A month ago, the Broncos’ upcoming game against New Orleans was expected to be a Big and Easy victory. Now, a Broncos’ victory over the Saints Sunday will be an upset.
Upset? Get serious.
Who dat saying?
Who would have even believed before the season, after four games and even a week or so ago that a triumph in the city called The Big Easy by the boys from The Mile High City could be considered an upset?
After all, the Broncos are defending Super Bowl champions, and the Saints finished 2015 third in the NFC South with a 7-9 record. After a month of the 2016 season, the Broncos were 4-0, and two of those victories were over teams from the NFC South that were considered stronger than the Saints.
The Saints began the season 0-3 with losses to the Raiders, the Giants and the Falcons. Then they nudged past the Chargers by a point. Upon reflection, think: The Broncos since have lost to the Raiders and the Falcons and the Chargers.
Since the 0-3 start, the Saints have won four of five games. The Broncos have lost three of their last five games. Last Sunday they fell to the Raiders, while the Saints were winning against the other team from the Bay Area — the 49ers.
Suddenly, this Broncos’ trip to Nawlins seems Large & Hard.
The betting line in Las Vegas opened with the Saints a marginal one-point favorite. The spread has moved to minus-3. In early October, this would have seemed a -7 on the Broncos’ side.
What’s happened here?
The Broncos’ offense is, to quote the old British rock band Procol Harum, a whiter shade of pale. There’s no orange.
To be blunt, the Broncos’ offense is awful. Last in the league in three-and-out, nearly last in rushing, should be last in several other categories. Average quarterback, mediocre line, injured and incapable running backs, non-existent tight ends and under-utilized starting wide receivers and insignificant backups.
The Orange’s offense is similar to the Brown’s offense.
And the Broncos’ defense has been Hans Brinker’s Little Dutch Boy with his finger in the leaking dike.
No-nonsense, the Broncos’ defense is not as potent as a season ago; the injuries are escalating, and teams have figured out how to attack Wade Phillips’ outfit.
Contemplate this: On offense, the Broncos now are missing from the Super Bowl championship team its two running backs (one who was the rushing leader — he was cut — and the other was the best running back in the playoffs — he is injured; the starting tight end; three starters, and a capable veteran reserve, off the offensive line, and, of course, the leader and the starter and one of the five greatest quarterbacks in the history of the sport of football.
On defense, the Broncos are without defensive ends Malik Jackson (free agent) and Vance Walker (hurt), Antonio Smith (designated pass rusher), leading tackler Danny Trevathan (free agent), No. 3 safety, special teams captain and longstanding Broncos’ veteran emotion leader David Bruton Jr. (unceremoniously let go), Pro Bowler Derek Wolfe (hurt), All-Pro cornerback Aqib Talib (injured), a fully healthy Brandon Marshall (hamstring) and a recovering DeMarcus Ware (limited with continued back issues).
All those fanaticals in the public and the press who firmly thought (and probably still think) the Broncos will repeat in Super Bowl 51 did not consider the consequences of not having the 50 team intact at the midway point of 2016. Besides, the Raiders are vastly improved from last season; the Chargers are better, and the Chiefs have won 18 of their last 20 games going back to 2015.
Add to that a redshirt freshman at quarterback in Trevor Siemian and a true freshman behind him, neither of which were ready to start in the big-boy pants league this season. Trevor has been found out because of his dinky passing style, which has led to declining completion percentages the past four games, and Paxton Lynch doesn’t have his poster boards on the sideline from college to help him call plays.
Know this: If the Broncos don’t win in New Orleans, Trevor has started his last game. The Broncos will move onto Paxton during the bye week.
And the Broncos do not defeat the Saints, because as I’ve said on Denver7 and written this week, this is 30-20 New Orleans.
Setup, not upset.