At first glance, the 2019 season for the Denver Broncos might appear as a major disappointment. Yet, when you factor in the 0-4 start and the fact that John Elway seems to have finally found his franchise quarterback in Drew Lock, the year begins to feel much more like the start of something special. In this Denver Broncos 2020 betting preview I will examine which key pieces are coming and going, as well as how they factor into the Broncos betting odds for the 2020 NFL Season.
Year one under a rookie head coach
While the Broncos posted a losing record in their first season under head coach Vic Fangio, there were plenty of signs that this team could be in for a quick turnaround this upcoming season. Denver was 28th in the league in points scored last season, although the first eight games were played with the corpse of Joe Flacco at quarterback. During that time the Broncos averaged just under 16 points per game and never scored more than 24 points in any single game.
That all changed when Lock took over in Week 13 with Denver averaging 21.4 points and going 4-1 in his starts. The rookie out of Missouri quickly developed a rapport with ascending talent Courtland Sutton and even led the Broncos to two game-winning drives. Fangio is known as a defensive guru after years of being coordinator (Bears, Panthers, and 49ers), and his Denver defense did not disappoint in 2019, ranking 10th in points and 12th in total yards.
With Bradley Chubb expected to make a full recovery from the ACL injury he suffered in 2019, the Broncos defense could be primed to take a positive step this upcoming season. If Chubb and former Super Bowl MVP Von Miller can anchor the Denver pass rush as expected, it might take pressure off a secondary with some questions.
Five of the nine losses for Denver last season were in one score games, and they had some particularly tough luck in a few home games early last season, including losing to both the Chicago Bears and Jacksonville Jaguars on last second field goals. Las Vegas sportsbooks currently have the Broncos pegged as a 7.5 win team for the 2020 NFL season. Could the market be underestimating the Broncos chances in the AFC West (+900) or is this team still one year away from making noise in the postseason?
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Denver Broncos offseason breakdown
The Broncos made one major coaching change this offseason and it goes directly towards improving on that aforementioned putrid scoring offense from last year. Out is offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello, and in is Pat Shurmur, who is coming off two disappointing seasons as head coach of the New York Giants. Shurmur typically runs a West Coast offense which is likely to implement several three and four wide receiver sets.
The thought process for John Elway is obviously to get Drew Lock an offensive coordinator who gives him the best chance to enjoy long-term success. It is fair to question, however, what growing pains Lock might go through with a new coordinator and quarterbacks coach for that matter (Mike Shula was hired in January) after learning a new system as a rookie in 2019. According to DraftKings, Lock has a projected yardage total of 3,450.5 with an over/under posted at 21.5 touchdown passes.
Denver is clearly poised to build around their young quarterback, adding weapons to his arsenal in both the draft and free agency this offseason. In the span of just over a year, the Broncos have gone from having one of the least exciting sets of offensive skill position players to a potential juggernaut which Denver hopes can keep pace with the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West.
When a former Biletnikoff Award winner falls to you at the 15th overall pick in the first round of a draft where wide receiver is already an area of need, you just have to count your blessings. Jerry Jeudy is the latest in a long line of Alabama wideouts primed to make an immediate splash in the NFL.
Jeudy had a Relative Athletic Score (RAS) of 6.78 (37th in the class), including marks of “great” in speed, but only “okay” in terms of explosion. While Jeudy isn’t likely to be any more thrilled with his RAS ranking as his Madden rating, he was the best route runner in his class and should provide the perfect complement lining up opposite Sutton in the Denver offense.
Jeudy has a projected receiving prop of 750.5 yards while Sutton’s yardage is currently posted at 1,050.5 according to DraftKings. Jeudy has the highest yardage mark of any of the talented rookie class of receivers. When analyzing whether or not these yardage props provide any value, keep in mind that the Broncos also drafted Penn State speed demon KJ Hamler in the second round and still have second year tight end Noah Fant, both who will require some targets as well. Fant has a 625.5 recieving yards prop of his own after putting up 562 yards as a rookie in 2019.
Perhaps the most controversial offseason addition for the Broncos was signing running back Melvin Gordon away from their division rival, the Los Angeles Chargers. Gordon miscalculated the market last year, failing to realize that he plays the most easily replaceable position on the football field in today’s NFL. While Gordon might register as a fairly big name, his impact on the field has been minimal throughout his career.
In five seasons with the Chargers, Gordon only rushed for over 1,000 yards once, although he did have a propensity for finding the end zone, scoring 47 times in 53 games. His new backfield mate Phillip Lindsay, meanwhile, boasts consecutive 1,000 yard rushing seasons and a better yards per touch average than Gordon. DraftKings has Gordon’s combined rushing and receiving prop listed at 1,050.5 yards total, a number he easily surpassed three of the past four seasons as a feature back. I can’t recommend this play with Lindsay lurking and the uncertainty of how the target share will look, however.
Denver’s offensive line additions
Regardless of who gets the bulk of the carries out of the Denver backfield they’ll be running behind an offensive line with some potential improvements on the interior.
