NFL Season Preview – Cincinnati Bengals

For the first time in years, the Bengals have hope. 

This optimism rests on the shoulders of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow. The 23-year-old enters the league with plenty of pressure. He’s expected to turn around a franchise that has had four straight losing seasons and hasn’t won a playoff game since January 6th, 1991. 

Cincinnati was aggressive in free agency for the first time in decades. They committed over $130 million to eight unrestricted free agents, including six projected starters.  Despite their offseason additions, there are still plenty of question marks surrounding this team. 

Head coach Zac Taylor is entering his second season with the Bengals. He posted an NFL worst 2-14 record in 2019. There are plenty of reasons why the 37-year-old struggled in his first year with the Bengals, but he needs to get it turned around quickly. 

The team is much more talented than the one Taylor inherited a year ago. He has to show the Bengals and the rest of the league that he can get the most out of Burrow. If he can be that guy, then Cincinnati has their head coach for the long haul.

Offense

There were plenty of obstacles in Burrow’s way this offseason. He didn’t get in person OTA’s, minicamp or preseason games. He’s embraced the challenge and believes he’ll overcome the adversity. The rookie signal-caller showed up to camp in great shape and knows the playbook inside and out.

“He’s an absolute beast. He’s an animal out there,” said tight end C.J. Uzomah. “He’s getting us in and out of all the right protections and making all the right checks and certain checks I didn’t even know we were allowed to check into. He’s like, ‘Why not? Go out there and do this. Come in here and do this.'”

Burrow isn’t the only player on offense that enters this season with high expectations. The Bengals placed the franchise tag on seven-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green. They’re banking on him reverting back to his old self. He missed all of last season with an ankle injury. 

Cincinnati has given Burrow plenty of weapons to work with, at least on paper. They drafted Tee Higgins with the 33rd overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The rookie grew up idolizing Green. He’ll also be able to learn from Tyler Boyd, John Ross and Auden Tate. 

Running back Joe Mixon is arguably the best player on the team. He’s entering his fourth NFL season. The Bengals hope to sign him to an extension before the season starts. Mixon could be used more in the passing game this season. Catching the ball out of the backfield was a strength of his at Oklahoma, but Cincinnati hasn’t utilized those skills as much since they drafted him in 2017. 

The success of this offense is going to come down to the trenches. Can Jonah Williams be a franchise left tackle after missing all of his rookie season with a shoulder injury? Is Michael Jordan a starting left guard in the pros? Can Bobby Hart be competent, or will he always be a below average player? 

The Bengals did sign guard Xavier Su’a-Filo in free agency, who projects to start next to Hart on the right side, but they did little else to improve one of the NFL’s worst units. Offensive line issues could potentially derail another season in Cincinnati. 

Defence

The Bengals completely remade one of the league’s worst defences this offseason. They released cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick and let Darqueze Dennard leave in free agency. 

They signed five starters in free agency: D.J. Reader, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Josh Bynes and Vonn Bell. Waynes is expected to miss most of the season after suffering a torn pectoral muscle in training camp, but the defence should be much improved. 

Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap are back. Combine them with youngsters like Sam Hubbard and Carl Lawson and the Bengals should have one of the better defensive lines in the NFL.  Cincinnati was a poor tackling team in 2019, which is why they added Reader, Alexander and Bell. They also drafted three linebackers — Logan Wilson, Akeem Davis-Gaither and Markus Bailey.  Athletic linebackers that can run, and cover are a necessity in today’s NFL, especially in a division with Lamar Jackson, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. 

It’s a huge year for William Jackson III. The fifth-year cornerback is in the final year of his contract. The Bengals are hoping he can re-establish himself as one of the premier cover corners in the game. 

Jackson had a breakout 2017 campaign but took a step back in 2018 and was awful last year. He had shoulder surgery this offseason to repair a torn labrum that he played with for most of last season. With Waynes expected to miss most of the year, the Bengals need Jackson to be an elite cover corner in 2020.

Predicted Record: 3-13

From Burrow to Green and Atkins, the Bengals have the plenty of high-end players. They also have plenty of question marks. Can Green stay healthy? Will the offensive line keep Burrow upright? How will the rookie quarterback adjust to life in the NFL? Can the young linebackers get up to speed and make an impact in 2020? Is Taylor the right coach for the job?

There are dozens of questions surrounding this team. They were aggressive this offseason and addressed multiple weaknesses, but offensive line issues are going to put a cap on what the Bengals can do this season, even if guys like Green and Ross can stay healthy. 

With so many uncertainties and a rookie quarterback, this year might just have to be a transition year for the Bengals.

NFL Season Preview – Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns are coming off a disappointing year and need to redeem themselves. They’re doing this whilst trying to implement a new defence and offense under a first-year head coach in a year impacted by COVID-19. 

Kevin Stefanski walked into a good situation from a talent perspective, but he has to navigate the challenges of a shortened offseason. He’s also breaking through the Browns self-imposed struggles all while trying to prove he’s up to the job of being a head coach. The early returns have been promising in terms of the team’s plan, organization and how the rookies have performed to this point.

Still, for everything that suggests the Browns should be much better this year, they are in a division with two of the teams least impacted by turnover in a year that will reward teams for continuity in the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers.

The challenge for the Browns is getting up to speed fast enough to be able to compete right out of the gate when they face the Ravens. If not, they could round to form later in the year, becoming a dangerous team potentially in a hole trying to scratch and claw their way into the postseason.

Offense

With the additions of Jack Conklin and Austin Hooper in free agency, Andy Janovich in a trade and the selection of Jedrick Wills in the NFL Draft, the Browns are hoping their offense is essentially done for the next two seasons. They have star power in Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry at wide receiver, Hooper at tight end, Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield and Joel Bitonio and Conklin on the line.

Everything the Browns have done has been with the goal of putting Baker Mayfield in position to excel. He was one of the major selling points for Stefanski taking the job and the organization is completely invested in his success.

Stefanski is putting in a wide zone scheme that he ran as the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings, rooted in philosophies made famous by Mike Shanahan. The Browns hired Bill Callahan to coach the offensive line and they plan to use multiple tight end sets a significant amount of the time with Hooper and David Njoku.

