DENVER -- The Denver Broncos are the only NFL franchise in 2016 with an opportunity to tie the rare record repeat Super Bowl championship.
And they have a chance at the even rarer double-double.
Seven franchises have won back-to-back titles in the Super Bowl era.
Green Bay was the first in the 1966-67 seasons. New England was the last in 2004-2005. In between were Miami, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Dallas and, yes, DENVER (1997-98).
But the only franchise has achieved that incredible feat twice in the half-century of Super Bowl. Pittsburgh, at one time (and for a long time) the worst franchise in the NFL, seemed to find new life when the NFL and the AFL merged, and the Steelers agreed to shift to the new American Football Conference.
The Steelers won Super Bowls in 1974-75 and again in 1978-79. Overall, Pittsburgh has the most Super Bowl championships – 6 – followed by the 49ers and the Cowboys, each with 5. The Patriots, the New York Giants and the Packers were 4-time titlists, and Oakland, Washington and the Broncos have won 3.
The Broncos are, of course, defending champions.
The Steelers and the Cowboys are tied for most S.B. appearances with eight, followed by the Broncos and the Patriots with seven and the 49ers with six.
So, the Broncos can tie the Steelers with a pair of back-to-backers and can move into a tie with Pittsburgh and Dallas with another trip to the Super Bowl this season.
Only four franchises have never been to the Super Bowl – Cleveland, Detroit, Jacksonsville and the host of Super Bowl LI (the Roman numerals return after 50) – the Houston Texans. You can bet against those four teams making it this season, unless you believe in Brock Osweiler.
The Broncos have great expectations, but, truth is, teams with world-class defenses have not repeated since the introduction of real free agency. You’d have to go back to the 1970s Steelers’ dynasty, the Miami Dolphins of perfect-season fame and the no-name defense, and the Pack of the 1960s.
A year ago at this time, I wrote a column in The Denver Post predicting that the Broncos would finish 12-4, beat New England in the AFC Championship and win Super Bowl 50.
Pretty prophetic pick.
This year the Broncos won’t repeat as Super Bowl champions, won’t reach the Super Bowl, won’t play in the AFC Championship and won’t even win the AFC West Division.
But they will win 10 games and make the playoffs as a wild-card team before losing in the first post-season game on the road.
My misguided Denver7 friends Lionel Bienvenu, the sports director, and Troy Renck, the Broncos’ insider, are high on the Broncos, or something, and are claiming they will beat the Carolina Panthers in the opener Thursday night.
I’ve got the Panthers winning 30-20.
But, wait. The Broncos have the most dominant defense in modern America.
The Panthers are bent on making up for what happened in the Super Bowl, and they possess possibly the best defense in the league this season. It’s well to remember their defense was outstanding against the Broncos in the last game that meant anything in the NFL.
Let me help you remember. Von Miller forced two fumbles that led to the Broncos’ only two touchdowns (one a fumble recovery in the end zone), and the Broncos added three field goals in the 24-10 victory.
This Denver offense is not as good as that Denver offense, and the new quarterback, Trevor Siemian, hasn’t started a game in the NFL – and participated in only one play as a rookie (a kneel-down before halftime). The Panthers will treat him as poorly as the Broncos treated Cam Newton last season. There will be an interception; there will be a fumble by somebody. There will be a leaky offensive line. There won’t be 90 yards rushing by C.J. Anderson this time. There won’t be a defense that gets as lucky as it did last time (and throughout the 2015 season).
There will be a Newton sighting. He will run and throw for a combined 300 yards, and he will throw and run for three touchdowns and set up three field goals.
The Broncos will end up with two touchdowns and two field goals.
The Broncos will play at four Super Bowl sites this season – Phoenix, Tampa, New Orleans and Jacksonville – but they won’t play at this year’s location.
It will be a fun year, anyway. Brock comes back to town, and Brady, and Andrew Luck, and the Raiders are here on New Year’s Day. Just no reprise, surprise or a prize.