This year I again will be predicting the Broncos final win-loss record based on the results of the first game.
Two years ago I wrote this:
"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."
The Broncos did beat the Bengals, did start out 4-0, and did finish 8-8.
Then last year I wrote:
"If the Broncos lose to Jacksonville, it could start an early season tailspin that the team will not recover from. I still expect a win against Seattle at home the next week (1-1), followed by losses to Indianapolis, at Tennessee, at Baltimore, and to the Jets at home to start out 1-5. The losing will affect the morale of the team, and the seemingly easy games of the schedule (Oakland home and away, KC home and away, etc) won't look so easy. The team scratches out a few wins on the way to a disappointing 4-12 record."
The Broncos did lose to Jacksonville, won at Tennessee, but in the end the team did finish with a 4-12 record as I predicted. At the time that was seen as a very pessimistic prediction.
Now I am not claiming to be Nostradamus - I could easily have missed on that 2009 prediction if it weren't for that miracle finish in Cincinnati - but I do think the first game tells a lot about what type of team the Broncos will have for the current season. Things I'll be looking at for that opening Monday night game against the Raiders:
The Bronco pass rush has no doubt improved with Elvis Dumervil back and rookie Von Miller on the other side. How will this duo perform in "real" NFL action against an offense game planning against them, instead of the basic offensive schemes they faced in the preseason?
Is the Bronco run defense improved? Last year the Raiders ran for 328 yards and 5 td's in their blowout 59-14 win at Denver. Monday night will be a good test for the Bronco defense.
Will Bronco rookie right tackle Orlando Franklin hold up against the Raider pass rush? Franklin looked good in the run game in the preseason, but struggled in pass protection at times.
On to the predictions ...
If the Broncos beat the Raiders Monday night, they'll get off to a surprising 4-1 start before finishing the season with 8 wins and 8 losses. I'm calling for early season upset wins at Tennessee and against San Diego at home. The long season will wear on the Broncos shallow depth, however, and much like 2009 they won't finish the season as strong.
If the Broncos lose to the Raiders Monday night, they'll only improve slightly from last year's 4 win total, finishing with 5 wins and 11 losses. The Broncos have everything going for them Monday night - first home opener in years, sellout crowd against their most hated rivals, and a new coaching staff to put the nightmare McDaniels years behind them. If that is not enough to beat the Raiders, it will be another long season. I do think even if the team does finish with just 5 wins the future looks bright. The 2011 college draft looks better than the previous two years under McDaniels. John Elway and the new management team just needs a few years to rebuild the roster.