The stated goal of Stefanski is to make passes look like runs and make runs look like passes to force defenses to hesitate in their reads, giving the offense an advantage. Nick Chubb was as good as any back in the league last year and should create more opportunities to excel in the passing game for Mayfield.

Beckham and Landry are healthy this season and practicing this year, which is a change from last year where they were already dealing with groin and hip issues respectively that would last through the entire season. Not only does Beckham look like himself in terms of his quickness and ability to cut, but he and Mayfield look like they have more chemistry than ever did last year. The offense has the bulk of the talent on this team and must be the driving force if the Browns are going to be successful.

Defence

The defence returns an extremely talented line that didn’t meet expectations last year while the linebackers and safety position were overhauled this offseason. Joe Woods, the team’s new defensive coordinator, is putting less emphasis on the linebacker position and increasing the team’s reliance on the secondary.

Myles Garrett was playing at a Defensive Player of the Year level before he was suspended. Olivier Vernon dealt with injuries that limited his impact after a promising start to the year. Sheldon Richardson was the last man standing and became more impactful in the second half of the year, but the three were never firing on all cylinders at the same time.

The Browns added Adrian Clayborn to improve their edge depth. They drafted Jordan Elliott to help Richardson, but Andrew Billings opted out of this season, so nose remains a question mark.

The Browns opted to release Chris Kirksey and let Joe Schobert walk in free agency, going with a far younger, more economical approach. They signed B.J. Goodson and recently brought in Malcolm Smith, but there is no bankable talent in this group that has proven themselves to this point. The defensive scheme is trying to limit their responsibility, but they still have to step up to the challenge.

Denzel Ward is a capable, proven corner. The rest of the secondary has talent but has to come together and get the job done. Greedy Williams, in no small part to a hamstring injury, struggled as a rookie. The Browns signed Kevin Johnson, who has shined in the slot but is currently recovering from a lacerated liver. They recently claimed M.J. Stewart from waivers after he was jettisoned by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to provide more depth in the slot.

At safety, the Browns cleaned house save for Sheldrick Redwine and J.T. Hassell. The Browns brought in Karl Joseph, Andrew Sendejo and rookie Grant Delpit. Woods wants to be able to utilize three safeties on the field.

Predicted Record: 9-7

There are a number of hurdles placed in front of the Browns, but they do have a much kinder schedule than last year. The Browns might scuffle early as the team takes time to gel, but the goal is for them to gain momentum as the season progresses and find a way to squeeze into the expanded playoff field. If they can get into the playoffs, this experience to prepare them for a more serious run in 2021.

NFL Season Preview – Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh are coming off an 8-8 season so 2020 is about redemption but it won’t be easy. From Ben Roethlisberger’s revenge tour to finding the postseason for the first time in three years, everyone at the Steelers have something to prove this season. 

The doubt is real for this team. Many have little faith a 38-year-old quarterback can find success again, a fourth-year wide receiver is as talented as they once believed, or the pieces that led them to an 8-8 season without a starting quarterback are strong enough to take them further. 

Then, there are the up-and-coming teams around them. The Baltimore Ravens appear to be a lock for the division. The Cleveland Browns are yet again looked at as the next powerhouse of the AFC North. And somehow, there’s more faith in Joe Burrow than Big Ben. 

Mike Tomlin isn’t on the hot seat, but some sure love to say he needs to be. But after proving he’s capable of finding success without the most prominent pieces to his team, he’s looking to do even more with them back. 

Don’t sleep on the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2020. There are too many chess pieces returning to the field, with too much to prove, to think this season is going to be a bust. But if Roethlisberger struggles, a semi-final appearance in the AFC could be the best they could hope for.

Offense

The offense starts with Roethlisberger. Returning from surgery on his elbow, the 17-year veteran appears to have more pep in his step than years past. Tight end Vance McDonald said earlier this month that he’s “never seen Seven like this.” Confirming he’s “all the way back” from his injury in 2019. 

The last time Roethlisberger was healthy, he led the NFL with 5,129 passing yards and a career-high 34 touchdowns. JuJu Smith-Schuster caught for 1,426 yards, and James Conner added a Pro Bowl and 973 yards to his resume. Roethlisberger isn’t the only addition to the offense, though. The Steelers signed tight end Eric Ebron to a two-year, $12 million deal in March. They also drafted wide receiver Chase Claypool with their second-round pick in the NFL Draft. 

Ebron provides another big-bodied receiving target for Roethlisberger while complimenting McDonald. He’s said his ankle is back to 100%, and so far, McDonald has described him as the “missing link” to the offense. 

Claypool may only be entering his first NFL season but so far so good for the rookie. Cornerback Joe Haden raved about Claypool’s talent during training camp, saying, “he’s going to be a problem.” 

Finally, there’s the offensive line. After losing Ramon Foster to retirement, the Steelers made adjustments to their starting five. 

Matt Feiler moved to left guard after spending the last two seasons at right tackle. Chuks Okorafor and Zach Banner are competing for the vacant tackle spot, while rookie Kevin Dotson and offseason signing Stefen Wisniewski provide depth on the inside. 

Offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett said the competition would go until Week 1 of the season to allow both players to use as much time as possible to earn the job. Okorafor is entering his third year in the league. He’s a former third-round pick for the team. Banner has spent time in three cities since being drafted in 2017. 

Defence

The defence starts with Defensive Player of the Year finalist T.J. Watt and ends in centerfield with Minkah Fitzpatrick. Everything in between has the potential to be a Pro Bowler. The Steelers defence could very likely end up in the top five of the NFL in 2020. Somehow Watt looks better than he has in years past, and he still has his running mate Bud Dupree for another season. 

In the middle, Devin Bush said he’ll play every snap this season if needed. He and Vince Williams are expected to be the vocal leaders for this defence, but Ulysees Gilbert is making plenty of progress as a confident backup inside linebacker. 

Steven Nelson and Joe Haden secured the tag team name “Batman and Superman” this offseason. Haden is coming off his third Pro Bowl but said 2020 is the year the league recognizes Nelson for his talent. Terrell Edmunds is being counted on to make a significant leap in his third season, but if he doesn’t, the team can count on Fitzpatrick to provide security. 

