So the Denver Broncos have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time now on their team. So they've looked really good (for the most part) in preseason with their starters. So Sports Illustrated's Peter King has now picked them to go all the way to the Super Bowl this year. All I can say right now is, Broncos fans, don't go buying your tickets to New Orleans just yet.
It's Not Just That This Is Practically A New Team
The Broncos have a lot of new players they acquired in free agency and in the draft that are filling key roles. It takes times for a team to build chemistry and to get to level of comfort that the truly great teams have. Take into account also that head coach John Fox is only in his second year with this team. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is brand new. It will take some time for this team to gel and success may not come as quickly as some believe it will.
First Half Of Schedule Is Rough
Week 1 - Pittsburgh Steelers- Playing against one of the perennial toughest defenses in the NFL may be a wake-up call to fans who think that the Manning-led Broncos are going to dominate the league. Add to that a revenge factor for the Steelers defense who were pretty embarrassed to be picked apart by Tim Tebow in the playoffs here last year. It's quite possible for this game to show how much work that the Broncos offense still needs to do.
Week 2 - At Atlanta Falcons - Many NFL experts expected the Falcons to make it further in the playoffs than they did last year. They have an underrated defense and a potentially explosive offense with Matt Ryan at quarterback. While Manning may feel at home playing in the dome stadium in Atlanta, the rest of the team isn't quite as used to it. This could be another very difficult game for the Broncos.
Week 3 - Houston Texans - Manning's old nemesis from the AFC South pays a visit to Mile High. This is another hard test for the Broncos as the Texans have an offense capable of matching the Broncos point-for-point. This game could come down to whoever has the ball last.
Week 4 - Oakland Raiders - Anyone who looks at this game and thinks this is an easy win for the Broncos has not paid attention to history. The Raiders always play so far above their potential against the Broncos than seemingly anyone else, and they'd love nothing better than to come into Denver and pull off the massive upset.
Week 5 - At New England Patriots - This is probably the most anticipated matchup of the season. Tom Brady vs Peyton Manning. There will be no greater test for the Broncos the entire season than for this game. I have no idea who will come out on top. I'm pretty sure I will watch this game with my hands covering most of my eyes for significant periods of time.
Week 6 - At San Diego Chargers - This will be a brutal game after the cross-country trip to and from New England. Fortunately, as this is a Monday night game, the Broncos will get an extra day of rest to prepare. This could end up being a very high scoring game if Philip Rivers is back to his Pro Bowl-caliber ways, but I have no idea how the Chargers as a team are going to do this season. I still have to think that the Broncos will be a better (and much more battle-tested) team at this point in the season.
Week 7 - Bye Week
Week 8 - New Orleans Saints - After the bounty investigation that has ruined this team's offseason, no one knows if they will come out of it dominating the league in anger or struggling without their head coach. The one factor that favors the Broncos is that the Saints simply don't play nearly as well outdoors. Let's hope for a cold, rainy/snow night here!
My belief is that, after Week 8, the Broncos will most likely own a 4-3 or 3-4 record. I wouldn't be too terribly surprised if the Broncos are 2-5. It's a very, very difficult start to the season. The second half actually lightens up a lot in my opinion, and this is where the team will really begin to come together. My message to Broncos fans is this: don't be discouraged if the season starts out rough. I will be shocked if it doesn't considering how many new adjustments this team has had to make. However, they will come together at the right time and make a charge for the playoffs in November and December. Super Bowl contenders? Let's base that on how they're playing in December, not in August.
Julie is a featured sports contributor who writes about the Denver Broncos for the Yahoo Contributor Network. A lifelong football fan, she has been following the Broncos since moving to Colorado in 2001.