The AFC West will prove to be the toughest division in the NFL in 2019. This division may be the best it has ever been, at least since 2013 when three of four teams made the playoffs. The Chiefs look like they will walk their way back to the AFC Championship game, the Chargers are definitely capable of winning 11 games again, the Raiders added Antonio Brown and Gruden looks like he may be figuring out this whole coaching thing, and the Broncos have hired a defensive mastermind to lead their incredible defensive talents.
On top of all four teams that have a reasonable shot at making the playoffs, there are three elite quarterbacks that can change just about any game. I’ll let you guess who they are, but one of them has a Super Bowl MVP and a pretty sweet beard.
Even before the season starts, everyone is already thinking that the Chiefs will win the division. NFL analysts are thinking it, the Broncos homer inside me is thinking it and even Chris Harris is thinking it.
Harris told Pro Football Talk, “The Chiefs are the team to beat right now,” Harris said. “They’ve won it, I think, the past three years so until somebody knocks them off they’re the team beat. I’m telling you right now, I like being the underdog right now. Teams are sleeping on us and so I like taking that approach this year. They’re going to have to wake up when we hit them in the mouth”
I have to take Chris Harris’ side on this one. No pressure is the best way for Vic Fangio to start his career. Every other team sleeping on the Broncos can lead to some major upsets. The defensive genius of Fangio mixed with the defensive playmakers could spell trouble for Rivers, Mahomes and especially Carr. In fact, I think the Broncos can beat the Chiefs if they can keep it close until the end of the game and force Andy Reid to make wise choices when it comes to timeouts.
The Denver Broncos had a very disappointing 2018 season. They were the embodiment of the difference between a Buffalo Bill and a Dollar Bill and were never truly good for four quarters. On and off the field issues left the team in shambles. Injuries virtually eliminated the tight end position. Chad Kelly had two cases keeping him from the starting position. One of which was Keenum while the other was breaking and entering. With the 2019 season quickly approaching there are still many moving parts for first year coach Vic Fangio. In order for the Broncos to have success in the toughest AFC West since 2013, these 6 players will need to step up in major ways.
Noah Fant The Broncos have not had real success with a tight end since Julius Thomas. The lack of success is due to countless injuries, including 4 last year. Now, Elway has decided to roll the dice again by taking Iowa’s Noah Fant with his first round pick. Fant, at 6’4″ 250 pounds, has all the measurables to be a successful NFL tight end. Now, he needs to repeat the same success he had in college in his first year in Denver. It’s difficult to say that a rookie needs to have an immediate impact, but this is a position that the Broncos absolutely have to have production at to have success in the AFC West.
Joe Flacco His Eliteness will be gracing Mile High with his presence in 2019. It’s about time the Broncos added another Super Bowl MVP to the team in my opinion. Flacco losing his position to Lamar Jackson last season puts him in a difficult spot. He seems to have the the starting spot lined up for Game 1, but the fear of losing his spot to another rookie in Drew Lock has to be weighing on him. He will definitely be on short leash this season.
Courtland Sutton Emmanuel Sanders has been making unbelievable progress in his recovery from an achilles injury, but still may not be at 100% for Game 1. This means that Courtland Sutton will be the de facto first option receiver for the season opener. The last thing that Sanders needs is pressure to return to the field before he is ready. Courtland Sutton needs to have a big season to give Sanders all the time he needs. The Flacco specialty has always been underthrowing a receiver forcing them to run back and be interfered with by a cornerback with his back turned. Hopefully, the thin Denver air allows Flacco to actually throw the ball far enough for Sutton to put up some serious numbers.
Royce Freeman Phillip Lindsay has the starting running back position locked up for Game 1 of next season. But with uncertainty at the quarterback position, the Broncos needs a viable second option in the backfield. More specifically, a receiving option. Flacco is a big time check down quarterback and needs a safety valve receiver. Freeman played that role perfectly at Oregon and could add a whole new element to the Bronco offense. Screens, wheel routes and swing passes may be what unlocks his potential.
