Jussel: Perfect storm needed for successful 2011 season in Broncoland

The wiseacre with beer in hand asked with only a hint of a slur, “So what are the odds of the Broncos winning the Super Bowl?”

Taken literally, Las Vegas bookmakers have the Broncos at 65-to-1 on the lower end, 200-to-1 on the higher end, meaning if you put $100 down and the Broncos take all the marbles, you will be able to put a down payment on that new pickup you have coveted for so long.

Realistically, for the Broncos to win the Super Bowl, we would have to see the Perfect Storm, NFL-style.

First, the Broncos would have to win the AFC West with an 8-8 or 9-7 record, the very best they will be able to manage this season. That would have Kansas City and the Chargers gagging and the Raiders falling back to Earth and losing most of their AFC West games instead of sweeping them, which they did last season.

Although 9-7 and an AFC West title would seem to be at the far reaches of reality for the Broncos, such a record will not earn a wild-card spot because there are just too many AFC powers that will finish better than that.

Let’s say, however, the first part of the Perfect Storm works out. The second part would have those AFC powers-that-be, the Steelers, Ravens, Patriots, Jets and Colts, finding ways to stumble back to the pack.

Aren’t we hearing Peyton Manning might be out for awhile? Are the Perfect Storm dominoes already starting to fall?

Let’s move to the next step: Our storm has indeed gathered and Denver wins the AFC title.

Green Bay was awesome in winning it all last season starting from a wild-card slot. There is no reason to think they won’t be in that category again.

And then there are the Eagles. They have Michael Vick and seemingly signed every quality free agent in sight.

For the Perfect Storm to be completed, Green Bay, Philadelphia and a few others, like New Orleans and Atlanta, must fall on their collective heads, with the NFC title instead going to the likes of Mike Shanahan’s Washington Redskins.

That’s how Denver wins the Super Bowl again. Make your bets at your discretion.

All that being said, let’s temper our expectations.

Reality, at times, bites, and this is Year One of Rebuilding with John Elway and John Fox at the helm.

The preseason was mostly golden with Kyle Orton and the first offensive unit clicking on all cylinders through portions of three games. We also saw the first-unit defense looking much better than it has in the recent past with the return of Elvis Dumervil and the debut of Von Miller giving the Broncos a legitimate pass rush.

Yes, there are still questions about whether the Broncos can stop the run, and yes, there have been a bundle of much-needed run-stuffers go down to injury, but Denver’s first-team defenders still allowed only nine points (three field goals) to opponents in three preseason games.

Then there was the bad, the really ugly, the final preseason 26-7 pasting at the hands of the Phoenix Cardinals.

Denver’s reserves couldn’t do anything against the Cardinal reserves, which is God’s way of telling us the Broncos have very little quality depth.

Offensively, they might have depth at quarterback, with Brady Quinn and Tim Tebow behind Orton. They might have it at running back, with Willis McGahee added to the fold with Knowshon Moreno. They would seem to have it at tight end and wide receiver.

Defensively, they would seem to have plenty of quality at linebacker, both inside and out, and they do have plenty of folks to play defensive end.

That means, however, Denver needs help offensively and defensively on the line and in the secondary.

If starters go down in certain spots — even a few spots— there is no hope for the Perfect Storm.

There is hope for Monday night, however. The Broncos host the Raiders — something that, at first glance, might not appear to be a good thing. After all, the Raiders slaughtered the Broncos twice last year, 59-14 and 39-23.

But this isn’t last year’s Raiders. They lost two of their best players, Nnamdi Asomugha, the league’s best lockdown corner, and tight end Zach Miller to free agency and won’t come close to replacing them with like-quality players.

The Raiders, under new coach Hue Jackson, were outscored 101-44 in losing four preseason games. They also have a quarterback in Jason Campbell who was injured with a concussion early in preseason and played extensively in only one game.

The Raiders will certainly test Denver’s run-stopping defense right off the bat. Darren McFadden and Michael Bush will pound repeatedly.

The question is, will Denver hold up?

It’s Week One of the new order.

The Perfect Storm starts at Mile High as the Raiders lose their 12th straight prime time game.

Denver 28, Oakland 24.

Rick Jussel is the former sports editor at The Daily Sentinel. Email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


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