Jussel: Super Bowl title a good bet for Broncos

When you have Peyton Manning running things on the field and John Elway running things inside the building, it’s never too early to start thinking Super Bowl.

Denver Bronco fans picked up good vibes last season and are hungry for more, even though the games that really matter won’t start until after that last Christmas present is unwrapped.

The Broncos’ 13-3 record in Manning’s first season at the controls would be the reason Denver is one of the favorites to win it all next time around — the stunning loss to Baltimore in the playoffs be damned.

There are, according to early oddsmakers, four teams with the best chance to win it all, with Denver one of those.

FootballLOCKS.com has Denver and New England as 6-1 favorites to win the title, with San Francisco at 13-2 and Seattle at 9-1. That online betting service also has the Broncos a 7½-point pick to beat Baltimore in Denver on opening night Sept. 5.

Doc Sports has San Francisco as the 6-1 favorite to win the title, with Denver next best at 15-2, New England at 8-1 and Seattle at 9-1. They also have Denver a 6½-point pick to win the opener over Baltimore.

There are others, of course, and you can spend as much time searching as you want, but they all will have those four teams ranked ahead of other contenders such as Green Bay, Houston and Atlanta.

Baltimore, by the way, has not impressed oddsmakers despite picking up Elvis Dumervil from Denver, rating 20- to 25-1 to repeat.

Lots of possibilities, right?

Not really.

It’ll be Denver against San Francisco in the Super Bowl, and Denver will win it, 33-24.

Here’s the plan:

First, San Francisco, a defensive-oriented team that features a tough running game with the occasional land or air explosion from young quarterback Colin Kaepernick, will earn home-field advantage in the NFC and defeat Atlanta, then Seattle to earn its Super Bowl spot.

San Francisco and Seattle will be better than they were last season. Green Bay will be an offensive force thanks to QB Aaron Rogers, but the Packers won’t have the defense to handle either the Seahawks or 49ers. Ditto Atlanta.

Other possible darkhorse challengers from the NFC? Chicago, possibly Detroit, maybe the Giants. Minnesota and Washington, playoff teams last year, will regress. The Cowboys will still be the Cowboys.

Now comes the easy part of the equation, the AFC.

Denver will romp through the AFC West despite a big improvement from Kansas City. The Chiefs have a new coach in Andy Reid, a new QB in Alex Smith and a running game second to none. They will hop over the Chargers and Raiders, but the Broncos still will win the West by at least two games.

The Patriots will win the East, but they won’t be nearly the team we have seen recently because QB Tom Brady’s security blanket, Wes Welker, is now in Denver, and both tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, will not stay healthy over the entire season.

Pittsburgh safety Ryan Clark hit it on the head early in the week, saying, “I think what’s really underestimated is Wes Welker’s importance to not only the New England Patriots, but Tom Brady. Losing him is huge. ... Even when guys aren’t around (Brady), even when he’s not about to be sacked, when his clock goes off in his head that the ball should be out, we’ll see him duck, we’ll see him flinch. When you get Tom Brady doing that, the whole New England Patriots’ mystique goes away.”

That Patriot mystique took a big hit last year when Baltimore physically pounded them in the playoffs.

It will take a bigger hit this season.

As for Baltimore, the Ravens have re-signed QB Joe Flacco and have stud running back Ray Rice, but they lost wide receiver Anquan Boldin and virtually their entire defense. Case closed.

Perennial power Pittsburgh will put up a fight each week, but isn’t what it was two seasons ago.

Cincinnati is the team on the rise in the division and has added free-agent and draft talent to both sides of the ball.

In the South, Houston and upstart Indy are the teams to watch.

The AFC playoffs will see Denver and Houston having byes in the first round, with Denver then beating Indy at home and surprising Cincinnati, which will oust the Patriots, in the AFC title game.

Then it will be two long weeks of Super hype, Manning interviews, Elway interviews ... and a third Super Bowl title as Manning, Welker & Co. simply have too much for the 49ers to stop.

There you have it: The next NFL season in a nutshell, literally.

Rick Jussel is a former Daily Sentinel sports editor (think Dark Ages) and Grand Junction High School journalism teacher who belongs in the Armchair Quarterback Hall of Fame, if only there was one.


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