The Broncos’ D/ST is currently ranked No. 22 in scoring (22.9 points per game) among all teams.
Also, the Broncos’ defense isn’t likely to rank higher again, but at least they’ll likely be healthier than last year. When we compare last season’s Denver D to this year’s Denver D, it’s obvious that the offense is substantially worse than it was before. In 2016, the Broncos D ranked 31st in rushing (4.9 yards per carry) and had the league’s second-worst pass defense (33.8 points per game). This year, the Broncos D ranks No. 30 in passing (5.3 yards per attempt) and also has the league’s third-worst pass defense, giving up 4.8 yards per pass attempt. While no one can take away the fact that the offense is much worse than it was two-and-half years ago, it’s difficult to look at the team now and not conclude that the Broncos are probably a pretty good team. I’m not going to pretend that this is a guaranteed improvement for the Broncos, but it’s hard not to think that they’re better than they were last season.
The biggest reason for the improvement is that Peyton Manning is now clearly on his way back from his hip injury . I don’t know much about quarterback health or how quickly Manning might return, but I think it’s safe to say that I’ve never seen a quarterback so close to re-injury before. I’ve discussed this issue before, but it is the biggest reason why I think the Broncos are likely to make a serious run at the Super Bowl again this year. The defense is going to have to be a significantly better unit for this offense to be nearly as good as it was last season, and that means something for both defense and offense.
Denver’s top-20 offense in scoring last year:
Top-20 offense in scoring, 2016:
- Washington Redskins 26.4 (29th) 2. Baltimore Ravens 19.5 (11th) 3. Arizona Cardinals 18.6 (16th) 4. Houston Texans 18.5 (13th) 5. Jacksonville Jaguars 19.3 (21st) 6. Tennessee Titans 18.5 (24th) 7. Pittsburgh Steelers 18.1 (10th) 8. Atlanta Falcons 18.0 (12th) 9. Miami Dolphins 18.2 (11th) 10. California Golden Bears 17.7 (24th) 11. Green Bay Packers 17.5 (17th) 12. New England Patriots 17.7 (25th) 13. Minnesota Vikings 17.4 (26th) 14. Indianapolis Colts 17.7 (10th) 15. Detroit Lions 17.6 (19th) 16. San Francisco 49ers 17.2 (9th) 17. Green Bay Packers 17.0 (28th) 18. Baltimore Ravens 17.0 (10th) 19. New York Giants 17.0 (12th) 20. New Orleans Saints 16.8 (9th)
Overall, the Broncos were the worst offense in the league last year based on yardage, which means that their D rank could have gone down. I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a single person in the stadium who was really happy with the team’s performance last year, and as much as people dislike to admit it, it actually probably wasn’t great. The defense was far and away the biggest reason that there was some hope that the Broncos would rebound. Instead, they struggled, especially in the redzone, and the offensive line certainly didn’t help.
Since injuries have derailed so much of the team’s season once again, it’s very easy to see why the Broncos don’t be a major factor right now in the AFC. The Broncos D ranking is only 13th in the league, and right now the only team ranked below them is the Chargers. The Chargers could easily be the lowest ranked team with an actual playoff spot, but if the team starts to slide up in the AFC West it could create a major problem for the Bolts. So, what does that mean for the Denver D? It’s much more likely that the defense is not going to improve quite as much than it is that Manning will return next year. Peyton Manning and the Broncos are all but done as a legitimate Super Bowl contender if their defense and offense are in any kind of decent shape, and with an offense that isn’t quite as good as it was after a year off, we’re probably never going to see a truly great Denver Broncos D again.