The Broncos lost their best offensive player during the offseason when they traded Brandon Marshall to Miami. They lost their best defensive player during the preseason when Elvis Dumervil was injured during one of the first training camp practices. Neither of those loses matter as much as most analysts seem to believe.
The Broncos have a great young receiving corps. Jabar Gaffney and Kyle Orton seem to have great chemistry. Eddie Royal has a full season under his belt in coach Josh McDaniel's offense and is set to rebound from last season's sophomore slump in a big way. Demaryius "BeyBey" Thomas will be a Marshall clone, but faster, if he can get his foot healthy. Throw in reliable vet Brandon Lloyd, sure-handed rookie Eric Decker, and the ultra fast preseason stud Matt Willis and the Broncos will be able to spread the ball around and score some points.
Robert Ayers is better than people think. He's no Dumervil, but it's not a reach to pencil him in for 10-12 sacks this season. He'll be good enough. With the addition of Jamal Williams to slow down the run and a much improved secondary Denver's D will be just fine.
The dawning of the Tim Tebow Era won't be due to the Broncos' offense or defense; it will begin because of their schedule. After last season's 6-0 start, they won't be flying under anyone's radar to start this season. Unfortunately for Denver fans, the teams they play at the beginning aren't just "anyone"—they have the guns to do something about the blip on the radar they'll see.
Here's how it could play out:
Week 1: at Jacksonville. How healthy is Maurice Jones-Drew? Who knows? He's healthy enough after a two week rest to come out and test the Broncos biggest weakness from last year—their defense vs. the Run. If they haven't improved dramatically, this could be a Broncos loss. Season Record: 0-1
Week 2: Seattle at home. After a close loss on the road, the Broncos should be able to bounce back and put away a Seattle team whose offense features no real RB and a WR who's been out of the league for the last two seasons. Of course, if they're looking ahead to Indy in week 3 or are still beaten up after playing a physical Jaguars team, Pete Carroll may McDaniel McDaniels and pull an upset. We'll call this one a Broncos win. Season Record: 1-1
Week 3: Indianapolis at home. This one will likely start out with the Broncos scoring a couple of TD's and getting everyone's hopes up before Manning shreds them the way he has for nearly a decade. Brandon Marshall won't be missed that much overall, but on this day, nobody's going to catch the 21 passes he did against the Colts last season. The results will be the same—a high scoring affair that won't be as close as the final score may indicate. Season Record: 1-2
Week 4: at Tennessee. The Titans had one of the worst defenses vs. the pass in the league last season: Advantage Broncos. They also have a pretty decent RB who should be able to run wild, especially at home, vs. a Broncos team that will be questioning itself after losing more games in the first three weeks that it lost in the first eight last season: Double Advantage: Titans. Titans win a close one. Season Record: 1-3
Week 5: at Baltimore. The Ravens are the team that brought the Broncos' magic to a halt last season. No reason to believe they won't be able to hasten the decent of a reeling Broncos squad—especially in Baltimore. They have a pretty decent running back, too. Season Record: 1-4
Week 6: The Jets come to Denver. Another great running team. Another Broncos loss. Season Record: 1-5.
Here's the "life's not fair" fact of the day. While Denver is playing this brutal schedule, the Chargers play these six teams: the Chiefs, Jaguars, Seahawks, Cardinals, Raiders, and the Rams. The Broncos' main rival should be 5-1 or 6-0 at this point deflating team morale even more leading up to the game in...
Week 7 at home vs. Da Raiders! Shanahan and his hatred for Al Davis are long gone. The Broncos have a fun trip abroad lined up for the next weekend, the fans are getting restless and the Jason Campbell who upset the Broncos last year when he was a Redskin does it again as a Raider. Season Record: 1-6.
Tally Ho! then. Off to Merry Ol' England for a Week 8 matchup vs. The Niners. The Niners are a good team. The Broncos can't believe that last season's collapse has continued and get thumped leading into their bye week. Season Record 1-7.
If the Chargers beat a no—D Pats team and can slow down Chris Johnson, they'll be somewhere between 6-2 to 8-0 at this point. The division is lost. The wildcard is a fantasy. Of course, if the Broncos can stop the run, this scenario is a moot point and Denver's in contention. But that's not the point of this article. Stay with me here:
The fans are turning against McDaniels. The team is getting ready to mail it in. Without a strong finish, McDaniels could lose his job. So with a bye week upcoming after the London debacle, Coach McDaniels does the one thing that will get the fans on his side, inspire the team, and buy him another year:
He unleashes Tebowmania in week 10 at home vs. The Chiefs. They win. By the way, why hasn't anyone noted that the "—mania" suffix is used for Tebow and Bronco yet very few other, if any other, teams or players? There's no Bearsmania or Breesmania. It's a perfect fit. Broncomania and Tebowmania. On Earth as it is in Heaven.
In week 11, they use their momentum, catch the Chargers looking forward to their possible home field deciding game vs. the Colts and pull a shocker in San Diego when Tebow runs over Merriman late and scores the game winning TD.
Weeks 12-15 the Rams, Chiefs, Cardinals, and Raiders don't have a prayer to stop the Tebow Express. The Broncos have roared back to a 7-7 record. With all of those 7's the comparisons are everywhere about Tebow reminding the fans of another #7 who used to be a pretty decent quarterback for the Broncos. Despite the lousy start, the Broncos have the last two games at home and a chance to make the playoffs as a wild card.
In Week 16, Champ Bailey lands awkwardly on his shoulder after diving for a first quarter interception. After his departure, Andre Johnson has a field day at Invesco carrying his fantasy owners to a championship, securing a wild card for the Texans, and ending the Broncos' playoff hopes. As former backup to Elway and offensive coordinator for Shanahan and current Texans coach Gary Kubiak walks onto the field and toward McDaniels' the viewers can read his lips saying, "This one's for Mike."
After the game Tebow gives a speech saying, "I promise you that as long as I'm here, you'll never see a team work harder..."
Week 17 the Chargers come to town looking for home field advantage throughout. Instead of lying down to the Chargers like they did in 2008 and 2009 when they had everything to gain and nothing to lose, Tebow runs for 70 yards and 2 scores while throwing for 280 with TD passes to Bey-Bey, Decker, and Royal as the Broncos absolutely dismantle the Chargers and make a statement for 2011.
An 8-8 season has never felt so good. McDaniels keeps his job, and pre-schoolers learning their alphabet all across Colorado are taught that the letter between S and U isn't T: It's Tebow.
It could happen. I have an odd feeling that if it did, Broncos fans would prefer it to a 2nd round playoff loss. Tell me Broncos fans, am I wrong?