Trading for the safety came with no regret last year as Pittsburgh found an All-Pro at centerfield. This year, he said he doesn’t plan to change his game much, just find ways to create more turnovers without being targeted. Fitzpatrick forced five interceptions and secured two fumble recoveries since coming to Pittsburgh in Week 3 last season. 

And finally, the defensive line. The team lost Javon Hargrave to free agency but regained Stephon Tuitt after tearing his pectoral in 2019. 

Cameron Heyward is working on a contract year but is willing to spend the season as the team’s captain without a new deal. Tyson Alualu is stepping in to replace Hargrave and appears confident after ten years in the NFL. 

This is all without mentioning one of the NFL’s best slot corners in Mike Hilton, some quality depth players such as Cameron Sutton, newly signed Curtis Riley and rookie linebacker Alex Highsmith. 

Predicted Record: 9-7

It’s not too optimistic. The Steelers have one of the league’s best defences, a returning Pro Bowl quarterback, more depth all around, and the NFL’s second-easiest schedule. 

Considering the Baltimore Ravens could be the next 16-0 team, and some road opponents could sneak up on them. However, they’re coming off an 8-8 season so expectations should be lowered. If things go well, they could even go 12-4 but 9-7 is the worse Steelers fans should expect even if Roethlisberger’s decline continues.

NFL Season Preview – AFC South

AFC South is known as the strangest division in football and this season it is bound to get even stranger. The Texans traded their best player that’s not named Deshaun Watson, this was the off-season’s most second-guessed deal. The Titans backed out of the Tom Brady negotiations to focus on building an offense around Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill. The Colts handed the reins of their young offense to a 38-year-old coming off a down season. And the once-promising Jaguars went from chasing a playoff spot to positioning themselves for the number one pick in 2021 draft.

Every team, in some way, seems to be reeling from disappointment. Houston not only blew a 24-point playoff lead to the Chiefs but also a chance to host the AFC championship game. Tennessee, after defeating the heavily favoured Ravens, fell to Kansas City a week later. In Jacksonville, any sense of optimism that remained after a stunning run to the 2017 AFC title game evaporated with so many top players heading for the exits. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey forced a trade in the middle of last season, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue is trying to do the same this year, and cornerback A.J. Bouye was traded to Denver this off-season.

It is weird to consider that this division was a few plays from having its best two teams face off for the AFC title. And yet none of them felt the need to improve. Is anyone seriously slotting an AFC South team to make the Super Bowl ahead of the Chiefs, Patriots, Ravens or Steelers? Maybe, Tennessee signed Tannehill to a four-year, $118 million extension this offseason, but does the idea of him at the helm send shivers down opponents’ spines? And can a Watson-led offense inspire the same fear when he no longer has DeAndre Hopkins and his insane catch radius to target?

The Colts are arguably the division’s most fascinating team this year. While they have all the foundational pieces to make a serious playoff push, the signing of Philip Rivers, after 16 seasons with the Chargers, could be either remarkably good or just awful. Frank Reich is one of the best and most adaptable coaches in football, and he spent a few years with Rivers in San Diego from 2013 to 2015. But can football smarts and a history of shared success stave off Rivers’s decline? Especially as mobility has become central to the quarterback position and the development of modern schemes, Rivers is one of the league’s remaining throwbacks. He is coming off his worst season, with 20 interceptions and only 23 touchdowns. But he is also only a year removed from ranking among the NFL’s three best passers, and at this point he has seen and diagnosed nearly every scheme by every defensive coordinator in football. This experience could end up being invaluable.

You can definitely see what the Colts were thinking when they signed him. Imagine if Rivers regains his form of a few years ago while paired with the young skill position talent in Indianapolis. Then the strangest division in football may spring a surprise for everyone.

Indianapolis Colts

Predicted Record: 10-6

Rivers could show his old spark and perform like he’s at the peak of his powers, finding young wide receivers Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell. Marlon Mack and second-round rookie Jonathan Taylor from Wisconsin have the potential to become one of the NFL’s top running back tandems.
However, Rivers could prove to be in the kind of decline that even a good scheme cannot reverse, and the offense remains a neutral threat at best while some prime talent goes to waste. The investment in defensive tackler DeForest Buckner could go to waste. Indianapolis might look back with regret at the spring of 2020, especially as younger quarterbacks were on the market.

Tennessee Titans

Predicted Record: 9-7

Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith looks like he can work wonders once again. Whilst wide receiver A.J. Brown looks like he can also maintain his form, while Henry could continue to punish opponents. If Tannehill builds upon his breakout season, he’d earning every dollar of his new contract. At the end of this season, Smith could be on the wish list of every team needing a coach.
However, the toll of last year’s heavy workload might show on Henry, this would come at a horrible time as the Titans gave him a four-year, $50 million contract extension with $25.5 million guaranteed in July. If they can’t find their spark, the Titans might have to turn to third-round pick Darrynton Evans who doesn’t look ready for a feature role.

Houston Texans

Predicted Record: 7-9

The Texans may stumble, and this will be highlighted if Hopkins thrives in Arizona. This might lead to Watson growing unhappy. The young players on the offensive line don’t look to be making much development and the internal divisions may deepen in Houston. A disappointing season may lead to Bill O’Brien being sacked.

However, if the Hopkins trade, like the Jadeveon Clowney deal of 2019, proves to be not as disastrous as the critics thought; the combination of Will Fuller plus newly acquired wide receivers Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb could keep the passing game clicking. Running back David Johnson, picked up from the Cardinals as part of the Hopkins deal, could also regain his All-Pro form of 2016.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Predicted Record: 2-14

If running back Leonard Fournette doesn’t rally in his contract year, this would mark another disappointing result from a former first-round pick. After Ramsey stormed his way off the roster during last season, Ngakoue has to step up. If results go wrong and coach Doug Marrone can’t pull the locker room together and the franchise could quickly fall into turmoil.

For success, Gardner Minshew will need to develop into a reliable quarterback, and wide receiver Laviska Shenault will need to prove to be a second-round bargain. Despite only a middling record, the Jaguars could emerge from the season feeling good enough about their foundation to spend lavishly on free agents in 2021 and to a run at the division next year.

