Photo via Steve Nehf, The Denver Post
As I am writing this, the Broncos are currently down 13-0 to the Tennessee Titans. The Titans are not a bad team, but by no means are they a very good team. I thought the end to the Broncos era of dominance was going to come early this season, but they seemed to escape reality for a few months longer than expected. I believe they are a solid team, that could win anywhere from 8-10 games depending on how lucky they are, and this season they got lucky. For example, the first game of the year was luck when the Panthers missed a 30 something yard field goal to win. Funny how that kick could be the difference in the two teams’ season. A Broncos hot start versus the Panthers’ slow start. Both are still solid teams, but one team got lucky bounces and the other did not. Nevertheless, the Denver era is coming to an end for a few reasons.
Lack of Talent at the Quarterback Position:
They went from having arguably the greatest regular season quarterback in history to journeyman Trevor Siemian from Northwestern. He is an okay quarterback, but with the injury to CJ Anderson, there is not much hope for the offense this year. Every single game they play, the defense keeps them in the game, but Denver consistently doesn’t have more than 10 points heading into the 4th quarter, making it very difficult for Denver to beat any good teams. Denver should be able to beat bad teams in the league because of their defense. Furthermore, they are not going to beat bad teams because of their offense (meaning they will only win because of their defense), and they will lose to bad teams because of the lack of offensive firepower. Siemian is an okay quarterback and is a nice stop gap for Denver, but he is not going to be a playoff quarterback anytime soon.
Went From a Historic Defense to a Very Good Defense:
Last year, this team won so many games because of the defense scoring. You knew the Denver defense was guaranteed for clutch turnovers that lead to at least 6 points every game. But this year’s team has lost Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan, two very important players from last year. Denver’s rush defense has dropped off a lot this year and that has to be credited to the loss of those two players. Don’t get me wrong, I would take this defense over the many other defenses in the league, but last year’s team was among the best defenses I have ever seen, which made up for the lackluster play at Quarterback. In the end, they do not have the talent like they did last year to be historic and force clutch turnovers for as many scores as they did. That ability involves a certain amount of luck that you can’t expect for two seasons in a row (still need the talent to do so, but to be historic luck needs to be present).
The Rise of the AFC West:
My last point is quick and simple. The AFC West is the best division in football, so it is going to be that much harder for them to win. Denver has the worst quarterback in the division every time they play an opponent in the AFC west, so that is a huge disadvantage that the defense has to make up for every single game. Denver is in decline and there are young teams like Oakland, who has a quarterback in Derek Carr who seems like he will be elite for at least a decade to come, and Kansas City who has a solid quarterback in Alex Smith and a hall of fame coach in Andy Reid. Those two teams will be playoff contenders for any foreseeable future making it very hard for me to believe that Denver will be able to overtake them. Also, you can not forget about the Hall Of Fame quarterback in San Diego, or maybe LA for the future, who knows. But he will be making it difficult for Denver for at least the next few years. Overall, Denver plays in the toughest division in football with two up and coming teams. When that mixes with a team that is in decline, it makes for a spoiled recipe.
*** I am watching the Denver game now and it looks like they are about to take the lead to go up 14-13. They may win this game, but it does not change their future outlook and anything about this team. It can all change if they get a quarterback, but we all know how hard it is to do that. ( Tony Romo could be a very nice answer for next season that would make them a Super Bowl Contender, but that can be an article for later). ***