Kareem Jackson Kareem Jackson is the only newcomer expected to start in the Broncos secondary. Coming off 9 seasons in Houston and a career best year, expectations will be through the roof. But the veteran cornerback is exactly what this Broncos team needs. Joining an elite secondary with William Parks, Justin Simmons, Chris Harris, Bryce Callahan, and Su’a Cravens led by Vic Fangio’s expertise should make for a dominant season, but Kareem Jackson will need to have a big year to bring back to notorious No Fly Zone.
Josey Jewell Vic Fangio loves to play 3-4 defense. Obviously, three of the four linebacker spots will go to Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and Todd Davis. The last inside linebacker spot will go to the next man up, Josey Jewell. Coming off a pretty good rookie year of 58 tackles (38 solo) and 4 tackles for loss, he is going to have to come up huge for the Broncos defense this season. Josey proved that he is an elite linebacker at Iowa and needs to be a presence in the run game for the Broncos to be competitive in the AFC West. Luckily, Vic Fangio is the perfect coach for a young linebacker to learn under.
One player that you should not see on a list like this, at least for the upcoming season, is Phillip Lindsay. Some people still think that he needs to have a big year in 2019 in order to prove himself. Really? Has he not done enough? He went from undrafted to Pro-Bowler in a couple of months. Saying he has proven himself is an understatement.
The NFL Season is just weeks away and it still feels so far out of reach. But the NFL knows exactly how to reel us in even when they won’t be giving us any football any time soon. Just today, they gave us just a little taste of the season to come and reminder of what we are missing. They have released the dates and locations for the upcoming training camps. Check it out below.
State Farm Stadium
Atlanta Falcons Training Facility
Flowery Branch, GA
Under Armour Performance Center
Owings Mills, MD
St. John Fisher College
Olivet Nazarene University
Paul Brown Stadium
Cleveland Browns Training Complex
Marriott Residence Inn
UCHealth Training Center
Detroit Lions Training Facility
Allen Park, MI
St. Norbert College
De Pere, WI
Houston Methodist Training Center
TIAA Bank Field
Missouri Western State University
St. Joseph, MO
Jack Hammett Sports Complex
Costa Mesa, CA
University of California, Irvine
Baptist Health Training Facility
TCO Performance Center
Quest Diagnostics Training Facility
East Rutherford, NJ
Atlantic Health Jets Training Center
Florham Park, NJ
New Orleans Saints Training Facility
Napa Valley Marriott
Saint Vincent College
SAP Performance Facility
Santa Clara, CA
Virginia Mason Athletic Center
AdventHealth Training Center
Saint Thomas Sports Park
Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center
Our Broncos will begin training on July 17, in Englewood, Colorado, at University of Colorado Health Training Center. Thankfully, we don’t have to wait as long to see Denver back in action. They will actually be playing the Falcons a week earlier than ever other team in the Hall of Fame preseason game.
Something that sticks out is that the Broncos all report on the same day. Veterans and Rookies. I don’t think they need a whole week like the Cardinals, but it would make sense to have the Rookies report a day or two before everyone else to help get their bearings in a new job and new city. Just my opinion.
Let us know what you all think in the comments and for more Broncos opinions and updates follow us on Twitter @soft7sports.
Easily one of the most improbable things to ever happen in the history of the NFL. Tim Tebow comes off the bench to take over a 1-5 team to the playoffs finishing the season 8-8.
In the 2011 Wildcard round as AFC West champions, the Broncos took on the 12-4 Steelers. Consistent scoring from Pittsburgh and a 20-point second quarter from Denver sent the game into overtime tied up at 23. The OT coin toss goes up and Denver takes the ball… 11 seconds later, they are heading to the divisional round. Take a look and relive the greatness:
Say what you will about Tebow, but this man was one of the best players under pressure that I have ever seen. Personally, I don’t think the Broncos should have ever cut him. Regardless, this is one memory that I will hold on to forever.
Weird how no one called for the overtime rules to be changed after this play. Maybe the Steelers actually can teach us all a lesson on how to lose with some dignity.
