In easily the biggest move of the NFL offseason, sure-fire Hall-of-Fame quarterback Peyton Manning left the Indianapolis Colts, where he had spent his entire NFL career, to go to the Denver Broncos and avoid a rebuilding phase.
Knowing that the Colts were likely to select Andrew Luck with their first overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Manning wanted a fresh start after missing the entire 2011 season.
After weighing his options of other teams like the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals, Manning decided it would be in his best interest to go to Denver if he wanted to have another chance at a Super Bowl ring.
By going to the Broncos, Manning selected a team that had great success last season behind the lackluster but inspired play of quarterback Tim Tebow. Now with a bona fide superstar behind center, the Broncos are automatic contenders, right?
Not so fast.
Denver's expectations for Manning are as high up as their city is but Manning is simply not going to live up to them.
One major factor to take into consideration is the playing conditions Peyton will have to face. For most of his career, Manning has played almost half of his games inside a cozy dome in Indianapolis. Now he's faced with a high-altitude stadium with potentially harsh weather conditions.
Manning has a much lower career quarterback rating in weather between 41 and 60 degrees (85.8) compared to his games in which he's played indoors (98.7). In the one game Manning has played in weather colder than 21 degrees, he completed 14 of 18 passes for only 95 yards to go with an interception and no touchdowns.
Now that this type of weather will be consistently coming at Manning, he will have to adapt. Known for calling audibles at the line, Manning is no stranger to change but this weather could be one blitz that he doesn't see coming.
Another reason why Manning will struggle is his supporting cast around him. The Broncos running game has struggled with the inconsistency of Knowshon Moreno and Willis McGahee, and the receiving core is young, but unproven.
You could argue that Manning is the type of quarterback who can make anyone look good on offense, but he doesn't have an elite receiver like Reggie Wayne or a reliable tight end like Dallas Clark to fall back on when he needs to make a play.
Instead, he has the likes of Demaryius Thomas and Jacob Tamme. While both players have the potential to turn out really good, Peyton Manning doesn't have the time to wait for them to develop with his career winding down. Without a veteran big-play threat to connect to down the field, Manning may have to adjust his game further, which could end up hurting his numbers and the Broncos as a whole.
The defensive side of the Broncos was stellar last year and did well enough to give Tebow a chance to win some games for them. Manning is certainly going to need the support from the defense since he might not have the stamina or durability that he used to. Therefore, the defense must get stops and not allow the game to slip into a shootout where Peyton gets worn out from playing a lot of snaps.
Finally, Peyton Manning will fall short of success this season because of his own age catching up to him. Whether or not he can bounce back from a year off of football after a serious neck surgery is still in question. Also, this is not an easy task for a player of any age, but Manning is a ripe 36-year-old who's body doesn't heal as quickly as it used to.
His health may only deteriorate if he comes into the season at less than 100 percent, where he has to go play football and get repeatedly hit by the tough defenses of the AFC West.
Overall, we may not fully know just how ready to go Manning is until we see him play in a full-speed, regular season game.
Taking all of these factors into consideration, Peyton Manning and the Broncos' hope for instant success for the upcoming season in Denver may be galloping away into the distance.
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