Denver Broncos' 2009 projection: 4-12

Arguably no team will look as different when this season begins compared to the end of the 2008 campaign than the Denver Broncos.

But then again, maybe no team deserved an overhaul more than the Broncos, who seemed to have the AFC West locked up but then went on a three-game season-ending losing streak, capped by a 52-21 stinker at San Diego that gave the Chargers the division.

Once Mike Shanahan was let go, that seemed to signal the end for franchise QB Jay Cutler as well. New coach Josh McDaniels, former the Patriots offensive coordinator, wanted Matt Cassel but couldn't land him, and then he and Cutler never got on the same page. Denver got plenty in return for Cutler, including two first-round picks and Kyle Orton, but now the team is again looking for someone who can man the position long term. Is Orton that guy? Doubtful, but he already has been named the starter over Chris Simms.

Denver was rumored to be in the mix to trade up for Mark Sanchez in the draft but instead surprised everyone by taking Georgia RB Knowshon Moreno. He will battle former Eagle Correll Buckhalter as the featured back this fall. The rest of the skill position players should be the same as last year, but remember that WR Brandon Marshall might face a suspension this year again.

On defense, things could be ugly again. Denver ranked 29th in the league in overall defense (30th in scoring defense) last year and didn't address that side of the ball a ton. Sure, the Broncos took LB Robert Ayers with their second first-round pick and added Eagles safety Brian Dawkins, but that’s nowhere enough – especially with Champ Bailey beginning to show his age.

Here is the Broncos' 2009 schedule, and we’ll break it down after:
Sept. 13 at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m.
Sept. 20 vs. Cleveland Browns, 4:15 p.m.
Sept. 27 at Oakland Raiders, 4:15 p.m.
Oct. 4 vs. Dallas Cowboys, 4:15 p.m.
Oct. 11 vs. New England Patriots, 4:15 p.m.
Oct. 19 at San Diego Chargers, 8:30 p.m.
Week 7: Bye
Nov. 1 at Baltimore Ravens, 1 p.m.
Nov. 9 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers, 8:30 p.m.
Nov. 15 at Washington Redskins, 1 p.m.
Nov. 22 vs. San Diego Chargers, 4:15 p.m.
Nov. 26 vs. New York Giants, 8:20 p.m.
Dec. 6 at Kansas City Chiefs, 1 p.m.
Dec. 13 at Indianapolis Colts, 1 p.m.
Dec. 20 vs. Oakland Raiders, 4:05 p.m.
Dec. 27 at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m.
Jan. 3 vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 4:15 p.m.

Strength of schedule: 19th (opponents combined to go 122-132-2, .480, in 2008)
Projected record: 4-12
over/under total: 7
odds to win Super Bowl XLIV: 50/1

I guess I am a glass half-empty guy predicting four wins when Bodog's over/under is at seven. Maybe I'm off by one or even two wins, but there's no way this club wins seven games. At least Denver gets to continue one streak: The Broncos' two Monday Night Football appearances mark the 18th year in a row the club will make at least one appearance on MNF, which is the longest active streak in the NFL.

Denver should start the year 2-2, losing both road games but holding serve at home – yes, even pulling an upset of the Cowboys. For what it's worth, Denver has won three in a row vs. Dallas in the regular season. And I know Denver usually beats Oakland on the road (since 1995, the Broncos are 10-4 in road games against the Raiders) but not this year. Then comes what should be a fun matchup with McDaniels facing his former team. Obviously that's a Patriot win.

After New England, I say forget about a Denver chance at victory until Dec. 6 at Kansas City. In that six-game stretch prior to the Chiefs, in which Denver likely will be an underdog in each, the Broncos face five games against potential Super Bowl teams and one at Washington, which is never an easy place to play.

Then there is that game at Arrowhead Stadium, where the Broncos have lost eight of their last 10. Make it nine of 11. Denver will be a big underdog at Indy and will fall to an ugly 2-11. But look for the Broncos to win their final two home games against division foes sandwiched around a loss at Philly (unless the Eagles have nothing to play for then).

That's 4-12, meaning Denver will have missed the playoffs four consecutive years.

This information is provided in partnership with BoDog Sportsbook

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