It's been a long four months since the legal sports betting market kicked off in Colorado, but here we are: Football has finally arrived.
Yes, it's fun to bet on the Nuggets, Rockies and even the occasional Russian table tennis match. But for real gambling action, you can't beat the NFL season.
And for Broncos fans, the season will kick off in epic fashion, with a prime-time Monday Night Football matchup against the talented Tennessee Titans.
Most sportsbooks set the over/under at 7.5 wins for the Broncos, giving fans optimistic about Denver a chance to wager that the team will win eight or more games this year...and pessimists the chance to bet money on seven or fewer wins.
Westword spoke with three experts to get their takes on Broncos betting odds this season.
All three agreed that although Von Miller's freak ankle tendon injury in practice last week that likely knocked him out for the season is tragic for Miller and painful for fans, it won't be a devastating blow to the defense.
"Despite the bad news losing linebacker Von Miller, this defense is still loaded," says Geoff Kulesa, a Denver-based professional handicapper who runs the sports-betting advice site Wunderdog. "The defense should be one of the best in the AFC, which takes the heat off the offense."
"The reaction to the injury is as much about fans loving Von Miller as a person and a player and for bringing us a Super Bowl trophy as it is a reaction to what Miller was going to do for us on the field this season," says Ben Cary, a Denver resident who runs CapWize, a website designed to help bettors put themselves in a position to win.
And according to Ian St. Clair, lead writer at PlayColorado.com who has covered the Broncos as a journalist since 2004: "This defense and team is better than people think. The injury, while it's going to hurt, I don't think it's going to hold them back much."
How are the Broncos much better than people think?
"Drew Lock is going to be a big reason why," explains St. Clair, who is high on the second-year player who finished the season on a high note, going 4-1 in the five games he started at the end. That faith in Lock, as well as St. Clair's belief that the interior offensive line is going to be great and the interior defensive line is getting a huge upgrade with the addition of Jurrell Casey has him taking the over.
"I'm of the belief that they're going to eclipse 7.5. More in the range of 9 to 10 wins," says St. Clair, who thinks the season's most important game will be when the Broncos play at home against the Chiefs in late October.
"That is the key to the whole season. They have to beat KC. They have to get that confidence of, 'Yes, we can beat Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs.' Then they can beat anyone on their schedule," St. Clair argues.
But while St. Clair is feeling good about the over, Kulesa doesn't have as much confidence in the Broncos.
"Over 7.5 wins? Most likely not," Kulesa says, pointing to the youth of the offense and a difficult schedule as making things tough for the Broncos. "The 2020 schedule doesn't have many gimmes. Opening the season with three of five road games heading east, against the Pats, Jets and Steelers, is tough, and the two home games are against the Titans and Brady and the Bucs. Then there are two games with the champion Chiefs, at Atlanta, and home versus the Saints."
Cary lands somewhere between St. Clair and Kulesa.
"My prediction, before the Von Miller injury, was 8-8, and that is still my prediction after the injury," says Cary, adding that "at most, maybe this will cost them a win." So his outlook for the Broncos is hovering right around that 7.5 win line.
But even if the Broncos aren't super-competitive this year and the Chiefs blow away the whole division, Colorado fans still come out winners. Thanks to the November 2019 voter-approved Proposition DD, they'll be able to place bets on other teams throughout the season, even live during games, using one of over a dozen sports-betting mobile apps now operating here.
They can also head to casinos for in-person betting and boozing in Central City, Black Hawk or Cripple Creek. Fans who choose that option just need to set an over/under on their beer limit and try to stick with the under.