The Broncos had unfortunate news before their 2020 season even began. LB Von Miller dislocated his peroneal tendon in his ankle, and the eight-time Pro Bowler has been placed on injured reserve with only the slightest chance that he would be back by mid-December. Therefore, he most likely will not play until the 2021 season. Miller was a Super Bowl MVP, and he has been one of the best defensive players in the league for several years. The loss of the second overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft will make it difficult for the Broncos in 2020, but Week 1 was a strong performance by the defense in the 16-14 loss to the visiting Tennessee Titans.
The Broncos were favored initially for Week 1, but after Miller’s injury happened, the Titans became favored. By kickoff, Tennessee was a 3.5-point favorite. The Broncos covered with the two-point loss. In 2019, the 7-9 Broncos finished second in the AFC West and had a record of 9-7 against the spread. After QB Drew Lock recovered from his thumb injury, the Broncos won four of their five games. They went 3-2 against the spread with Lock under center.
The Broncos began the season 0-1, while the rest of the division experienced victories in Week 1. After starting five games in 2019, Lock started the 2020 NFL season with 22 of 33 passes completed and one touchdown. He fumbled twice but recovered both of the fumbles. Next up for Lock is a trip to Pittsburgh to face the Steelers, and then he returns to Denver to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Lock is not having an easy start to 2020, but if he can keep his interception number down (he has three interceptions through his first six career games), then he can be very successful.
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2020 Broncos Draft Picks
Jerry Jeudy, WR (Alabama)
K.J. Hamler, WR (Penn State)
Michael Ojemudia, CB (Iowa)
Lloyd Cushenberry, C (LSU)
McTelvin Agim, DT (Arkansas)
Albert Okwuegbunam, TE (Missouri)
Justin Strnad, LB (Wake Forest)
Netane Muti, OG (Fresno State)
Tyrie Cleveland, WR (Florida)
Derrek Tuszka, LB (North Dakota)
Notable Other New Faces for the Broncos
Jeff Driskel, QB
Melvin Gordon III, RB
Nick Vannett, TE
Jurrell Casey, DE
Mark Barron, LB
Austin Calitro, LB
A.J. Bouye, CB
Notable Broncos in New Places
Joe Flacco, QB – New York Jets
Devontae Booker, RB – Las Vegas Raiders
Andy Janovich, RB – Cleveland Browns
Jeff Heuerman, TE – released
Josh Mauro, DE – Jacksonville Jaguars
Derek Wolfe, DE – Baltimore Ravens
Todd Davis, LB – released
Justin Hollins, LB – Los Angeles Rams
Chris Harris Jr., CB – Los Angeles Chargers
Isaac Yiadom, CB – New York Giants
Will Parks, S – Philadelphia Eagles
Notable Broncos on the Injury Report
Phillip Lindsay, RB – out for Week 2 with a toe injury
Courtland Sutton, WR – game-time decision (questionable) for Week 2 with a shoulder injury after missing Week 1
Tyrie Cleveland, WR – questionable for Week 2 with a hip injury
Garett Bolles, OT – questionable for Week 2 with an elbow injury
Mark Barron, LB – out for Week 2 with a hamstring injury; missed Week 1 as well
Von Miller, LB – placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury; expected to miss the 2020 season
Justin Strnad, LB – placed on injured reserve with a wrist injury
A.J. Bouye, CB – placed on injured reserve with a shoulder injury; expected to return for Week 6
Broncos Who Have Opted Out of 2020 NFL Season
Ja’Wuan James, OT
Kyle Peko, DT
Broncos Offense Predictions
Can Drew Lock make this NFL season a memorable one? The 2019 second-round selection may lead the Broncos to the playoffs, but we will have to see if it happens this year. College football’s passing and touchdown leader from 2017 did not have his No. 1 WR Courtland Sutton for Week 1, but the receiver’s shoulder injury does not seem to be a long-term one. Even if Sutton plays in Week 2, Phillip Lindsay will be out for the game against the Steelers with turf toe. Lock may also be without starting left tackle Garett Bolles for the contest. The first few weeks of 2020 may be an uphill battle for Lock and company on offense.