NFL Season Preview – Houston Texans

For the Houston Texans, this season will be filled with extreme highs and devastating lows. Head coach and now general manager Bill O’Brien’s club finished the 2019 season 10-6 with yet another AFC South division title under its belts. And despite a spirited victory against the Buffalo Bills in the wildcard round, as is the trend for the Texans in the postseason it all came to a disappointing and premature end at the hand of the soon to be Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.

The 2020 edition of the Texans promises differences, now with a young offensive play-caller in Tim Kelly, a newly appointed defensive coordinator in Anthony Weaver and a fellow first-time coordinator in special-teams coach Tracy Smith. All three coaches bring with them high expectations from peers and players alike, and hopefully, a fresh take on Houston’s at-times stagnant play-calling of recent years.

Offense

The elephant in the (locker) room is, of course, the DeAndre Hopkins trade. Swapping away a generational talent such as Hopkins is unusual at the best of times but doing so in the form of a second-round pick this year, a fourth-rounder next year, and running back David Johnson. Whether or not this trade was “ludicrous” or “genius” we will have to wait and see, but the ramifications of this trade go beyond just adjusting who will be QB Deshaun Watson’s top target.

Johnson will essentially replace last year’s surprise star, running back Carlos Hyde. A career year for the journeyman ended with 1,070 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. Given O’Brien and Kelly’s penchant for using their backs all over the field, the addition of a player with a diverse skillset like Johnson will only bolster this offense as he looks to forge a partnership with fellow dual-threat back Duke Johnson.

With Hopkins now in Arizona, the question remained who would take over his reps. The obvious candidate is fifth-year receiver Will Fuller. The speedster out of Notre Dame is one of the most productive receivers in the game, when healthy.

However, his injury struggles continued in 2019 and thus the Texans opted to bring in fellow bullet-like receiver Brandin Cooks and slot expert Randall Cobb. Alongside third-year receiver Keke Coutee, who will be looking to return to his electrifying rookie form this season, Kenny Stills who was a real game-changer at times last season, rookie Isaiah Coulter, and return specialist DeAndre Carter this receiver room does not appear to have a clear number one target.

Throw in the stacked tight end room led by Darren Fells (fresh off a career year with seven touchdowns), Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas, and the potential diamond in the rough that is Kahale Warring and this offense suddenly goes from “interesting” to “potentially un-guardable.” It seems their philosophy is simple: give Watson as many targets as physically possible, and then add one more.

Defence

Newly appointed coordinator Weaver brings with him not only experience as an NFL starter (three years of those in Houston), but experience as a coach at NRG since 2016. Weaver’s former defensive line coach and defensive coordinator in Baltimore, Rex Ryan, spoke earlier this summer about the former Ravens aide’s promotion and it is safe to say his expectations are high.

“He’s one of the guys we’ll be talking about him as a head coach in the next few years with that kind of personality and that kind of charisma,” said Ryan, per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “He’s smart. Anthony’s going to do a great job. I’m really excited about him.”

The lineup will be similar to that of 2019 when it comes to starters, with the likes of J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Justin Reid the biggest names to watch for. Linebackers Benardrick McKinney and Zach Cunningham are two of the most under-appreciated at their position in the NFL, with Cunningham in particular on the rise this past season and, in my opinion, on his way to an All-Pro call-up. Also, keep an eye out for third-round rookie Jonathan Greenard as the year progresses.

Second-round rookie defensive tackle Ross Blacklock looks likely to fill the void left by D.J Reader after he departed in free agency for the Cincinnati Bengals for a four-year, $53 million deal the Texans simply couldn’t afford. Expect Angelo Blackson to take over more of Reader’s duties in the run game and it also wouldn’t be a shock if O’Brien brought in further depth at the position.

The Texans secondary has been their Achilles heel for some time now but expect some improvements this season. Cornerbacks Lonnie Johnson and Gareon Conley both enter their second seasons in this system, with the former having impressed greatly with his work ethic this offseason. Slot corner Bradley Roby returns having signed a new deal this year worth $31.5 million over three-years, rookie John Reid will look to be a special teams contributor early on, while versatile safety Eric Murray arrives from the Cleveland Browns to fill the hole left after the Texans let Tashaun Gipson go.

Predicted Record: 7-9

Given the lack of preseason games and a shorter training camp, predicting the success of any team at this point is harder than ever. However, while the defence may struggle for depth yet again this season, this versatile and entirely unpredictable offense should give fans plenty of reason to be excited. This team appears built on overpowering defences and still has star power on the other side of the ball, too.

Their schedule this year is undoubtedly tough. If they can reach the bye week after seven games with four wins, they would have reason to be ecstatic, with the Chiefs, Ravens, and Titans looking like the toughest games to win.

Optimistically, the Texans could finish this year 10-6 if their offense really takes shape as expected. More realistic might be 7-9, but if they are to keep up with their biggest division rivals in Tennessee, and an improving Philip Rivers-led Indianapolis Colts, they will have to hit the ground running. Injuries and potential losses due to COVID-19 on defence will prove the key this season. Their lack of depth at pass rush is a concern and their secondary are still questionable.

Whether the Texans can make the most of what is already one of the strangest NFL seasons to date will depend on the success of their new play-callers and their ability to adapt to a rapidly changing environment and squad.

NFL Season Preview – Indianapolis Colts

The Indianapolis Colts have made headlines moves to address their most important positions on offense and defence. This is hugely important as last year they missed out on the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years.

Quarterback Philip Rivers agreed to play his 17th season with the Colts for $25 million, and the 38-year-old passer is reunited with head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, who helped him thrive as Chargers assistants. Neither Reich nor general manager Chris Ballard were dissuaded by Rivers throwing 20 interceptions last season. They still see the arm strength, a quick release, and the smarts from an experienced leader who was already familiar with 85% of the Colts playbook when he signed.

Ballard raised eyebrows with the March acquisition of All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner from San Francisco for a 2020 first-round draft choice. Buckner, 26, is one of the NFL’s best three-technique players, a position that requires shooting gaps, taking on double teams, and being disruptive. The Colts haven’t had that since coordinator Matt Eberflus was hired with Reich in 2018. Buckner’s ability to rush the passer, play the run, and draw blocking attention will free up All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard to make even more plays.

