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USA Today predicts the Broncos to take a step backwards in 2019

(Photo by Joe Amon/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

While the Broncos are heading into week two of their training camp, most of the other teams in the NFL are set to report this week. That means football, at least for most people, gets rolling in earnest between now and Friday.

With that, pundits and prognosticators are coming out of the woodwork to get a jump on predictions. On Monday, it was USA Today’s turn to offer their “way too early” forecast for what’s going to happen during the 2019 season.

Nate Davis went through all 256 regular-season NFL games, picked a winner and then evaluated the end results. Some of the findings weren’t surprising (the Patriots win the AFC East), while others were a bit eye-opening (the 49ers winning the NFC West over the Rams).

But the big news, at least in Denver, was the total lack of faith the writer has in the new-look Broncos. Davis has the team finishing dead last in the AFC West, going 4-12 in the process.

Here was his explanation for why Denver would suffer through their third-straight losing season, taking another step backwards after last year’s 6-10 campaign:

“With new coach and accomplished defensive mastermind Vic Fangio calling the shots, they shouldn’t have to score many points to win games. Still, those points could be hard to come by with a new quarterback (Joe Flacco) and top playmakers Phillip Lindsay (wrist) and Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) returning from major injuries.”

In other words, the Broncos won’t be able to score enough points in an offense-happy league to win many games. Based on the early returns from training camp, it’s hard to argue that point.

Denver’s offense is sputtering. And without Sanders on the field at the moment during team drills, only Lindsay seems capable of being a difference maker.

But Davis seems to be dismissing the improved football acumen in Denver. Teams that try to win via defense have to play good, fundamental football; they can’t beat themselves. But that’s exactly what the Broncos did during each of the last two seasons, when the Vance Joseph-led team repeatedly made game-changing blunders.

The Broncos have all the makings of a semi-boring team. But they also look like one that will play smart football. And if they can win the field-position battle, not turn the ball over and make a play or two when opportunities arise, they can ride their defense to some wins.

Is it a Super Bowl formula? Probably not. But it seems like it’ll generate more than four wins, as it’s hard to imagine the Broncos taking a two-game step backwards in 2019.