Broncos Running Backs: Melvin Gordon III May Lead the Broncos in Rushing, but Will Phillip Lindsay or Royce Freeman Finish With More Receptions Than Gordon?
Running backs Melvin Gordon III and Devontae Booker both moved around the AFC West during the offseason. Booker went from Denver to the Las Vegas Raiders while the Broncos got Gordon from the Los Angeles Chargers. Booker spent his first four NFL seasons with the Broncos, and he was the No. 3 running back during his final year in Denver, as he had just eight touches for the entire season. Booker’s role decreased every year that he was the Broncos.
Denver’s running back depth chart in 2020 is No. 1 Gordon, No. 2 Lindsay, and No. 3 Royce Freeman. Gordon expects to take a larger workload with Lindsay absent, but Freeman did act as a strong backup running back for the Broncos in 2018 and 2019. After being drafted in the third round in 2018, Freeman superseded Booker and had at least 130 rushes in his first two NFL seasons. His receiving role increased in 2019, as he caught 43 passes (second-highest on the team) for 256 yards. With Lock under center, Freeman caught all 13 of his targets and scored two touchdowns in the five games they played together. Freeman will be sure to get more than the six snaps he had in Week 1. Freeman accumulated one target, one reception, and 12 receiving yards in the contest against the Titans.
In 2019, Lindsay was Denver’s leading rusher with 224 carries for 1,011 yards and seven touchdowns. He also tacked on 35 receptions for 196 yards. In his five games with Lock in 2019, Lindsay went for 77 carries, 303 rushing yards, and two rushing touchdowns. However, he caught only seven of his 11 targets from Lock for just 17 yards. In Week 1’s loss to the Titans, Lindsay played 19 snaps and ran seven times for 24 yards. He caught his only target for 11 yards.
In Week 1 of the 2020 season, Gordon took on the role of the lead running back with 15 rushes, 78 rushing yards, and one rushing touchdown. He caught all three of his targets for eight yards but was responsible for the contest’s only lost fumble. The turnover in deep Denver territory was followed by a 23-yard Titans drive that resulted in the game’s first Tennessee score. Gordon, who struggled to tune of four fumbles in 2019, is off to an inauspicious start in terms of ball security, so head coach Vic Fangio may need to consider rotating running backs if the fumbles continue.
Broncos Wide Receivers: Can Rookie Jerry Jeudy Produce Consistently and Improve Throughout His First NFL Season?
Rookie wide receiver Jerry Jeudy may be seeing more targets than expected early in the season, as third-year receiver Courtland Sutton continues to battle a shoulder injury. In 2019, Sutton led the Broncos in the following categories: 72 receptions, 1,112 receiving yards, 9.0 yards per target, and six receiving touchdowns. With Lock, Sutton caught just 22 of his 40 targets, as he went for 280 yards and two touchdowns.
Without Sutton in the lineup in Week 1, Jeudy caught just four of his eight targets, as he amassed 56 yards and fumbled once. Although his fumble went out of bounds, he will have to improve in that area in Week 2. Besides, he will have to avoid dropping the football, as two of his missed targets were his fault. If his drops are going to continue, then Denver will be having a very tough time this season.
Tim Patrick, who went undrafted in 2017 and played 24 games for the Broncos heading into 2020, contributed as the No. 2 wide receiver in the Week 1 contest. He caught four of his five targets for 29 yards, and Lock could continue to look his way with Sutton hobbled and Lindsay out for Week 2.
Broncos Tight Ends: Can Noah Fant Finish in the Top 10 Among Tight Ends in 2020?
Noah Fant could continue to be Lock’s favorite option to open the season, as he received six targets and went for five receptions and 81 yards and a touchdown in Week 1. Last year, Fant finished second on the team with 66 targets, 562 receiving yards (13th among tight ends), and three touchdowns (tied for 20th) as a rookie. His 40 receptions (18th) ranked third on the Broncos. With Fant as a serious red zone threat for Lock, there should be many touchdowns to come for Fant. With this being his second season, Denver hopes that his improvement vaults him into the top 10 among tight ends in those categories.