Offense

Rivers joins an offense that ranked seventh in rushing and prides itself in the “Run The Damn Ball” mantra behind a line led by two-time All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson that was the NFL’s only unit without a missed start last season. The O-line returns intact. That means Rivers won’t have to resort to being the hero with desperation heaves, as was the case with the 5-11 Chargers. He has a run game to free up the passing lanes, where the gunslinger will be expected to exploit weaknesses down the field, something 2019 starter Jacoby Brissett struggled to do. Brissett is back to being the backup.

The Colts used a second-round selection on Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor, who joins returning starter Marlon Mack to form what Reich and Sirianni refer to as a “one-one punch.” Rivers loves to dump the ball off to backs, which means third-down specialist Nyheim Hines will get his share of touches.

Four-time Pro Bowl wide receiver T.Y. Hilton returns healthy after missing six games and putting up the lowest numbers of his eight-year career. He’s motivated to prove he’s worthy of a lucrative final contract to stay put. The Colts used their initial second-round pick on USC wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who at 6-4 and 223 pounds brings a physical presence to the position. Second-year wide receiver Parris Campbell looks fast and fully recovered from a rookie year slowed by three surgeries. Trey Burton joins a tight-end room led by Pro Bowl star Jack Doyle.

The biggest camp question was kicker, where incumbent Chase McLaughlin appears to have the edge on undrafted rookie Rodrigo Blankenship. The Colts had 15 missed kicks last year, including a league-high six extra points.

Defence

Leonard is always excited, but he seems even more ecstatic to have Buckner in front of him. In two seasons, “The Maniac” has 244 total tackles, 12 sacks, seven interceptions, and six forced fumbles. Now he has a defensive tackle who will demand attention, so blockers can’t get up field to negate the linebacker. The Colts’ 4-3 scheme relies on a triangle of key playmakers in Buckner, Leonard, and nickel cornerback Kenny Moore II.

Without a solid three-technique tackle and after Moore was side-lined by injury, the defence faltered in the second half of the season after the Colts got off to a 5-2 start. The offense had its issues, too, but the defence didn’t protect fourth-quarter leads and was unable to get stops as the team lost seven of nine.

Buckner’s presence also means opponents can’t double team defensive end Justin Houston, who led the team with 11 sacks last season. The other defensive end position will be handled by rotation, but Kemoko Turay was emerging before suffering a broken ankle last year and third-year pro Tyquan Lewis can play end or tackle and has been arguably the most improved player on either side of the ball in training camp.

A young secondary added the veteran presence of former All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes, who was inconsistent the past two years with Minnesota but will be asked to play more zone and read the quarterback instead of receivers. Colts cornerbacks coach Jonathan Gannon was a Vikings assistant who knows Rhodes well, a key reason why the cover guy chose the Colts. Veteran safety Tavon Wilson also provides experience to a young back line with safeties Malik Hooker and Khari Willis. Hooker has added motivation after the Colts didn’t pick up his 2021 contract option.

Predicted Record: 10-6

A favourable early schedule in the first eight weeks with only one opponent which had a winning record in 2019 should translate to a fast start and confidence. How the Colts handle the back end against playoff contenders Baltimore, Green Bay, at Tennessee, and at Pittsburgh will determine whether an AFC South Division title or a wild-card playoff spot is attainable.

NFL Season Preview – Jacksonville Jaguars

This year will be a year of transition for the Jaguars. Important figure heads of the side have gone and have been replaced with either holdovers or new players/coaches who will be leaned on by the Jaguars. The most notable changes the Jaguars will experience in 2020 will be on the field. Just compared to the first snap of Week 1 last year, the Jaguars already look like a dramatically different team. 

Gone are Calais Campbell, Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Marcell Dareus and Marqise Lee (and maybe Yannick Ngakoue?), and in are new players like CJ Henderson, Laviska Shenault, K’Lavon Chaisson and Tyler Eifert. Many of Jacksonville’s past top players are now elsewhere, opening the door for a new generation. 

2020 will also feature the official transition to Gardner Minshew II as the team’s starting quarterback. Minshew will now be looked to as the team’s leader one year after replacing Nick Foles as the de-facto top quarterback on the roster. 

The sense of stability the Jaguars will have will be on the side-lines, with head coach Doug Marrone returning to the side-lines for a fourth year. Meanwhile, general manager Dave Caldwell will be entering his eighth year in the role. 

Offense

The primary focus on Jacksonville’s offense will be on second-year quarterback Minshew, who is one year removed from an impressive rookie season in which he went 6-6 as a starter while completing over 60% of his passes for 3,271 yards and 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Now Minshew will be expected to take a step forward in his development, as the rookie and backup quarterback labels no longer pertain to him.

The offense will also now be spearheaded by new offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Gruden’s play-action passing offense will be fuelled by Minshew and running back Leonard Fournette, who is expected to be Jacksonville’s lead back once again despite trade rumours. Fournette is coming off a 2019 where he posted career-highs in rushing yards (1,152), yards per carry average (4.3), receptions (76), and receiving yards (522 yards). The Jaguars did decline his fifth-year option, however, making it a crucial contract year for the former number four pick.

Jacksonville opted not to address its offensive line in the offseason aside from adding fourth-round guard Ben Bartch. They will return all five starters from 2019, with the group needing to improve due following 2019 that saw them pave the way for just three rushing touchdowns all season. 

But while major attention will be paid to Fournnete and the offensive line’s effort to improve the run game, the Jaguars’ passing game will have to evolve so the offense can improve from being ranked 26th in scoring last season. The most important piece of Jacksonville’s passing game will be DJ Chark, who is joined by Laviska Shenault, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Tyler Eifert and Keelan Cole. Chark is an ascending talent after a Pro Bowl year in 2019, but he will need the rest of the receiving core to up their game around him.

Defence

The once-elite “Sacksonville” defence was one the cornerstone of the Jaguars franchise, but the defensive side of the roster has seen major changes entering 2020. 

The most pressing matter is the strained relationship between the team and DE Yannick Ngakoue, who is second in franchise history in sacks (37.5) after just four seasons. Ngakoue has yet to report to training camp or sign his franchise tag tender and has publicly requested to be traded. Add in the fact that the Jaguars traded Calais Campbell to the Baltimore Ravens in March, and it is fair to wonder whether Jacksonville’s pass rush can maintain its reputation.

