I'm looking forward to tomorrow's Bronco opener against the Cincinnati Bengals. Usually this time of year I make my predictions on the season. This year I am going to make my predictions based on what happens in the opener.
I was talking to a friend a few weeks back about the importance of this Cincinnati game. "If they win they'll finish 7-9, if they lose they'll be 6-10" he said. I think this game has far more importance on how the Broncos season will go than a mere one game swing in the standings.
If the Broncos beat the Bengals ...
It'll be a huge boost in the team's confidence. All the critics of the offseason changes and disappointing preseason will be quieted. If the Broncos can beat a good Bengals team on the road, I predict they start out 4-0. The schedule then gets much tougher, and they'll finish with an 8-8 record. Matching last year's win total with all the offseason turmoil and changes in personel will be a good season in my book. A few weeks ago I said that this bronco season reminds me of the miracle 1977 season. I still say that, but the only chance for a surprise season this year is to win the opener.
If the Broncos play a good game but lose by 7 points or less to the Bengals ...
It'll be disappointing but encouraging at the same time. Lose a close game to the Bengals and I say the team is 2-2 after 4 games and finishes 6-10.
If the Broncos get blown out by the Bengals ...
They'll also lose to the Raiders in two weeks and they could very well lose to Cleveland in game 2. It'll be a disappointing season with maybe a surprise win or two - the team finishes 4-12.
I'm hesitant to pick a win/loss total now because we really don't know what we have with Josh McDaniel's Broncos. The Cincinnati game will tell us alot. What kind of game plan does the rookie coach come up with in a real NFL game? (the preseason is not a good indicator). Is Kyle Orton a competent starting quarterback in this offense? Is the Bronco defense really improved and able to cause turnovers? How about McDaniels first draft class? (will rb Moreno have an impact? Will nickel back and returner Alphonso Smith show his worth?)
I'll miss the first half of the Bengals game as I will be in transit to Las Vegas for a work conference. I'm going to plan the rest of my Sunday based on what happens in the first half; if the Broncos are in the game I'll skip the opening session of my conference and watch the game at a Las Vegas Sports Book. If they are getting blown out I'll forget about football for the day (or at least until the evening, when I'll be in a sports book watching Jay Cutler vs the Packers!)