutton, RT Ja’Wuan James, and DT Jurrell Casey before the calendar even flipped to October. Miller will look to return to being one of the league’s best pass rushers off of his ankle surgery while Sutton, who is coming off an ACL tear, will look to lead one of the league’s best all-around receiving corps with Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, K.J. Hamler, and Tim Patrick. The Broncos’ bad injury fortune last season was rewarded with one of the league’s easiest schedules, which includes three beatable matchups against the Giants, Jaguars, and Jets in the first three weeks.
The Broncos have one of the league’s best receiving corps and they’ll also have one of the league’s best secondaries to defend the pass. Denver did well to keep safeties Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson, who will form one of the league’s best safety tandems. They then added CBs Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller in free agency before drafting CB Patrick Surtain ninth overall, which will give the Broncos a fighting chance to defend against Patrick Mahomes and other top passing games. Denver also has an underrated duo at linebacker in Josey Jewell and Alexander Johnson so this defense has the chance to be one of the league’s best if Miller and Bradley Chubb can create chaos on the edges.
Reasons to Bet Under the Season Win Total
The Broncos quarterback situation is still the team’s biggest question mark once again, which has been the case since Peyton Manning retired in 2015. The Broncos were the front-runners to land Aaron Rodgers if he were to be traded in 2021, but that ship has sailed with Rodgers and the Packers coming to an agreement for this season. The Broncos are now priced as a below .500 team with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock at quarterback with money going toward the under on their 8.5 win total. The Panthers couldn’t wait to get Bridgewater out of their building because of his reluctance to drive the ball downfield and his lack of awareness in the pocket. Meanwhile, Lock has an unrefined playing style and he’s been turnover-prone with a 3.0% INT rate to begin his career.
The Broncos’ quarterbacks could hold back this fairly talented roster once again unless Bridgewater or Lock can take a major step forward in 2021. Vic Fangio’s first and potentially only chance as a head coach will be linked to his quarterback situation this season. Fangio barely survived a five-win campaign in his second season and he eked out a push on his 2019 win total by winning four of his final five games to go from 3-8 to 7-9 in his first season. Fangio’s tenure has been underwhelming from the jump and he’s the second-favorite to be fired first at +800 behind only Mike McCarthy in Dallas.
Notable Player Props
Odds courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Javonte Williams: rushing yards (800.5), OROY (+1800), most rushing yards (+7000)
Fantasy Points Projection: rushing yards (890)
Best-Case Scenario: The Broncos traded up to draft Williams in the second round for a reason and he becomes the team’s feature back relatively quickly with Melvin Gordon sliding into a secondary role.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Gordon has a bounce-back campaign and he remains well in the mix for the entire season, which limits the impact Williams is able to make during his rookie season.
Jerry Jeudy: receiving yards (920.5), receiving TDs (4.5), receptions (65.5)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (995), receiving TDs (6), receptions (68)
Best-Case Scenario: Jeudy cleans up his 12 drops from last season and he proves to be a perfect fit for Teddy Bridgewater, who lives in the intermediate and underneath areas of the field.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Drops continue to plague the early part of Jeudy’s career and he struggles to stand out with Courtland Sutton reclaiming his top spot in this crowded receiving corps.
Courtland Sutton: receiving yards (950.5), receiving TDs (5.5), Comeback POY (+1400)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (815), receiving TDs (6)
Best-Case Scenario: Sutton’s recovery from his ACL injury remains on schedule and he vaults ahead of the likes of Jerry Jeudy and Noah Fant back to the top of receiving pecking order.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Sutton gets out of the gates slow in his recovery from last season’s ACL injury, and he’s a poor fit with Teddy Bridgewater’s conservative playing style.
Noah Fant: receiving yards (690.5), receiving TDs (4)
Fantasy Points Projection: receiving yards (720), receiving TDs (5.5)
Best-Case Scenario: Fant continues his incremental growth at just 23 years old and he resets his career-best numbers for the second straight season after posting 62/673/3 receiving last season.
Worst-Case-Scenario: Targets are a little more difficult to come by with Courtland Sutton back in the mix, and the entire passing game underwhelms because of unstable quarterback play.
Courtland Sutton under 1050.5 receiving yards (-115, PointsBet). Risk one unit to win .87 units — I was already very cold on Sutton this summer before HC Vic Fangio said at the beginning of training camp that Sutton has been holding back in his return from a torn ACL. Sutton not only has his major injury working against him, but he’ll be working in a more crowded receiving corps than his last full season in 2019. Second-year pros Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler are ready to take on bigger roles while Noah Fant could take a leap into the second tier of TEs. Tim Patrick filled in admirably for Sutton last season, and he’s a great insurance plan early in the season if they want to limit Sutton’s reps for the first month. I’m also concerned with his shaky quarterback situation with Teddy Bridgewater and Drew Lock at the helm. I believe Bridgewater will see the majority of playing time this season and his conservative playing style will be better for Jeudy to thrive. Add it all up and I’m fading Sutton in the seventh round of fantasy drafts as well as his season-long player props.
Denver Broncos over 8.5 wins (-105, FanDuel) — Teddy Bridgewater will become the 10th quarterback to start a game since Peyton Manning retired in 2015, and he’ll bring a level of competence to the spot that’s been lacking in the last five seasons. The Broncos could have one of the league’s best defenses, and their secondary could be nasty after they added Patrick Surtain, Kyle Fuller, and Ronald Darby to combat the aerial games in the AFC West. They’ll also get Von Miller back to terrorize opposing quarterbacks with Bradley Chubb after he missed all of last season. The Broncos have enough young offensive talent to make some noise between Jerry Jeudy, Noah Fant, Courtland Sutton, and Javonte Williams. It also doesn’t hurt that the Broncos have one of the league’s second-easiest schedules this season based on season win totals. It all comes back to the quarterback position as it has recently for the Broncos, and Bridgewater regularly disappointed in tight contests last season. He went 0-for-8 in his chances to win or tie the game on the final drive of games in his only season with the Panthers. Teddy should give the Broncos chances to win games this season but I’m not confident enough they’ll close enough of them out so I’m staying away.