1. Who is the easiest player on the roster to root for?
Peyton Manning. Four neck surgeries, 37 years old, an annual playoff exit, one Super Bowl victory. Manning has the opportunity to retire as the greatest NFL quarterback of all time. But he has to win another Super Bowl or two to make the argument. This year's Denver Broncos may be his absolutely best chance.
2. If you could buy a ticket to just one game this year...
That's easy. The season opener. The first game. Three days away. Revenge on the Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens. Broncos fans have been waiting for this game for nearly eight months. The Joe Flacco banners all over Denver have added fuel to the fire - that fire being Denver's contempt for the Ravens. I foresee a giant human ladder, crafted of hundreds of Broncos fans, to take down the giant Flacco poster currently hanging on the stadium the Broncos call home. And I would gladly be part of this human ladder to take Flacco's mug off the stadium and ceremoniously burn it in the center of Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
The football should be pretty good too.
3. Who were some of the surprising veteran cuts this offseason?
The most significant and surprising cuts happened long before training camp, when the Broncos released Elvis Dumervil and Willis McGahee. Dumervil accepted a renegotiated contract but infamously didn't get the fax into the Broncos in time; his release was a PR nightmare for Denver. McGahee's salary hit was too high for the role the Broncos wanted him to play - they are moving forward with giving Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball the bulk of the carries.
Otherwise the Broncos were able to keep most of their veterans this season as roster cuts approached. The only surprising veteran cut out of camp may be Ryan Lilja, who the Broncos talked out of retirement weeks earlier. Lilja just didn't perform well enough to justify the roster spot.
4. Which second year player is going to make the biggest leap?
This is a tough question, because the Broncos' top two draft choices from a year ago, Derek Wolfe and Ronnie Hillman, are each expected to play much larger roles for Denver this year. I'm going with Derek Wolfe. Wolfe looks bigger and faster in training camp and has clearly taken to Denver's conditioning program with dedication and aggression. He'll start at defensive end and move inside to DT in nickel packages, having a ton of opportunities to create pressure. And I expect a big leap forward for Wolfe this year.
5. What are the odds of your head coach getting fired?
Higher than people might think. If the Broncos fall on their face in the playoffs again, and if conservative playcalling is part of the reason, I think heads will roll, including John Fox's. The talent on this team is too good, and the opportunity too great, to allow Foxball to ruin Denver's chance of a third Super Bowl.
6. What franchise or NFL records could be broken this season?
With receivers Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker catching passes from Peyton Manning, think "passing records" and you will have the right idea. Most passing yards, touchdowns, receptions, first trio of 1,000-yard receivers in franchise history - all are possible with this group of offensive talent.
7. Which rookies will see regular playing time this year?
Montee Ball is the Broncos' 1B running back, and barring injury I predict he'll have the most carries of any Broncos running back before years' end. Sylvester Williams will be in the mix along the defensive line, though fans need to be patient with Sly: defensive tackle is one of the most difficult positions to play in the NFL as a rookie.
8. Predict the order of finish in your division.
9. What do you expect your season-end record will be?
As stated above, 11-5. I think the Broncos losing Von Miller will be a large detriment to the defense, especially with Champ Bailey possibly injured to start the season as well. I think a team that had potential to go 16-0 but likely 13-3 is now looking at a tougher slate of games, so I docked a few games in their first six-week stretch in considering the changes on defense.
Still, the regular season is just the regular season. I definitely think the 2013 Denver Broncos will be in the mix for Super Bowl XLVIII. More to come in our full 2013 season preview Wednesday.