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Broncos Defense Predictions
With Von Miller sitting out with a leg in a cast, he tweeted a “Mile High Salute” to his teammates in anticipation of the Titans’ Week 1 contest. Denver fought hard and allowed just 16 Titans points, and one of the touchdown drives came on a very short field. QB Ryan Tannehill, who led the NFL in yards per pass attempt (9.6) and quarterback rating (117.5) last season, had just 5.8 yards per attempt and a rating of 97.9 in the Week 1 contest.
Although Denver did not force a turnover in their 16-14 loss to Tennessee, the Broncos defense did its job. An important area of improvement though, would be the defense on third-down conversions. They allowed the Titans to convert almost 50 percent (7-for-16) of them, and Tennessee even converted its only attempt on fourth down. Near the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Titans broke the 7-7 tie with a one-yard touchdown pass on fourth and goal. A couple of high-leverage situations went the Titans way, and the Denver defense will hope to turn its fortune around in Week 2.
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Broncos Special Teams Predictions
Brandon McManus enters his seventh year with the Broncos, and he has played 16 games in each of the previous five seasons. In just McManus’ sophomore NFL season, he kicked for the Super Bowl champion Broncos and made all three of his field-goal attempts in the 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers.
Although McManus still has yet to make the Pro Bowl, he owns the fourth-best extra point percentage among active kickers. He made a high percentage of his field goal kicks in his second and third seasons before seeing a dip down to 75 percent accuracy in 2017. However, McManus improved his field goal kicking to 80 percent in 2018 and 85 percent in 2019. He will hope to break his career-best 86 percent mark from 2015 this year.
Broncos Head Coach Predictions
Long-time coach Vic Fangio finally entered the ranks as an NFL head coach in 2019 with the Broncos. His coaching career began in 1979 as a high school linebacker coach in Pennsylvania. He since spent time as an assistant coach with seven different NFL teams and multiple colleges in addition to even having a stint with the United States Football League.
Fangio, who turned 62 years old in August, is in his second year with the Broncos and is hoping to bring defensive success to Denver. He led some tremendous defensive units with the San Francisco 49ers in the early 2010s and the Chicago Bears in 2018. After the Broncos finished with a top-10 defense in 2019, Fangio hopes to bring that defense into the top five in 2020. Without Miller, though, a top-10 defense would still suffice for the Broncos this year.
Broncos Predictions for Week 2
Denver heads to Pittsburgh for a critical Week 2 contest at 1:00 pm eastern time. As the Steelers are looking to avoid a third consecutive year out of the playoffs, the Broncos have not made the postseason since winning the Super Bowl. Denver is on its third head coach since the championship, while Mike Tomlin has been a model of consistency in Pittsburgh. However, just one game separated the 8-8 Steelers and 7-9 Broncos in 2019.
The Broncos and Steelers last faced off two years ago when QB Case Keenum was starting for Denver. Phillip Lindsay ran for 110 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos’ 24-17 victory, but unfortunately, he is not active for this contest. In the loss, QB Ben Roethlisberger completed 41 of his 56 pass attempts for 462 yards and a touchdown. The Broncos defense intercepted him twice, though, and held the Pittsburgh running game to just 75 yards. The 0-1 Broncos may be able to duplicate that performance against the 1-0 Steelers with Lock taking the place of Keenum and Gordon rushing as well as Lindsay did. Pittsburgh opened as a five-point favorite, but the line has moved to seven points. There is a value with the Broncos here, but a 7.5-point line would be preferable for those that do want to take Denver.
Broncos Predictions for 2020 Season
With the 2020 over/under for the Broncos being 7.5 wins, there may not be much value here in betting the over. Denver already is dealing with injuries early in the 2020 season. With the absence of Von Miller, the Broncos defense may not be able to consistently bring together impressive performances like it did in Week 1. There will be productive games for the defensive unit as well as for Lock, Gordon, Fant, and some of the receivers. There will not be enough victories to get Denver’s record to or above .500 and end the postseason drought. Therefore, the Broncos’ +7000 Super Bowl futures bet, which was +4000 before Miller’s injury, does not carry much value.
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