Are You Ready For Some Football?

In my last post, I discussed why you should stay optimistic, even when pessimists are so convincing. As a fan of the Denver Broncos, I find the Broncos 2015 season, a great case study in why a pessimist's words must be taken with a grain of salt. With the 2016 NFL season upon us, let's take a quick look back at the 2015 Broncos.

The signs were evident in preseason, but week 1 of the 2015 regular season is when it all started. The Broncos had a hard fought battle with the Baltimore Ravens, winning 19-13 on a last minute interception. Immediately, the doubters starting coming out of the woodwork. “You don’t sign a guy like Peyton Manning to win games 19-13. Broncos offense needs to start putting up points.” “Broncos got lucky.” “The defense won’t be able to bail them out all season.” People were expecting, if the Broncos were to have success, it would be Peyton and the offense leading the charge. They couldn’t accept the Broncos might have found a different way to win games. Haters gonna hate.

Week 2 against the Chiefs, the Broncos offense looked a lot better, but, as happened in week 1, it was the defense coming up with a crucial, game-winning play, returning a fumble for a touchdown, with under one minute left in the game. In the eyes of many, the Broncos once again were lucky to win.

Narrow wins against the Vikings, Raiders and Browns did little to silence the critics. The Broncos finally earned credit with an incredible Sunday Night performance, holding Aaron Rodgers to 77 yards passing, and putting up a respectable 29 points for the game. However, it appeared the media might've “bought high” on the Broncos, as Denver would lose to the Colts the following week, in Peyton’s final game against his long-time team. More disturbingly, Manning was injured in the game, leading to a wild ride down the final stretch of the regular season.

After the Colts game, Manning thought he was healthy enough to play the following week against the Chiefs, but a dismal two sack, four interception performance proved otherwise. Manning was clearly injured, giving another reason for people to throw the towel in on the Broncos season. Next man up at quarterback was Brock Osweiler, a promising, yet inexperienced player who didn’t get much game or practice reps playing behind Manning. Even though Manning was having a dismal season (throwing 17 interceptions up to this point), detractors viewed his absence as a reason the Broncos would struggle.

Coming off two straight losses, Osweiler was able to help right the ship for the Broncos, leading them to three straight wins. Included in the streak was an impressive performance in the snow, beating the New England Patriots in overtime.

One of the advantages of playing a young, inexperienced quarterback is other teams haven’t had a chance to study him much. It’s tough game planning to stop a guy you don’t know much about, and it gives the young quarterback a potential edge in their first few games. However, opposing teams are quickly able to turn the advantage into a liability, as they learn the quarterback's tendencies, and put a plan in place to stop him.

The division rival, Oakland Raiders, were able to make Osweiler look like an inexperienced quarterback and put an end to the Broncos three-game winning streak. Questions continued to swirl whether the Broncos were good enough to advance in the playoffs. That is, if the Broncos were able to make it to the playoffs.

Against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Broncos skeptics were able to pat themselves on the back. The Broncos looked great in the first half before squandering a 17 point lead. Making matters worse, Denver’s dominant defense showed plenty of vulnerabilities. For the first time all season, the Broncos gave up 30 points in a game. The offense was already sputtering, and critics thought their defense had finally been exposed. Cynics were pointing out how overrated this team was, and how much trouble Denver was in.

Broncos overcame a shaky start in their penultimate regular season game, to beat the Bengals 20-17 in overtime. Despite the win, questions continued to surround the team, who, with the win, had secured a playoff spot.

Coming into their final game, the Broncos knew they were going to the playoffs, but a range of possibilities existed for what seed they would clinch, including a wild-card spot or the first seed (with a first round bye). The Dolphins surprisingly beat the Patriots in their final regular season game, meaning Denver only needed a win against the Chargers to clinch the number one seed in the AFC.

Playing a division rival, no matter what the team’s records are, is always tough. The game against San Diego should have been easy (on paper), but some fluky turnovers put the game in jeopardy. Needing a second half spark, coach Gary Kubiak made a gutsy call and put Peyton Manning in the game. The Broncos play inspired football the rest of the way, and managed to pull out a 27-20 win, capping off a 12-4 regular season.

Broncos clinched the number one seed in the AFC! Time for fans to go crazy! Time for questions like, “Will Peyton be able to ride off into the sunset with a win in the big game?” “Will a dominant playoff performance cement the defense’s status as one of the best all time?” “Are the Broncos the worst #1 seed in NFL history?” Hold up! What was that last question? Did someone really ask if the Broncos were the worst #1 seed in NFL history?

