Are you a Denver Broncos expert?
Any old fool could predict that Peyton Manning will go to the Pro Bowl this year, or that Montee Ball will eventually be the starting RB. But here, loyal Bronco practitioners, I'll attempt to separate the amateur prognosticators from the Nostradamian soothsayers. I give you six stupid, reckless, and fearless predictions about the 2013 Broncos.
Ridiculous as they may be, I expect you to hold me to these throughout the season. If all goes well, I expect to be lifted in a chair, and paraded down Pearl Street, hailed as the one true Bronco genius. If not, I'll hang my disheveled head in defeat, muttering questions to myself in the corner, never to be taken seriously again.
Or, maybe half of these will come true and I'll maintain credibility as a loyal contributor and occasional over-reactor.
On to the predictions.
1. Rahim Moore will go to the Pro Bowl.
Quick, name last season's AFC Pro Bowler's at Free Safety. Alright, I'll help. Ed Reed and Jairus Byrd. There is reason to believe that neither of these players will return. Why? Conventional sentiment is that Ed Reed is over the hill. While still a player I'd welcome on my team, Houston's new safety just isn't the X-factor he used to be. Moreover, Ed Reed looks doubtful to start the season with a hip injury. At a position where fluidity, reaction, and range have everything to do with success, do you think an aging star with a bum hip will have a Pro Bowl year, especially if he misses extended time?(He narrowly avoided Houston's PUP list).
And what do you know, Jairus Byrd is in the same situation! Byrd will miss the beginning of the season with plantar fasciitis, a injury known to linger in athletes without extended periods of rest. And to complicate the matter, Byrd is franchised this year. Would you rush back to the field with a nagging injury when your future salary is in jeopardy? I've also read Byrd's contract talks this year were rather contentious...I'm going out on a limb and predicting his season won't be full of the spectacular, risky ballhawkery he's known for.
And now, to Rahim. Ah yes, the stupid "Mile High Miracle," the "Flacco Fling" or "Rahim's Ruin," or whatever you want to call it. Terrible play. But in a way, he has brought magnificent exposure to himself as a player. His name-power doubled on that day, which is to say, many more fans knew who he was after the blunder than before it (and working in PR requires me to repeat...any PR is good PR). But what most fans didn't see was Rahim excelling in coverage, tackling like a stud, and turning in all-around first rate safety play. This is a perfect storm. With a similarly solid year of play, no more blunders, and just a FEW more highlight reel plays than last year (big sacks or interceptions, even a pick 6...), Rahim's stock will soar. People love a good rebound story. And right now, with Rahim's ridiculously humble attitude, his relentless work ethic, and his steadily improving play all point toward Hawaii. Aloha, Rahim.
2. No Dumervil, and only 10/16ths of Von Miller, the Broncos will still finish in the top three in sack differential.
Denver crushed the competition last year. With 52 sacks, tied for best in NFL. They allowed 21 sacks, jjust one behind NYG's 20 for best in the league. The Broncos led the league with a +31 sack differential. Next best? St. Louis at +17. Here's where the guesswork gets bold: Dumervil's 11 sacks will be replaced by the total sack numbers of Shaun Phillips and Robert Ayers. Can they both get five? I think so. Von Miller will get 10/16ths of last year's sack total, which would come out to 11.5 sacks. Where do the extra 7 come from? Let's predict Derek Wolfe has a slightly better year with 8 sacks (+2), and the defensive line combines to improve by 4 more than they did last year, one from Unrein (up from zero), two from Knighton and one from Sly. Everyone else repeats the 2012 performance.
Or, let's just forget the convoluted numbers altogether. Three reasons we'll excel in sack differential: Peyton Manning's quick release, a solid season from the O-line (Vasquez is an upgrade while Ramirez a slight downgrade in pass protection...we'll call it a push), and Jack. Del. Rio. He'll get us pressure. Count on it. Over all sack numbers will be down, sure, but the differential will still be strong.
3. The Broncos will not have a 1000 yard rusher.
Did you think they'd all be positive? I admit I don't WANT this prediction to come true, but hey, I look into my crystal ball and I see what I see. As a sub-prediction, I see that inconsistency and injuries will make us have three different starting RBs this year. And yet, somehow the running game produces enough to be sturdy, and by season's end, the hot hand will be established for the playoffs. Nope, not gonna guess who that is.
4. Duke Ihenacho will lead the team in interceptions.
Screw it. I'm on the bandwagon. Hell, give me the damn baton and let me be the ring leader. I do think Ihenacho will have slip-ups, and it says here that he'll even be benched for Mike Adams for one particularly bone-headed gaffe somewhere early in the season, but despite all this, he'll still be a heck of a play maker. Some safeties last year who were among the league leaders in picks: Michael Griffin, Stevie Brown, Jairus Byrd. SS isn't typically a big INT position, but when you have an adventurous, hungry, "uba" athletic centerfielder, you might just have a recipe for success. I say he snags 5 INTs. Bonus points for those who get the Uba reference. (And yes, I'm hedging this prediction heavily against #1).
5. The Broncos will finish 12-4. They'll be both 6-2 at home and on the road.
Wouldn't be a prediction column without a record guess. You know I'm a homer, so rather than talk about the wins, I'll list our losses: On the road at New England and Dallas. At home against Washington and Kansas City. Ew. I just threw up in my mouth. There has to be a frustrating loss to a team we should crush (KC), a game where we play well but too many flukey turnovers doom us (let's say DAL), a game we get outcoached (NE), and one that catches us sleeping (WAS). I'd love a perfect season. But the '72 Dolphins just called me and told me that no, that's not gonna happen.
6. The Broncos go to Super Bowl XLVIII. And lose.
What?! Why? Why did I even think this or write it? I'm going to go hit my fingers with a hammer. I guess that's what I get for insisting that all my predictions be both "stupid" and "bold." This qualifies. Who do we lose to? In a snowy Meadowlands, our passing game gets grounded and Russell Wilson scrambles his way to Super Bowl MVP. Broncos fans arrive on my doorstep with torches and pitchforks. I answer the door weeping. Everyone has a group hug.
I'm going to go take a cold shower, now. Thanks for reading.
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