The Broncos brought in an upper echelon guard in Graham Glasnow, coming over from the Detroit Lions. They then doubled down by grabbing LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry in the third round of the draft.
These two additions on the interior join 2019 All-Rookie selection Dalton Risner on what is essentially a middle of the road offensive line unit. The two returning starting tackles are where the questions really remain for this unit, as Ja’Wuan James has had difficulty throughout his career remaining healthy while left tackle Garrett Bolles has had difficulty avoiding holding penalties, leading the team with 20 accepted penalties in his first three seasons.
Jurrell Casey & A.J. Bouye
Perhaps the biggest addition of the entire Denver offseason came on the defensive side of the football. Jurrell Casey was acquired in a trade from the Tennessee Titans in what amounted to a salary dump for a cash-strapped franchise that needed to sign both their starting running back and quarterback. The underrated Casey is a five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle who will be expected to play the dual role of stopping the run and generating an interior pass rush.
The other major addition on defense is former Jaguars and Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye. Denver sent Jacksonville a 4th round pick in exchange for the services of Bouye who still has two years remaining on his $67.5 million deal. Bouye will be the “field side” cornerback for the Broncos, joining top notch safety duo Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons in the Denver secondary.
While they appear, at least on paper to have added more talent than was subtracted from their roster last season, a thorough examination of the Denver Broncos 2020 betting odds requires us to also examine what key losses may play a role in the projected win total, as well as the playoff odds for this team. There are three departing players in particular, with varying degrees of overall importance, worth mentioning.
Chris Harris Jr.
After nine seasons with the Broncos, four time Pro Bowler Chris Harris Jr. is leaving Denver for the bright lights of Los Angeles and joining the rival Chargers. The last remaining member of the Super Bowl winning “no fly zone”, Harris Jr. is coming off of a disappointing season in which he had his lowest interception total since his rookie year.
Derek Wolfe has similarly been an instrumental part of this Broncos defense for the better part of a decade. Wolfe was an effective pass rusher on pace for double digit sacks before an injury cut his 2019 season short. He is just the sort of reliable, versatile defender that will fit in seamlessly with the Baltimore Ravens.
The trade of fullback Andy Janovich to the Cleveland Browns is more than likely due to scheme fit than anything else. Janovich is an old school, smash mouth fullback and special teams contributor who likely would have had a limited role in the new Pat Shurmur offense.
The @Broncos QB has an ARM. 🚀
— NFL (@NFL) March 14, 2020
Broncos Strength of Schedule Breakdown
According to the Warren Sharp Strength of Schedule metrics, which favor Las Vegas win totals over last season’s final standings, the Broncos have the 5th toughest schedule in the league. Denver runs through the gauntlet of elite quarterbacks in the NFC South but also catches a break with a weaker AFC East this season.
The Broncos open the season as two point favorites against the Tennessee Titans late Monday Night at Mile High. While there is unlikely to be a raucous crowd in attendance, Denver does have the altitude advantage in this one and I’ll be looking to take the Broncos in this spot. Week 2 the Broncos travel to Pittsburgh on short rest before returning home to host Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in Week 3.
A two game road trip to the East Coast is followed by consecutive home games against the Dolphins and Chiefs prior to the Broncos Week 8 bye. A 4-3 or 3-4 record at that point seems the most likely scenario for Denver. As long as the Broncos can hover around that .500 mark prior to the bye week, they should have a shot to do some damage in the second half of the season.
While five of the last nine games for the Broncos come on the road, they play all four games against the Raiders and Chargers in the second half of the season, in addition to hosting Buffalo and traveling to Carolina. The NFL schedule makers did Denver no favors in terms of travel and disadvantage spots against teams with extended rest. However, the final quarter of the year will feature several winnable games for a team I am expecting to take a positive step in the 2020 season.
Broncos season long/win total bets
The Denver Broncos 2020 NFL win total currently sits at 7.5 wins on FanDuel and DraftKings. They are around +900 to +1000 to win the AFC West at most available bookmakers. The problem with taking Denver as a longshot divisional winner is that you are essentially hoping for a Patrick Mahomes injury and that’s just bad karma.
Should you have lofty expectations for the Broncos this season, you can grab them to make the postseason at +180 betting odds. In my opinion, this play provides more value than taking the over on the projected win total. I have Denver pegged at about 9-7 with an outside shot at getting to double digit wins if everything were to fall in their favor.
If you grab the over on 7.5 wins you would guarantee a profit at 8-8 although you are paying -110 in most spots on that number. With the the NFL adding an extra wild card in each conference this season, the +180 payout is far more enticing for me. I have confidence in the Broncos reversing their fortune on some of those tough losses from last season and finding their way into the AFC Playoffs in 2020.
Official bet: Denver Broncos – Make Playoffs (YES), +180 for 1 Unit
Christopher Smith is the Senior Betting Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSmithPFN for upcoming analysis. Also, make sure to follow the betting group @PFNBets for analysis from all of our writers heading into the 2020 season.