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Today: The Denver Broncos
Last Year: 13-3 (lost in the Super Bowl)
I gotta hand it to John Elway. The dude suffered through one year of being forced to watch Tim Tebow play quarterback for his team, and decided that he wasn’t going to mess around. So, what did he do? Signed one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.
It didn’t work out so well the first year around, mainly because when you have Peyton Manning as your quarterback, going to the playoffs is never going to be enough. And when your safety doesn’t quite understand the concept of defending a Hail Mary, it’s probably not going to go very well.
But last year was different. The Broncos marched through the regular season again, and unlike the year before, they made their way to the Super Bowl. Of course what happened there was an absolute disaster, but hey! Baby steps.
Along the way, Peyton Manning managed to break a few records and the Broncos’ offense basically set the world on fire.
Again, the Super Bowl? Didn’t go exactly how the Broncos planned, really from the opening snap which flew past Manning and into Denver’s end zone. But that shouldn’t diminish any of Denver’s accomplishments in 2013.
And, another reason to respect John Elway: he’s going all in this season. After coming up one game short in 2013, Elway seemingly bolstered the defense by signing Demarcus Ware, T.J. Ward, and Aqib Talib. The Broncos should be title contenders, once again.
Last Year’s Stud: Peyton Manning
The guy who throws “touchdown ducks.”
In 2013, at the age of 37, Manning still managed to throw for a career-high 5,477 yards, averaged over eight yards per attempt, tossed 55 (!!!) touchdowns, and only 10 interceptions. Peyton Manning is ageless.
And while we’re on the topic, judging Manning by Super Bowl wins is just ridiculous — as it is for every quarterback. Super Bowl wins is not a quarterback stat. Stop it. It’s a team stat.
Runner-up: Demaryius Thomas
Last Year’s Surprise: Julius Thomas
In 14 games, Thomas had 65 catches, 788 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
Runner-up: Knowshon Moreno (60 receptions)
Last Year’s Disappointment: Von Miller
He missed the first six games of the season because he violated the league’s substance abuse policy and, by the time he was playing his first game, he weighed 268 pounds. Then he tore his ACL in December. A year after an 18.5 sack campaign, Miller only managed to compile five sacks in 2013.
Runner-up: Champ Bailey
If the Broncos had a weakness in 2013, it was the defense. After having a dependable Champ Bailey in the secondary for so many years, Bailey was limited to just a few games in 2013. Now, he’s gone. Elway did a good job rebuilding the defense in free agency, but he also addressed the secondary in the draft. With the Broncos’ first pick, they took Bradley Roby, a cornerback who spent his college years with Ohio State. In 2013, Roby had 69 tackles, 13 passes defended, and three interceptions.
Other notable pick: Cody Latimer
This Year’s Stud: Peyton Manning
Three things I love about Peyton Manning:
1) The Manning Smirk…God damn, I’m so god damn good at this god damn game.
2) Evil Manning.
3) Dancing Manning.
Runner-up: Demaryius Thomas
This Year’s Surprise: Emmanuel Sanders
Remember Eric Decker? Yeah, he’s gone to New York, where he will catch 40-60 passes from Geno Smith this season. Sanders will fill Decker’s role. And, largely because of Peyton Manning’s enormous talent, he should be able to come close to replicating Decker’s numbers from a year ago.
Runner-up: Von Miller (think he rebounds this year)
This Year’s Disappointment: Julius Thomas
The catches should still be there. I’m just not sure Thomas can repeat with 12 touchdowns.
Runner-up: Wes Welker (this concussion issue isn’t something he can ignore)
Draft early: Peyton Manning, Demaryius Thomas
Good value in the middle rounds: Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas, Wes Welker
Don’t draft: N/A
What Vegas Is Saying (LVH Sports Book): 11 wins
What We’re Saying: 11-5 (1st place in AFC West)
There isn’t much to say besides this: the Broncos are going to win the AFC West — barring any major injuries — and should be playing in the AFC Championship Game. With Peyton Manning rapidly approaching 40, the Broncos need to capitalize with a Super Bowl…and soon. Elway knows this, which is why he went on a spending spree in the offseason. A stronger defense should help them reach their goal. Manning is going to be Manning, Thomas (both of them) will continue to produce — the key will be how the defense performs.
[genericon icon=twitter] Follow Sean Wagner-McGough on Twitter @seanjwagner