It's time for the annual Zane Mathews Super Bowl prediction and Broncos forecast.

For the sake of my credibility, or lack thereof, let's review for a moment last year's prediction.

I picked the Chargers and the Vikings to go the Super Bowl. When you are done laughing and you wipe the tears from your eyes, you can continue reading. Of course, the Vikes didn't even make the playoffs, while the Chargers got in as a wildcard and won one game.

As for the Broncos, my forecast was for a 10-loss for last season. Sadly, I was spot-on with that outlook. We'll get to this year's forecast in a moment.

The NFC is pretty wide open this year, and I think any number of teams could go all the way. I hear a lot about Philadelphia and, but I'm not buying it.

It wasn't that long ago Atlanta was in the big game. Remember their historic collapse against the Patriots? The Falcons aren't bad, but they will carry the shame and guilt of that Super Bowl loss for years to come.

People are talking about the Chicago Bears, and it seems like you can never count Green Bay out, although I think I will. Minnesota should bounce back and be a contender, but I promise I will never again pick the Purple People Eaters to go to the Super Bowl, let alone win it. But, I do expect a return to the playoffs.

New Orleans has been ripped off two years in the playoffs. Both times they were good enough to go all the way. This could be their year.

It's hard to make consecutive trips to the Super Bowl, but the Los Angeles Rams look like a better team who is good enough to win it.

Super Bowl LIII - New England Patriots v Los Angeles Rams
Getty Images

Could we possibly have this discussion without mentioning the New England Patriots? Of course not. Once again, it looks like they don't have a Super Bowl-worthy team, which is exactly why you can't count them out.

Houston is going to be a tough out, maybe even advancing to the conference championship.

Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Los Angeles should be playoff teams, but I don't see anyone in this group as a serious contender. The Raiders and Jets will be better, but not good enough.

Kansas City has been knocking on that Super Bowl door for the last few years and this might be the year they come bursting through. It looks like they are better than last year, and this year, the road to the Super Bowl is going to be Interstate 70 through Kansas City.

Los Angeles Rams   34
Kansas City  Chiefs    33

Denver Broncos v Kansas City Chiefs
Getty Images

So where does that leave the orange and blue? There's an old Johnny Mathis tune that says "I'm on the outside looking in."  Unfortunately, when it comes to the playoffs, that's where the Broncos are going to be for the third consecutive year.

Don't get me wrong. The Broncos will be better this year. They should have a top 10 defense which will help keep them in a lot of ball games. Just don't expect the same dominant defense from the Super Bowl 50 year.

They say defense wins championships, but that's only true when the offense scores points, and it sure looks like points are going to be hard to come by this year.

There are plenty of good things to like about Denver's offense. Joe Flacco will be fine at quarterback. He's more than adequate. The Broncos' trio of running backs led by Phillip Lindsay is more than adequate. Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders are a great duo, but beyond that, the playmakers are few and far between.

The addition of Wiggins High School grad Dalton Risner is a step in the right direction in getting the Broncos' offensive line back to the level of the Terrell Davis days. But, unfortunately, it's just not likely to be enough. Once again, the offensive line is going to be the downfall of this team. Too many sacks and penalties, and not enough holes on 3rd and one for the running backs will spell doom.

New offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello could certainly help by making the Broncos offense less predictable in the red zone and avoiding those second/third and long situations inside the 20. The Broncos may set a record for most field goals attempted in a season.

If the defensive is as good as everyone thinks they are, and if Joe Flacco performs like the Super Bowl quarterback he is, and if the offensive line steps up and surprises us all like a box of Cracker Jacks, this is a competitive team that could stay in the playoff chase past the season's midway point.

I need to point out one important fact and that is the "Hall of Fame Curse". My research department, a.k.a. George Brown, tells me of the 106 teams scheduled to play in the Hall of Fame Game, as the Broncos were this pre-season, none of them have won a Super Bowl during that season. Only twice (Super Bowl 23, Cincinnati and Super Bowl 36, St. Louis Rams) has a Hall of Fame participant made it to the big game, and in both instances, they lost.

Yes, I said the Broncos will be better this year, but so is most everybody else. If all the ifs don't pan out, this will be a 5-win season for Denver. I hope I'm wrong. Please, Lord, let me be wrong. But, even if I'm not, I guarantee you I will be watching every week and cheering them on through all the ups and downs.

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