After a couple of big gets for the Broncos in the offseason - including A.J. Bouyé, Jurrell Casey, Graham Glasgow and Melvin Gordon - plus the hope of healthy returns and big-time performances from Bryce Callahan, Ja’Wuan James and De’Vante Bausby, there’s reason to be optimistic that Vic Fangio’s second season as head coach will produce a winning record.
Maybe even a playoff berth.
It would be a first for the team since winning Super Bowl 50 in 2016.
And it is also being predicted by ESPN’s Mike Clay, who has created a model for projecting wins for each NFL team as well as some likely scenarios for playoffs based on the win-loss projection.
And for the Broncos, Clay believes Denver can get 8.3 wins (so depending on how you want to round that up or not, a winning season, I guess). But more importantly, in Clay’s model, the Broncos end up as the sixth seed in the AFC, good enough for a playoff appearance (unfortunately he has Chiefs winning 11.1 games and taking the AFC West again, but at least Raiders and Chargers are out!)
“I think they’re very much in the mix. I think there’s plenty of competition for those last couple of wild cards,” Clay told Phil Milani and Aric DeLalla on Broncos TV this week, noting that Tennessee, Houston and Cleveland are all in the mix. “I actually don’t have the Patriots in the playoffs right now. I have them at 8.2 wins, right behind Denver. Maybe the Chargers based on their defense can hang in there, and maybe they’ll draft a quarterback that makes an impact.”
Clay did express some hesitation over the Broncos’ offense, saying he wasn’t completely confident it could perform.
But that Denver D...
”Love the defense,” he said, noting that the defense as is should be enough to keep the Broncos in the seven-to-nine-win range. “I love this unit. It is stacked.”
Clay pointed to Chicago’s previously No. 1 defense that fell off the moment Fangio left to coach the Broncos. With additions like Jurrell Casey and the return of Shelby Harris - along with a healthy Bradley Chubb and motivated Von Miller plus an “above-average linebacker corps” and a solid 1-2 punch with Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson - Clay sees big potential.
“Honestly, it’s hard to find weak spots here,” he said, noting the need to address depth at corner. “We’ll see if they address that in the draft or sign someone, but I really, really like this unit. I think it’s one of the best in the league.”
When it comes to the quarterback, Clay’s model gives some very specific predictions. And for Drew Lock, the numbers are...decent:
15 games, 316-of-497 passes, 3,491 yards, 21 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 32 sacks
”He flashed a little bit as a rookie, but the sample is very small,” Clay said. “The efficiency, not really good. It was below average. Again, that’s not necessarily a knock. He’s a rookie. Rookies aren’t generally going to light it up.”
Clay’s biggest concern with Lock is just not knowing enough yet because as a rookie, he only played five games - not a large enough sample size.
“We don’t know for sure if Lock is going to be good or not,” Clay admitted. “I think there’s optimism there, and that’s fine. But there’s been a laundry list of optimism for quarterbacks going into their first full year as a starter, and a lot of them do not pan out. It’s even worse when a guy’s not a first-round pick.”
For the running game, Clay sees Melvin Gordon edging out Phillip Lindsay on total rushing yards, but both bringing in 700+ yards on the ground while Gordon tops Lindsay in the reception yards, 365 versus 205.
He has Courtland Sutton breaking 1,000 yards for a second season in three and seven touchdowns, and Noah Fant tabulating more than 550 yards plus four touchdowns.
Clay doesn’t like to predict sacks because they’re hard to project - especially based on previous sack stats. Instead he likes to look at a “pass-rush win rate” developed by the ESPN stats department.
With that tool he came up with 8.5 sacks for Miller and 7.7 for Chubb and 5 for Casey. The team total was 40, which is exactly what the Broncos finished with last season. Hopefully, Clay’s predictions are on the low end.
“These guys will still rank in near the top of the league in sacks.”
How many wins you got for the Broncos in 2020?
This poll is closed
16, baby! (for you, Whorfin)
If magic happens, 11 or 12
I feel confident with 10
7-9 as Clay suggests is about right
I’m a Raiders/Chiefs/Chargers fan so I vote six or less.
Docllv’s picks of the day
My favorite player: John Elway – The Athletic
Everything Elway went through was worth it because of how it ended. And his journey inspired a young fan to search for those stories.
Scranton Toughness: How a northeast town connected Graham Glasgow to the Broncos – The Athletic
Vic Fangio, Mike Munchak and Steve Glasgow — Graham's father — all played high school football in the Scranton area.
Why Shelby Harris is grateful for his smaller-than-expected deal with the Broncos
In the current environment, Harris is thankful for the one-year contract he signed.
Von Miller has more mountains to climb. Here's how he plans to scale them
After eight Pro Bowls, seven years in which he was a first- or second-team All-Pro selection, a Super Bowl MVP award and more sacks in his first nine seasons than all but four players since the sack became an official statistic in 1982, Von Miller’s resume was already worthy of enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Does Broncos defense need another DB to turn the corner?
The Broncos spent the offseason addressing their defense through trades, acquiring cornerback A.J. Bouye, defensive tackle Jurrell Casey and re-signing defensive end Shelby Harris. They could use another corner in the draft.
Broncos seven-round mock draft, 3.0: 10 picks to reshape Denver roster
With the rest of the sports world currently at a stand-still, the three-day event should offer some entertainment, while also allowing Broncos general manager John Elway to continue to retool his roster.
Jurrell Casey motivated for 2020 season after trade
After being traded by the Titans, Jurrell Casey is eager to prove with the Broncos that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
2020 NFL Draft Preview: These former CSU Rams have the best chance to succeed at the next level
FORT COLLINS, Colo. — There are a lot of questions surrounding the 2020 NFL Draft. We don't know where the event will take place, who exactly will be
Chiefs re-sign CB Bashaud Breeland to 1-year deal - NFL.com
The Kansas City Chiefs are keeping another veteran who aided their Super Bowl run, inking cornerback Bashaud Breeland to a one-year deal, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Thursday.
Tagovailoa conducts workout, sends video to all 32 teams - NFL.com
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took part in a one-hour workout that amounted to a virtual pro day, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported.
58 prospects to virtually participate in NFL draft - NFL.com
Fifty-eight prospects -- including potential top picks Joe Burrow, Chase Young and Tua Tagovailoa -- will participate virtually in the 2020 NFL Draft, which takes place April 23-25.
2020 NFL mock draft ... with a twist! What teams SHOULD do - NFL.com
Great job on the decision to roll with Drew Lock this season. He looked great at the end of last year. And now you have to...