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Can the Broncos make the playoffs?

Von's injury didn't help

Courtland Sutton is just one of many offensive weapons that Drew Lock has at his disposal this year. And the Broncos will need a high-powered offense without the injured Von Miller.
David Zalubowski | Associated Press

Just when Denver Broncos fans were starting to feel good about the upcoming season — d’oh.

Von Miller gets hurt on the Tuesday before Week 1. Double d’oh. The defensive stud will go on injured reserve, but Denver coach Vic Fangio hasn’t ruled him out for the season. Maybe that’s optimistic thinking.

Either way, welcome to NFL 2020, everyone.

As psyched as we all are for some football, expect some major sloppiness in the first few weeks without having a preseason. The teams that play fundamental football — aka avoiding turnovers and penalties — will be ahead of the game.

Avoid the temptation to go nuts on drawing conclusions after Week 1. We say this every year, but we really mean it in 2020. With an altered offseason, don’t get drawn in by your team’s quick or slow start and scream, “We’re going to the Super Bowl,” or “The world is ending.”

Also for your consideration, a reminder that the NFL has added a third wild card in each conference for the playoffs. This increases the chances for teams on the postseason bubble — ahem, the Broncos.

AFC West

Kansas City has won the division four straight years and that doesn’t change this fall. Will they have Super Bowl hangover after winning it all last year? Probably. Does it matter? No.

The Broncos were longshots to unseat the Chiefs before Miller went down. I still wouldn’t count them out for the playoffs with the extra wild card. What bears watching is quarterback Drew Lock. He went 4-1 as the starter last season, but it’s different starting the season as the No. 1.

Denver has added wide-reciever Jerry Jeudy through the draft and running-back Melvin Gordon from the Chargers through free agency. That gives Lock a lot of weapons with which to play.

Can the Broncos’ offensive line keep Lock upright and can he make the most of his options? That’s what we’re watching this season.

The Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers — both sound strange — will bring up the rear, though they’ll probably end up stealing some games they shouldn’t.

AFC North

The Ravens are the consensus pick and who are we to argue. It’s going to be fun to see how teams play Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson after one year. That may or may not help as the Ravens are the favorites here.

How does Ben Roethlisberger return to the Steelers? Can he stir up the old magic? Either way, the Steelers are a shoe-in for the wild card as a well-run organization.

That serves as a transition to a poorly-run one — the Cleveland Browns. Talented, but this franchise is a circus. We hope Joe Burrow enjoys his first year with the Bengals.

AFC South

The Titans are a trendy pick. They picked off the Patriots during the playoffs, and all of America cheered. I don’t care. Ryan Tannehill is what passes for a quarterback?

Instead of surrendering this division to the perpetually 9-7 or 10-6 Texans, let’s go with the Indianapolis Colts. Hey, it’s Phillip Rivers, everyone. Broncos fans, have you heard of this guy? Meanwhile, let’s wish the Jaguars well in their tank job for Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence.

AFC East

Yes, we all want to bury New England after the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick divorce. My bet is it won’t go well for both, but don’t bury the Pats yet.

They have a good defense. They have Cam Newton. They’ll pick some guy off the street and make him the next great slot receiver. And do you really want to bet on the Bills or some possibility of the Jets or Dolphins?

While New England isn’t a Super Bowl team, you can put away the shovel.

NFC West

Of course, I’m taking the Niners. Despite the San Francisco bias, they’re a darn-good team. This division is no cakewalk. As long as Seattle has Russell Wilson, they’re in the mix. The Cardinals will be a sleeper team, and the Rams have talent, but don’t know what to do with it.

Onward, Niners.

NFC North

The Packers have the best quarterback — Aaron Rodgers — and even though Green Bay seems to be trying to phase him out (Jordon Love), the Cal grad — nice job, Niners — gives his team the best chance in this division.

I. Don’t. Trust. Minnesota. No one trusts Mitch Trubisky. (Nick Foles by week 4 or 5?) And the Lions? See Minnesota.

NFC South

We’re going to get a heap-load of Tampa Tom. The networks are hitching their wagons to the Buccaneers — another crazy 2020 moment; the Bucs are all over national television — with five primetime appearances and three late-afternoon games.

Issue No. 1: Brady is 43. Issue No. 2: His playoff spot is no longer assured by playing the Jets, Bills and Dolphins twice. Issue No. 3: Brady isn’t the best old-guy quarterback in his division.

Drew Brees, 41, is, and the Saints are still the favorites.

NFC East

I want to pick anyone but the Cowboys. Really. But how long will it take for Carson Wentz to get hurt? The Giants remain the Giants, and the … Washington Football Team … what the heck is that? … can’t even find a new name for itself.

Thus, we pick the Dallas Football Team to to win the East.

Wild cards and the Super Bowl

Aside from the aforementioned division winners, the Steelers, Texans and Broncos make the AFC playoffs, while the Seahawks, Vikings and Cardinals round out the NFC field.

The Ravens beat the Niners in the Super Bowl because you never pick your own team to win it.


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