Denver will win Super Bowl, but will need a little help

Broncos trying to be first team in 42 years to avenge Super Bowl loss

     The NFL season starts Thursday night with Green Bay revisiting Seattle, site of the 2012 “Fail Mary” that single-handedly did more to end the league’s labor dispute with officials. (Two days later, replacement officials were gone.)

     Denver was pummeled 43-8 by the Seahawks in last year's Super Bowl and will attempt to become the first team in 42 seasons to win a Super Bowl the year after losing it. Only twice in history has a Super Bowl loser won the championship the following season, and it happened in consecutive seasons – Dallas (1971-72) and Miami (1972-73).

     The 2014 season had better start before any more bad news hits Denver. Starting running back Montee Ball had an appendectomy, missed several weeks of training camp, and is listed as probable for Sunday night’s season opener against Indianapolis; wide receiver/punt returner Jordan Norwood had a season-ending knee injury; starting linebacker Danny Trevathan suffered a leg injury and is expected to miss at least the first four weeks of the season; All-Pro kicker Matt Prater was suspended the first four game for substance abuse; starting receiver Wes Welker was suspended the first four games for a performance-enhancing drug.

     Making matters worse, the Broncos have the NFL’s second most-difficult strength of schedule (.570) and their first four contests are a death march against Indianapolis (11-5 last season), Kansas City (11-5), at Seattle (13-3) and Arizona (10-6).

     If the Broncos regain their health and start adhering to the league’s drug policies, they stand a good chance of getting back to the Super Bowl. Will they be able to beat Seattle in a rematch? Um, maybe. The best thing for Denver is that there is no rematch against the Seahawks. The Broncos are going to need a little help, and it begins with the season opener between Seattle and Green Bay, which incidentally will be this year’s NFC championship game.

     My predictions for the 2014 NFL season:

AFC EAST

(projected 2014 record)

1. New England (12-4)

2. Miami (9-7)

3. New York Jets (8-8)

4. Buffalo (6-10)

AFC SOUTH

1. Indianapolis (11-5)

2. Tennessee (8-8)

3. Houston (6-10)

4. Jacksonville (4-12)

AFC NORTH

1. Cincinnati (10-6)
2. Baltimore (8-8)
3. Pittsburgh (7-9)
4. Cleveland (3-13)

AFC WEST

1. Denver (12-4)
2. San Diego (10-6)
3. Kansas City (8-8)
4. Oakland (5-11)

PLAYOFFS

Wildcard: San Diego over Cincinnati; Indianapolis over Miami

Division: New England over San Diego; Denver over Indianapolis

AFC championship: Denver over New England


NFC EAST

1. Philadelphia (8-8)

2. Washington (7-9)
2. New York Giants (7-9)
4. Dallas (6-10)

NFC NORTH

1. Green Bay (12-4)
2. Chicago (8-8)
3. Detroit (6-10)
4. Minnesota (5-11)

NFC SOUTH

1. New Orleans (11-5)
2. Atlanta (9-7)
3. Tampa Bay (8-8)
4. Carolina (7-9)

NFC WEST

1. Seattle (12-4)
2. San Francisco (10-6)
3. Arizona (9-7)
4. St. Louis (4-12)

PLAYOFFS

Wildcard: San Francisco over Philadelphia; Arizona over New Orleans

Division: Green Bay over Arizona; Seattle over San Francisco

NFC championship: Green Bay over Seattle

SUPER BOWL XLIX

Denver over Green Bay

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