The Denver Broncos are in an interesting spot for a team attempting to defend a Super Bowl title. With Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler now in Houston, the Broncos have inched ahead with three questionable options at quarterback and they still may not have a clear-cut answer at the position.

Sanchez Odd Man Out?

Per reports, backup passer Trevor Siemian is set to start Denver’s third preseason game this week, and may have already leap-frogged proposed starter Mark Sanchez for the right to battle for the starting job. Instead of Siemian battling Sanchez, whispers in Denver suggest it’s now Siemian versus rookie passer Paxton Lynch for the top job.

The writing on the wall may suggest Sanchez is the odd man out, both because he’s due over $4 million if still on the roster when the season begins and his play through two preseason games has been inconsistent, at best. Sanchez has been back to his old turnover ways, and while he did throw a touchdown pass in his first preseason game, he hasn’t made the gap between him and his competition wide enough.

Tough Call

It’s not an easy call for head coach Gary Kubiak, as he clearly has to consider the finances with Sanchez’s salary, but if Sanchez does give the Broncos their best shot at repeating as NFL champions, he may need to keep the former Jet in town.

Siemian winning the job probably isn’t Denver’s ideal situation, either. Flashing in camp and preseason is one thing, but Siemian has no experience to fall back on and was never a highly touted prospect coming out of Northwestern. Instead, the Broncos have to hope Sanchez either regains his footing, or prized first round pick Paxton Lynch steps up and wins the job.

Time is running out for the three quarterbacks to make the decision an obvious one, however. Regardless of what happens in the team’s third preseason game, a tough decision looms.

Denver’s 2016 Playoff Odds

No matter what, the Broncos are down an experienced quarterback with a history of high level success, as Manning is done for good. Even with Sanchez, they’d be getting solid experience, but a turnover-prone passer who has never been overly accurate or consistent. Sanchez also hasn’t been a proven winner since his first two seasons in the league.

All of that can be said of Siemian, too, so the Broncos are undoubtedly in a tough spot with either Sanchez or Siemian under center for a lengthy period of time in 2016. That is also likely the case if Lynch steals the job, but Lynch at least has immense upside on paper and has the skill-set to perfectly fit into Gary Kubiak’s system. On paper, if Lynch could mature throughout the year and the Broncos could lean hard on their defense and ground game, they’d have a chance to remain competitive.

Per Bovada, it probably doesn’t matter who starts under center. Denver still oddly remains the favorites to win the NFC West division (+190), largely because of that elite defense, good coaching and a stellar supporting cast on offense. Their Super Bowl odds aren’t nearly as locked in, of course, with Vegas giving them +1800 odds to repeat as the league champion.

It Has to Be Lynch

The harsh reality here is that Paxton Lynch can’t be any worse than Siemian and the gap between these three guys just isn’t enough to hold the talented rookie back.

In an ideal world, Lynch would sit back and learn on the sidelines, but he’s already performed above expectation and starting him right away is not throwing him to the wolves. If he didn’t have a nice stable of running backs, have the ability to move outside of the pocket, have an elite defense backing him or have guys like Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders to throw the ball to – then sure. If that weren’t all the case, then tossing a raw rookie passer into the starting lineup wouldn’t make any sense.

Sanchez is going to turn the ball over, pass the ball inaccurately and take bad sacks. He’s going to lose Denver games because, despite the experience he’s racked up, he still commits errors and doesn’t always make the right decision.

Denver can’t possibly expect Siemian to be a whole lot better, while his experience edge on Lynch is minute and his talent edge is non-existent.

The only way to go here for Denver is to throw caution to the wind, cut Sanchez and move forward with Paxton Lynch as their franchise quarterback and week one starter. Worst case, Lynch struggles and the Broncos suffer through a Super Bowl hangover and miss the playoffs. Best case, Lynch is the real deal and his elite supporting cast helps keep Denver in playoff contention and maybe even sets them on another deep run to defend their title.

There is middle ground here, too. The point is, the Broncos really should have only ever considered not starting Lynch if Sanchez blew them away or Lynch was atrocious in camp and preseason play. Neither has been the case. The future is now for the Broncos and Lynch. Let’s just hope they realize it.

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