The user, ArchAngel, who posed the question on the forum, had this to say:

”So, Broncos get the #1 seed, thanks to Miami laying it on a fading Pats team. The Broncos enter postseason with question marks everywhere, especially on offense. A horrible O line, inconsistent run game, average at best QB play, receivers dropping balls left and right. On the defensive side, a great defense that leads the league in boneheaded penalties, injuries everywhere and mental lapses. So, the question begs; are the Broncos the worst #1 seed in recent memory?”

Unbelievable! I can’t even claim an East Coast media bias here. The comment is straight from a Broncos fan on a message board for Broncos' fans. What is it with some people that they can't seem to celebrate and enjoy success? Oh well. Disrespect was nothing new for this Broncos team.

First up in the playoffs was a rematch against the Pittsburgh Steelers, a team the Broncos had lost to a few weeks before. A key difference in this game was Pittsburgh had injuries to their top receiver and running back, that prevented them from playing in the game. It was a hard fought game and Denver’s defense forced a clutch turnover in the fourth quarter, which helped them win 23-16. Next up, the New England Patriots, with a trip to The Big Game on the line.

Despite having already beaten the Patriots during the regular season, the Broncos came into the game as 3 point underdogs at home. The disrespect towards this Denver team continued. Fortunately, odds makers and the media don’t decide the results of game; it was up to the two teams to battle it out.

Brady vs. Manning for the last time. Brady had gotten the better of Manning eleven out of the first seventeen matchups, but Peyton never had a defense a good as Denver’s 2015 defense. Denver’s defense was relentless all day against Brady, sacking him four times and intercepting him twice. Still, Brady wasn’t going to go down without a fight, and led the Patriots on a touchdown drive in the final minute to bring the score within two. The Patriots would need to convert their two-point attempt to tie the game, and send it into overtime. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Denver’s defense came through when needed. Denver’s cornerback Bradley Roby intercepted Brady in the endzone, clinching the win for the Broncos. Broncos were heading to The Big Game against the Carolina Panthers.

The Panthers looked dominant in their conference championship game, dismantling the Arizona Cardinals, 49-15. Carolina came into the game with the NFL’s MVP at quarterback and a fearsome defense. Denver hadn’t received any love so far this season, so, of course, now wasn’t the time for them to get showered with love. The Panthers would head into the game heavy favorites, with many people expecting them to come out with a blowout win. Meanwhile, Denver had other plans.

Denver was out to make a statement. The Broncos defense made Panthers QB Cam Newton look like anything but the NFL’s MVP. Denver’s defense had another dominating performance, intercepting Newton once and sacking him an incredible six times. Von Miller was too much for the Panthers offensive line to handle. Early in the game, with the Broncos up 3-0, Von Miller came on the rush and literally ripped the ball out of Newton’s hands. Denver recovered the ball in the endzone for the game’s first touchdown. The play set the tone for the entire game and Carolina was never able to figure out Denver’s defense. With a 24-10 win, the Broncos were World Champs, and no one could take that away from them. They had proved all the doubters and critics wrong.

The Broncos 2015 is a perfect parallel to the past few years in the market (either that or I really felt like reminiscing on last season). The bull market run we’ve been on has attracted many doubters. Pundits have pointed to slowing growth around the world, central bank manipulation, a jobless recovery, geopolitical risk, troubling economic indicators, and many other reasons as to why a stock market collapse is imminent. I get it, we do live in a scary world, and not everything is perfect, but investing too conservatively for the past seven years or so has caused many investors to miss out on significant gains.

2008 was a brutal year and left many people traumatized when it comes to investing. Many can’t get over it, and have been waiting and predicting the next big crash. Broncos fans were overconfident in the 2013 season when they got trounced by the Seahawks on the biggest stage, leaving many fans gun shy about getting too excited about the Broncos success. The stock market won’t go up every year and past performance doesn’t guarantee future success, but, over time, history has shown the stock market as a great place to put your money. Just as the Broncos may not win every game, and they may have losing seasons, but, over the past 30 years, they have been one of the winningest teams in the NFL.

I’m not asking for blind faith here, and I do see some positives with being a little more cautious when investing. However, we can’t allow fear to paralyze us. You may have no other choice but to continue to invest in the stock market. Let’s continue to be judicious and identify risks, but not at the cost of abandoning the stock market entirely.

There will always be doubters and skeptics, and some of them will be proven right. The media is already discounting the Broncos chances this upcoming season because of quarterback issues. (Didn’t they watch last season?) Winning back-to-back championships is near impossible in today’s NFL, so I don’t know if Denver will repeat. A rough schedule early on has me concerned, but I think they will put together a good season. I do know, just like last season, the Broncos have the chance to surprise people and win a lot of games. And, who knows, maybe the stock market will continue to surprise us by how it continues to win.

In all, I'm just happy football is back. It's my favorite time of year! Are you ready for some football?