The Denver Broncos won Super Bowl 50, and yet seven teams have better Vegas odds for Super Bowl 51.
Why? It might have something to do with the uncertainty that surrounds the Broncos at the quarterback position, but that’s odd considering that both Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler probably did as much harm as good in 2015.
Manning had the lowest qualified passer rating in football and was an interception machine before being benched for Osweiler, and when he returned for the playoffs he was nothing more than a game manager.
And that’s why Osweiler — despite a measly 86.4 passer rating, which wedged him between Sam Bradford and Blaine Gabbert in the rankings — has to now be considered a better option than a 40-year-old Manning.
Osweiler still won five of the first seven starts of his NFL career, completing a solid 61.8 percent of his passes while posting a decent touchdown-to-interception ratio of 10-to-6. With that defense, with stud left tackle Ryan Clady back from inury, and with the rest of the offense in relatively solid shape, Osweiler doesn’t have to be much better than that in order for Denver to make another run in 2016.
Osweiler’s problem is he quite frequently looked like a deer-in-headlights rookie in 2015. He was sacked nearly twice as frequently as Manning, he struggled immensely when his first read wasn’t open and he completed just seven of 30 pass attempts beyond 20 yards (ranking 34th among 35 qualified quarterbacks in terms of deep-passing accuracy).
Manning was hardly better in that category, but the reality is the Broncos — who will have a target on their back in 2016, considering nobody has repeated as Super Bowl champion in over a decade — will probably need improved play all-around, and particularly at quarterback, if they’re going to make another Super Bowl run.
Does Osweiler have it in him? It’ll depend on how much progress he makes this offseason.