A crystal ball is not required to predict the 2012 Broncos will struggle to reach the 9.5-win threshold set for them by the folks in Vegas. It will be a continuing theme around here that Denver faces some serious question marks.
But citing the historical precedent of teams whose records outperform their point differentials, like Bill Barnwell does, is a bit much.
We're no strangers to the fact that last season, Denver's 8-8 record exceeded their expected 5.8-10.2 record as suggested by their paltry 309 points for and subpar 390 points against.
But we'll continue to argue that the poor point differential owed more to the lack of a functioning quarterback than anything else. 309 points is a pittance, and was even aided by five non-offensive touchdowns (only four teams got a higher cut of their touchdowns from other units).
Teams that outplay their score differential at a rate between two and 2.5 wins lose an average of 2.4 games more in the subsequent season. This line requires them to improve by two games to hit their over.
He does realize the Broncos just swapped out the least accurate QB in the league to one of the best of all-time, right?
But that's just completion percentage, and we're talking points. What about scoring?
The Colts averaged 418.2 points and 45.6 offensive touchdowns over thirteen seasons with Manning at QB (1998-2010), and that includes his rookie campaign when the team managed just 310 points on seven rushing scores and Peyton's 26 TD passes, which were fifth-most in the league.
Last season, the Broncos scored 309 points on 31 offensive touchdowns.
That comparison is not meant to suggest the Denver offense will be as productive as Peyton's Colts were. Rather, it's a reminder of whence the Broncos and Manning came to arrive at their current juncture.
To make predictions based upon the history of teams that did better than their point differentials ignores the all-important context of Denver's unprecedented QB change. Because really, how many of the teams Barnwell cites as having greatly outperformed their expected records had a different QB the following season?
As for calling these Broncos "below-average at virtually every position," that's quite hyperbolic (Manning, McGahee, Dreessen, Tamme, Clady, Kuper, Dumervil, Miller, Bailey). That said, here are a few glaring examples that support Barnwell's point (Zane Beadles, J.D. Walton, Orlando Franklin, whoever plays next to Mike Adams).
We're all anxious to see how Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas fare playing with Manning, and there's always the question of Ty Warren's health and what kind of impact Derek Wolfe can have as a rookie.
These, plus Manning's health (of course), are the real questions that overhang Denver's season, and it's reasonable to suggest they will prevent the team from getting to ten regular-season victories.
But they don't need to be overstated to justify a wager against the team's success in 2012.