If you haven’t heard by now, John Elway is really high on his new quarterback, Joe Flacco. When the Case Keenum experiment did not work out, he went back to his old ways. He had to find another ridiculously tall QB to take the reigns. What’s weird is that Elway never seems to care too much about height at other positions (case and point, Phillip Lindsay), but when it comes to who is under center, he becomes a total height supremacist. Watch what he had to say about His Eliteness.
Just now entering his prime?! Let’s pump the brakes, John. Joe Flacco has had an alright career, even winning a Super Bowl MVP, but quarterbacks don’t enter their prime 7 years AFTER winning one of the highest honors a current player can achieve.
Flacco has played in Denver three times. His record is 1-2 with an average passer rating of 45.3. Sadly, that one win came in an overtime playoff win (we haven’t forgotten, Rahim Moore). So Flacco has never beaten Denver in Denver in regulation, nor have any of his performances been all that impressive. But to be completely fair, he was playing against the Broncos defense. The “No Fly Zone” typically has a negative effect on visiting quarterbacks. It will be interesting to see how Flacco plays in Denver under the Vic Fangio offense.
All I want to say is don’t write off Flacco yet, but also don’t expect as much as John Elway does.
I expect Flacco to be mad decent. Better than mediocre, somewhere between a 5 and 10. A soft 7, if you will. Expecting to win the AFC West is not what I would call a reasonable expectation, especially after the season the Chiefs and Chargers had. But, a 9-7 season and sneaking in the playoffs at the Wildcard spot is not out of the question. Even Flacco throwing for 25 TD’s and 3,500 yards is not completely ridiculous. The Broncos defense is still going to be spectacular and hopefully Phillip Lindsay can build on his rookie season success while also taking the heat off his QB. If that happens and Flacco can live up to half of what Elway expects then a Broncos playoff birth in 2019 is definitely possible.
There’s just no way that he loses his starting job to another rookie. Right?
When Emmanuel Sanders went down with an achilles injury, all Broncos fans knew he was out for the season, and were worried it would be even longer.
But great news has been delivered as of a couple days ago. Emmanuel Sanders is not only sprinting, but running routes and making cuts on a dime. With one of the youngest receiving cores in the NFL, this is music to my ears. Take a look:
When I first caught wind of Emmanuel Sanders running at full speed, I got my hopes up, but was ready to be disappointed. Like when Gordon Hayward was posting updates of him sprinting. It’s great, but means nothing in terms of actual game scenarios. But then I saw Sanders running these kind of routes, and it restored a hope in the Broncos I haven’t had since Super Bowl 50. What a recovery. Achilles injuries are not impossible to come back from, but players never seem to make it back to their old selves. Against all odds, Emmanuel Sanders appears to be there. Only time will tell.
The biggest reason we should all be excited about this recovery is that, in a Joe Flacco offense, he needs an incredibly fast receiver to get past a cornerback. Flacco will then underthrow him to force his receiver to comeback and create contact ultimately resulting in a pass interference penalty. Emmanuel Sanders is exactly that receiver to accomplish this.
Every year after the Super Bowl, I fall into a sadness similar to a dog when it’s owner leaves for work. In my mind, football is gone and will never return. But just as I am about to forget about it completely, I hear the NFL season pull in the driveway and hit me with the preseason schedule. And to my absolute delight, my Broncos are playing in the NFL Hall of Fame preseason game at home versus the Falcons. Knowing that the Broncos offseason is a whole week shorter than almost every other team’s is just so satisfying.
This year’s Hall of Fame Game will honor Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, Broncos great and personal favorite Champ Bailey, and Falcons legend Tony Gonzalez.
The Denver Broncos preseason schedule is as follows: Aug. 1 vs. Atlanta Aug. 8 @ Seattle Aug. 19 vs. San Francisco Aug. 24 @ LA Rams Aug. 29 @ Arizona
I know that the preseason does not matter and the starters come out after the first quarter. If not, by halftime. But I am beyond excited to see what Drew Lock and Noah Fant can do. My expectations for this season is, as always, unnecessarily high. Mainly for Flacco. His Eliteness has a lot to prove. Hopefully with the thinner air in Denver, instead of underthrowing his receivers to force a pass interference call, he can just complete the pass. Wishful thinking.