23. Denver Broncos
Coach: Josh McDaniels (first season)
Last year: 8-8 (lost last three games to miss playoffs – Mike Shanahan was fired).
NFL rankings: Offense – second in yards and 16th in points; Defense – 29th in yards, 30th in points.
Additions: As of this week, there are 38 new faces on the roster, including QB Kyle Orton, WR Jabar Gaffney, CB Renaldo Hill, S Brian Dawkins, RB Correll Buckhalter, RB LaMont Jordan, CB Andre Goodman, LB Nick Griesen and five first- or second-round draft picks – RB Knowshon Moreno, LB Robert Ayres, CB Alphonso Smith, CB Darcel McBath and TE Richard Quinn.
Subtractions: More than 20 players, including QB Jay Cutler, C Tom Nalen, CB Dre Bly, DE Ebenezer Dkuban, RB Tatum Bell, RB Michael Pittman, S Marquand Manuel, DT Dewayne Robertson.
Fantasy pick: WR Brandon Marshall. He could be traded before opening day but he caught 104 passes for 1,265 yards and six touchdowns. He’s a reception machine so put him down for at least 90 catches.
Outlook: It is hard to find a team that’s undergone more changes than the previously-cohesive Broncos. Shanahan’s firing was a shocker, followed by McDaniels’ decision to deal Cutler to Chicago. With Orton, the Broncos should be able to score points – Marshall/Royal are a solid combo and Moreno should be able to fit right in. Defense will be an issue. New coordinator Mike Nolan is switching to a 3-4 alignment and as many as three rookies could start. The pressure is on veterans Dawkins and Champ Bailey to get the kids caught up to speed. The Broncos couldn’t stop the run (27th) or the pass (25th) and couldn’t get to the quarterback (26th) or intercept passes (31st). For all the changes, it’s likely the Broncos will take a step back this year – even in the AFC West — before taking a couple steps forward with the draft picks acquired for Cutler.
Offense: QB Kyle Orton, FB Peyton Hillis, RB Knowshon Moreno, WR Brandon Marshall, WR Eddie Royal, TE Daniel Graham, LT Ryan Clady, LG Ben Hamilton, C Casey Wiegmann, RG Chris Kuper, RT Ryan Harris.
Defense: LE Tim Crowder, DT Marcus Thomas, RE Robert Ayres, OLB Louis Green, ILB D.J. Williams, ILB Andra Davis, OLB Elvis Dumervil, CB Champ Bailey, RB Josh Bell, SS Darcel McBath, FS Brian Dawkins.
Specialists: K Matt Prater, P Brett Kern, KR/PR Eddie Royal.
Projected record: 6-10 (second in the AFC West). The Broncos should start fast (first three games are against Cincinnati, Cleveland and Oakland) but check out their next eight games: Dallas, New England, at San Diego, at Baltimore, Pittsburgh, at Washington, San Diego, New York Giants. The Broncos will be better than their record but a schedule that also included December road trips to Indianapolis and Philadelphia will be too much to overcome.
- Ryan O’Halloran
NFL 32 in 32: Previous Entries
24. Jacksonville Jaguars
25. Houston Texans
26. Kansas City Chiefs
27. San Francisco 49ers
28. Cleveland Browns
29. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
30. St. Louis Rams
31. Detroit Lions
32. Oakland Raiders