The leader of Jacksonville’s new look defence will be DE Josh Allen, who led all rookies in sacks with 10.5 last season. After a Pro Bowl rookie year, Allen will now be asked to be Jacksonville’s top pass-rusher, and the expectations are for the former number seven overall pick to continue to add to his game despite to loss of Campbell and potentially Ngakoue. Allen will be flanked by 2020 first-round pick K’Lavon Chaisson, 2018 first-round pick Taven Bryan, Abry Jones, rookie DaVon Hamilton and recent free agent addition Timmy Jernigan, who could be a difference-maker for a radically overhauled defensive front.

Also leading Jacksonville’s defence will be ILB Joe Schobert, the team’s major free agent signing of 2020. Schobert, who is now one of the highest-paid players at his position, will be joined by Myles Jack in the middle of Jacksonville’s defence. Schobert was one of the biggest investments Jacksonville made in its defence, but the largest was undoubtedly cornerback CJ Henderson, who Jacksonville drafted with the number nine overall pick in April. Henderson will replace former star cornerback Jalen Ramsey, and the hope in Jacksonville is that he will quickly become a number one cornerback.

Predicted Record: 2-14

While the Jaguars brass has been given win-now mandates by owner Shad Khan, it is hard to see the Jaguars improving upon last year’s record despite exciting additions made on both sides of the ball. The Jaguars still lack blue-chip talent due to the mass exodus of top-tier players in recent years, and the young roster still has plenty of questions facing it ahead of its Week 1 matchup with the Indianapolis Colts. The Jaguars have enough good players, such as Chark, Allen, Schobert and others, to not be a truly bad team. But can they be a team that contends for the postseason? Only time will tell, but the odds could be stacked against them.

NFL Season Preview – Tennessee Texans

This year, the Texans have their eyes firmly on the Super Bowl. Last year they lost the AFC Championship final to the Chiefs, so the idea is to go two better.

The idea, however, is to try a different path, which is to say not to go on the road as early, as often or at all in the postseason contest. Collective confidence is high after the visiting Titans defeated the defending champions (New England) and the team with the best regular-season record (Baltimore) before their loss at Kansas City, but no one is particularly interested in a repeat performance.

In the last three years, Tennessee has been in five playoff games, all on the road. Nine of the last 10, dating back to the franchise’s last appearance in the conference championship (2002), were played in the other team’s stadium.

Of course, the way to change their playoff path is to win more often in the regular season. The Titans are the first team ever to finish 9-7 in four straight years. A fifth is likely to get them back in the postseason, particularly with this season’s expanded field. However, won’t get them where they want to be, home advantage, and will make it particularly difficult to go where they want to go – the Super Bowl.

Offense

Continuity is the key to this unit with 10 of 11 starters returning. The only departure was right tackle Jack Conklin (free agent to Cleveland) but his replacement, Dennis Kelly, was Conklin’s backup for the past four seasons and is well-versed in the scheme and his responsibilities.

The only real questions have to do with whether the Titans can sustain their level of performance from the final 10 games (plus the playoffs) of 2019 after Ryan Tannehill became the starting quarterback.

Tannehill was the 2019 Comeback Player of the Year courtesy of the best numbers of his career in several statistics. Analytics in recent years have introduced the phrase “regression to the norm” into the sports lexicon, and it is that idea that suggests there is no way Tannehill can do it again even with a strong supporting cast.

For example, Derrick Henry was the NFL rushing champion with 303 carries and 1,540 rushing yards. No one has led the league in consecutive years since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 and 2007. It’s not just Henry’s production that is important either. Much of the passing game is built on play-action, which becomes less of a factor if Henry is not the threat, he was for most of 2019.

A.J. Brown, Corey Davis and Adam Humphries comprise the most complete set of wide receivers this franchise has had since the Houston Oilers’ run-and-shoot days. Davis and Humphries dealt with injuries last season. If all stay healthy, they could be a formidable group.

Brown, in his second season, is a big body with dynamic run-after-catch potential that makes him a matchup nightmare, and he was, without question, Tannehill’s favourite option last season. Brown averaged 6.1 targets in the games Tannehill started, which was at least two more than any other Titans player over that span.

Defence

In direct contrast to the offense, the success of this unit depends on how well it moves forward in the wake of some significant changes.

Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, a five-time Pro Bowler and three times the team leader in sacks, was traded to Denver in a salary dump. Cornerback Logan Ryan, Tennessee’s most versatile defensive back who played well enough to earn some All-Pro votes in 2019, was not re-signed. Inside linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who transitioned to a valuable backup after having led the Titans in tackles three times (2014, 2017, 2018), also was not offered a new contract.

On top of all that defensive coordinator Dean Pees retired, and no replacement was named. Instead, Vrabel and outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen will work together to direct the defence with plenty of expected input from new inside linerbackers coach Jim Haslett.

Jeffery Simmons, the 19th overall pick in 2019, played well enough as a rookie, despite being months removed from reconstructive knee surgery, to convince coaches that they could live without Casey. The trade allows Simmons to slide into his natural position where he will need to be disruptive.

Adoreé Jackson, a first-round pick in 2017 (18th overall) lost playing time to Ryan over the past two seasons, but now will be asked to do a lot of the things Ryan did, including playing both outside and in the slot, depending on the call and the personnel group.

One thing that must change is the pass rush. Harold Landry had a team-high nine sacks in 2019. Free agent Vic Beasley was signed to either serve as a pass-rush specialist or to attract attention that helps Landry put up bigger numbers in that regard. Beasley, though, reported late for camp and failed his physical once he did, which creates concern about what, if anything, he will add to the defence.

Predicted Record: 9-7

The first half of the season is critical with five of the first eight contests, including three in a row in October, at home. The back half of the schedule includes all three division road games as well as a trip to Baltimore and a prime-time game at Green Bay in Week 16. If the Titans don’t win at least four of six, it will be difficult to get to 10 wins and to break the streak of four straight 9-7 seasons.

NFL Season Preview – AFC West

Once you’ve achieved your dream, what comes next?

