Denver Broncos 2020 season preview: Drew Lock leads baby-faced offense

The Denver Broncos are ranked No. 17 in ESPN's Football Power Index ahead of the 2020 NFL season. With no preseason games this year amid the coronavirus pandemic, Week 1 is the first time we'll see new acquisitions and rookies for every team. Week 1 will also give us the first NFL games since Super Bowl LIV in February.

Here's everything you need to know about the Broncos heading into the season, from the big question to answer and the toughest stretch on their schedule to a bold prediction and potential breakout fantasy football stars.

Full schedule | Roster | Depth chart

The big question: Is this young offense ready to go?

No on-field work in the offseason and a truncated training camp offered a limited look at the Broncos' offensive potential. Quarterback Drew Lock will be in his first full season as a starter, with a starting lineup that could average just 24 years old. The offense certainly had moments in camp when it flashed what it could do, but overall, Denver might have to lean on the run game early. -- Jeff Legwold

How the pandemic has most affected the Broncos

Linebacker Von Miller was one of the first players in the league to reveal he had COVID-19 back in April, and safety Kareem Jackson tested positive in June. Both players said it took several weeks for them to feel 100% again and both have consistently stressed to their teammates the importance of following health protocols. Starting right tackle Ja'Wuan James, who signed for $52 million in 2019, was one of three Broncos to opt out, and it had the team scrambling a bit. Elijah Wilkinson was supposed to compete with Garett Bolles for the left tackle spot, but now he's going to be the right tackle and the Broncos' depth up front will be a question mark even after they signed veteran Demar Dotson just after camp opened. Dotson will be 35 in October and after 11 seasons in Tampa, the Buccaneers elected not to re-sign him after the 2019 season. -- Legwold

Football Power Index projections for the Broncos

Overall ranking: 17
Offensive ranking: 25
Defensive ranking: 6
Special teams ranking: 15

Total wins: 7.5
AFC West title chances: 7%
Chances to make playoffs: 31.8%
Super Bowl chances: 0.7%
2021 draft pick: No. 12

Inside the Broncos' schedule

FPI's strength of schedule rank: 1

Toughest stretch: After an unprecedented offseason, the Broncos have the misfortune of facing what appears to be the toughest part of their schedule early. They open on Monday Night Football against the Titans, who played in last season's AFC Championship Game. They follow that with at the Steelers, home against the Buccaneers, at the Jets and at the Patriots. Oh, and the team hasn't had a winning record on the road since, well, its last playoff season -- in 2015.

Over or under 7.5 wins? Over. Especially if the Broncos can cobble together some offense over their first five games despite a limited offseason and their fifth different offensive coordinator in the past five years. They'll need to get Lock settled early against defenses looking to rattle him. They need to win some matchups in the passing game with their tight ends and running backs, giving wide receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy more room to work. If they can do that their defense should have some teeth to it and keep them in games until the offense finds its footing.-- Legwold

Bold prediction for 2020: Drew Lock will flirt with 4K

The Broncos have drafted just three previous quarterbacks who have moved into the starting job by their second seasons -- Brian Griese, Jay Cutler and Trevor Siemian (remember that John Elway was drafted by the Baltimore Colts). Of that group Cutler had the best statistical Year 2 (3,497 yards passing, 20 touchdowns), but Lock has a far more help at running back, far more depth at wide receiver and tight end than Cutler had in 2007 and the results will show. The Broncos will run the ball plenty early in the season to get Lock settled in, but Lock will push the ball down the field enough to flirt with the seventh 4,000-yard passing season in the franchise's history. -- Legwold

Breakout fantasy star: Noah Fant, TE

Fant is entering his second NFL season following an impressive rookie campaign in which he finished TE16 in fantasy points while pacing all tight ends in RAC. Oh, and he was only 21 years old. Fant's 8.9 YPT in 2019 ranks fifth among rookie tight ends over the past decade, which is notable considering the list is a who's who of star fantasy tight ends. It shouldn't be a shock if Fant quickly emerges as a weekly must-start. -- Mike Clay

ADP for the Broncos' top players:

The view from Vegas

Super Bowl odds: 50-1 (opened 50-1)
Over/under: 7.5
Playoff odds: Yes +185, No -220

The Broncos' win total is 7.5, a number they failed to hit each of the past three seasons. You can get almost 2-1 on your money for the Broncos to make the playoffs, which they have not done since winning Super Bowl 50 in 2015. -- ESPN Chalk staff

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill.

Where the Broncos landed in NFL Rank

Speed reads before Week 1