All of those teams—Denver included—failed to end the season with a winning record. Denver managed to finish at the top mostly because of a stellar defensive performance and long field goals by Matt Prater. It shouldn’t be too hard for Manning to take control of the field when the best defense in the division happens to be that of the Kansas City Chiefs, who gave up an average of almost 22 points per game last season. He will help receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker improve by giving them more attention, just like he did with Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark.
The other quarterbacks—Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Matt Cassel—have all at one point proved themselves to be talented, but Rivers seems like the only real danger here to the Broncos' weak pass defense. Rivers is coming off one of his worst seasons, as he threw 20 interceptions last year and finished with only an 88.7 QB rating. Expect Denver to pick up a few key defensive players to help the cause in the upcoming draft.
Don’t forget, this team went 7-4 with Tim Tebow as a starter in the second half of the season. The Broncos were also able to knock off Pittsburgh in the playoffs before getting smeared by the Patriots.
This is a team that doesn’t totally rely on its man behind center to win games for them. Willis McGahee led division in rushing yards last season with 1,199, the defense came up in the clutch when Tebow couldn’t score, and Prater made successful field goal attempts from all over the field, including four game-winners.
Will the Broncos win the division with Manning?
Peyton Manning is a future Hall of Famer and has been the best at his position for the last decade. Although his playoff history isn’t anything to brag about (he’s 9-10 in the postseason and the only quarterback in history to go one-and-done in seven different seasons), he has shown he can win games, evidenced by the outstanding 141-67 record in the regular season. He has also reached the Super Bowl before (in 2006) and was named the MVP.
Manning hasn’t played in a game for a full season, but a smooth transition should be expected, especially in a division that lacks competition and consistency. If Manning can stay healthy, the Broncos should be able to go 9-7 and win it through a tie-breaker or take the title with a 10-win season.