After the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018, they doled out a spate of high-profile extensions, locking up some of the NFL’s best players into the early ’20s in hopes of a dynastic run. Two years later, the idea that Philadelphia would put a stranglehold on the division (and perhaps the conference) seems like an obvious stretch.

This offseason the Chiefs engaged in the same type of long-term planning, tying down defensive tackle Chris Jones to a four-year, $85 million deal and quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a 10-year contract worth nearly a half-billion dollars. Most of their best players are signed for the foreseeable future, as is 62-year-old coach Andy Reid. The same chorus of dynasty in the making that was heard in Philadelphia is echoing in Kansas City, but this time, it seems more believable. At 24, Mahomes is a transcendent talent who is only beginning to develop all the savvy that quarterbacks who don’t have his superior arm strength rely on. Reid’s catalogue of play calls gets only deeper and deeper, and his designs are simultaneously a chart for the league’s future and an encyclopaedia of its past. One can only imagine what designs Reid will conjure for his newest weapon, first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire; the versatile 5′ 7″, 207-pound running back had 1,414 rushing yards and caught 55 passes last year at LSU.

The NFL changes quickly, of course. At this time last year, few believed anyone in the NFC West could challenge wunderkind Sean McVay’s Rams. Then the 49ers surged, the Cardinals developed a terrifying arsenal of playmakers, the Seahawks found a spark on defence and the 2018 NFC champs receded into the pack.

The question is can anyone in the AFC West overtake Kanas City? There is no obvious candidate. The Raiders, who will be leaving Oakland to play their first season in Las Vegas, have done an impressive job at overhauling a roster (though some didn’t think it need to be overhauled in the first place). Still, their collection of young talent, including first-round pick wide receiver Henry Ruggs III from Alabama, second year running back Josh Jacobs and 2019 breakout tight end Darren Waller, plus the continued maturation of quarterback Derek Carr, makes them potentially formidable. The Chargers are beginning a rebuild after moving on from their quarterback of 16 seasons, Philip Rivers, now in Indianapolis, and they will likely spend the season transitioning from veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor to rookie Justin Herbert, the sixth pick from Oregon. The Broncos and second-year quarterback Drew Lock present the widest range of possibilities. Lock played well down the stretch as a rookie in 2019, going 4–1 as a starter while completing 64.1% of his passes. But this offseason the team puzzlingly parted ways with talented offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello in favour of former Giants coach Pat Shurmur.

Most likely, the Chiefs will be ruling this roost for a while. Having one team dominate for a long stretch can be a frustrating proposition, as the non-Patriots fans of the AFC East can attest. But at least we know that with the creativity of Reid and the charisma of Mahomes, Kansas City will be fun to watch.

Kansas City Chiefs

Predicted Record: 12-4

Other teams could struggle to get their new players up to speed. This means Reid, who has 10 offensive starters back, can focus on revving up an attack that was already running efficiently. The Chiefs could also get Edwards-Helaire to show why he was the first running back to be drafted. The gap between the Super Bowl champs and the rest of the league could only widen this year.
If complacency strikes, every 24-point deficit against a quality team is magically transformed into a 20-point lead. A few bad results and every now and again Reid outsmart himself rather than the opposition. We are reminded that repeating as champion is tough: The NFL hasn’t had back-to-back Super Bowl winners since the Patriots in 2004 and ’05 so the Chiefs might struggle this year.

Las Vegas Raiders

Predicted Record: 9-7

This could be the year Jon Gruden finally gets credit for designing clever offensive concepts, and rookie speedster Ruggs hauls in one long touchdown after another. Third-round picks Bryan Edwards (South Carolina) and Lynn Bowden Jr. (Kentucky) look like they could contribute. As the entire Las Vegas offense opens up, so changes the landscape of the AFC West as the Raiders pose problems to the Chiefs.
But if things don’t go well, Gruden will be exposed for believing he creates more clever offensive concepts than he actually does. With rookie camps cancelled because of the pandemic, it could turn out that 2020 was not the ideal year to have five picks in the first three rounds.

Los Angeles Chargers

Predicted Record: 8-8

Herbert might not see the field at all in 2020. This could be fine because coach Anthony Lynn has faith in Taylor, and this could be rewarded with a surprise playoff spot. The pair formed a strong bond in Buffalo, and Lynn’s belief in Taylor, who hadn’t started since Week 3 of 2018, could be exactly what the Chargers need. Tight end Hunter Henry looks ready to play all 16 games for the first time in his career.

However, is Taylor falters, Herbert will be thrust into action early and struggle, setting back his long-term development. The hasty turn to Herbert also consumes time that could have been spent expanding the offense and wastes part of the prime of wide receiver Keenan Allen. Departed running back Melvin Gordon could also be heavily missed.

Denver Broncos

Predicted Record: 6-10

Despite the addition of Gordon, the ground game might not be enough to sustain the offense with the air attack faltering. Linebacker Von Miller, whose sack total dipped to eight in 2019, could decline further in his 10th NFL season. All of this as well as Lock regressing under Shurmuer could lead to general manager John Elway deciding it is time for another hard reset in Denver.

However, most of the Denver fans are excited by Lock’s solid end-of-2019. This optimism could help the franchise. This optimism could also help with rookie receivers Jerry Jeudy (Alabama) and KJ Hamler (Penn State) joining wide receiver Courtland Sutton and tight end Noah Fant. If Lock leads an electric passing game, while free-agent signee Melvin Gordon joins Philip Lindsay to form a potent ground tandem, the Broncos could be a surprise playoff candidate.

NFL Season Preview – Denver Broncos

The Denver Broncos are going into this season with momentum. If they can capitalise on this, they could be this year’s surprise package. With quarterback Drew Lock helping lead the team to a 4-1 finish as a rookie last season, the Broncos have all the markings of a squad that has finally “bounced off the bottom” to quote GM John Elway. 

All things are possible for a team that has found its quarterback of the future. The Broncos wandered the QB desert for four-and-a-half long years following Super Bowl 50 and seem to have emerged battle tested. 

Recognizing what he saw on the field to close out the season, Elway focused almost all of the Broncos’ offseason resources on building the nest around Lock. From hiring Pat Shurmur to serve as Lock’s offensive coordinator and Mike Shula to be his position coach, to investing salary cap dollars and draft picks in the personnel pieces that can help the young QB take the next step, Elway set the young signal-caller, and thus the Broncos, up for short- and long-term success. 

Combined with head coach Vic Fangio entering Year 2 with a full season of on-the-job training under his belt, the Broncos are poised to surprise some people in 2020 and really contend again for the AFC West. 

Offense

With a new offensive philosophy to implement, the Broncos have been working to microwave the install of Shurmur’s system. Without an Offseason Training Program, the Broncos had to rely on virtual Zoom meetings and classroom-style environments to learn the new offense. And with 10 training camp practices now under their belt, things are coming together for the Broncos. However, considering the unique challenges of this year due to the pandemic, fans would be wise to heed Peyton Manning’s advice and mitigate expectations early on this season. 

The crucial distinction is that the Broncos have the talent and coaching acumen on the offensive side to win some ball games while they smooth out the rougher edges of the scheme. Thanks to the savvy drafting of Elway, this offense is absolutely teeming with talent. Lock is the centrepiece for obvious reasons and working with two experienced offensive coaches, he’ll have every coaching resource available to him. But from a weapons standpoint, Lock is loaded for bear on this hunt. 

Courtland Sutton is coming off a Pro Bowl campaign in which he hauled in 72 receptions for 1,112 yards and six touchdowns, producing at a high level despite having to catch passes and gel with three different quarterbacks. Opposite him, the Broncos seem to be intent on starting Tim Patrick to open the season. 

But Jerry Jeudy, the Broncos’ first-round pick, will be the de facto number two receiver in this offense. The former Alabama standout has been one of the stars of camp, earning rave reviews for his route-running and some serious compliments from the veterans on the team. 

At tight end, the Broncos hope to see 2019 first-rounder Noah Fant take the next step in his development, perhaps even following Sutton’s trajectory when it comes to a quantum leap forward in Year 2. Next to Fant, the Broncos brought in Nick Vannett via free agency to serve as that tight end who can catch and block and provide some veteran savvy. 

Don’t sleep on Albert Okwuegbunam, though, whom the Broncos drafted in the fourth round. Albert O. is a former college teammate of Lock’s and has the rare distinction of running a faster 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine than Fant (4.49s). The rookie tight end has received some first-team reps and figures to be used this year in red-zone packages. 

At running back, the Broncos now boast a Pro Bowl duo. The incumbent is Phillip Lindsay, who’s highly motivated coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing campaigns to open his career, while Melvin Gordon, a 2015 first-round pick of the Chargers’, arrives as the high-priced free-agent acquisition. This tandem is poised to serve as a phenomenal failsafe for Lock and potent one-two punch for the Broncos. 

The offensive line is the big question mark for Denver. With Ja’Wuan James opting out of the 2020 season, the Broncos’ initial plan is to give Elijah Wilkinson another opportunity to start at right tackle. The team hedged by signing Demar Dotson, an 11-year veteran, as training camp opened in earnest. 

Unfortunately, Wilkinson has been a turnstile at camp, which could make the coaches’ decision at right tackle all the easier. Dotson started at right tackle the last eight years in Tampa Bay and while he’s an above-average player at best, he’s at least experienced and competent. Meanwhile, Garett Bolles enters his contract year at left tackle as the undisputed starter. The volatile tackle is hoping to finally have the type of season for the Broncos that will justify his first-round pedigree, but fans aren’t holding their breath. 

The interior is the Broncos’ strength upfront with Dalton Risner returning as the left guard and the prized free-agent acquisition Graham Glasgow locking down right guard. The centre position, however, remains up in the air. 

The expectation is that third-round pick Lloyd Cushenberry III will eventually win the job, but the Broncos are making the former LSU star battle for it with incumbents Austin Schlottmann and Pat Morris. With two spots on the starting five still undecided, it’s hard to project exactly what quality the Broncos will field upfront this year. 

Defence

As exciting as the Broncos’ young offense is, it’s the defence that is in the best position to hit the ground running in 2020. Traditionally, Year 2 of Fangio’s scheme has seen his defences click and rise collectively to another level. The Broncos are banking on that happening.

A few personnel tweak the team made during the offseason could help them get there. The Broncos opted to let cornerback Chris Harris Jr. depart in free agency after acquiring A.J. Bouye via trade from Jacksonville. Bouye wasn’t the only gem acquired on the trading block. 

Inexplicably, the Broncos managed to fleece the Titans of five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Jurrell Casey for the measly price of a seventh-round pick. Already, Casey’s impact in camp has been palpable. Both he and Bouye are ideal fits for Fangio’s scheme. 

The other exciting aspect of the Broncos’ defence this year is the return of two Pro Bowl-calibre players who missed most of, if not all of, last year. Bradley Chubb returns to rush the quarterback opposite of Von Miller, while the Broncos also get cornerback Bryce Callahan back who missed all of last season with a nagging foot injury. 

Combined with one of the best safety tandems in the NFL in Justin Simmons and Kareem Jackson and the Broncos’ secondary could be a force to be reckoned with. De’Vante Bausby is the leader in the clubhouse to lock down the No. 3 cornerback role. 

Alexander Johnson returns at inside linebacker hoping to build on what was an extremely impressive first year as a starter. His partner, Todd Davis, succumbed early in training camp to a calf injury but is expected back in time for the season-opener on September 14. 

The linebackers are a question mark, at least depth-wise, with fifth-round rookie Justin Strnad being lost for the season with a wrist injury. But the Broncos will hope to make up for it with the impressive depth the team has cultivated on the defensive line with names like Dre’Mont Jones, DeMarcus Walker, Christian Covington, and rookie third-rounder McTelvin Agim rotating in and out of games

Predicted Record: 6-10

The Broncos are team who aren’t there in terms of knocking the Kansas City Chiefs off their perch as division champs, but double-digit wins and a Wildcard berth in the playoffs are very much on the table for this team who’ll play the 12th-toughest strength of schedule.

However, due to strength of the schedule, expectations have to be expected. They could be a surprise playoff side but more realistically, a ‘disappointing’ year is in the making. With a tough schedule, the momentum could easily disappear and mentally, the Broncos don’t seem strong enough to bounce back from that.

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