Tim Tebow, who generated tons of attention, was sent to the place where attention is all that matters (New York Jets). Denver had to change their offense, and 13 teams had to change their approach to playing Denver.
Manning may not be the same quarterback that won four MVP awards and a Super Bowl, but he is still elite. He will pick apart defenses with short drives, and if not, he will deliver a beautiful deep pass.
While people don't think highly of Denver's receivers, they are out on a mission to prove people wrong. Demaryius Thomas got open and made huge catches in 2011, and Eric Decker showed lots of promise while catching short passes and turning them into big plays.
Both dropped a few passes last year (especially Thomas), but a lot of those passes were hard to catch. As much as I admired Tim Tebow, he isn't as accurate as Manning, and with Manning at the helm, Decker and Thomas should both have less drops.
Both can catch short passes and deep balls, although Decker is a better short threat and Thomas is a better deep threat. Manning tends to pick apart defenses with long drives consisting of short passes. Therefore, Decker will be running a lot of slants, which benefits him.
Decker is fast and runs great, crisp routes. He will get open for Manning, and Thomas will do the same.
However, Thomas isn't great at running short routes. Thomas is a great deep-ball threat, as he takes long strides and draws more separation from cornerbacks as he gets downfield.
Overall, Manning will have a good receiving corps. In the backfield, he will be set too.
Ronnie Hillman, Denver's third-round pick, is an explosive running back who has great vision and bursts through every hole he sees. With his speed, he can get open on passes, although he doesn't have spectacular hands.
Denver is set on offense, and once they gel together and play with each other for a little while, they'll improve a lot.
On defense, there are some more question marks.
Von Miller had a great rookie season, and Champ Bailey has been anchoring Denver's secondary for a long time. Elvis Dumervil is still an elite pass rusher, and overall, the Broncos can apply pressure to the quarterback.
Denver shut down a lot of offenses, and they held a lot of teams to a low amount of points. However, they didn't force many turnovers, and their defense played terribly against elite quarterbacks.
Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Rodgers torched Denver for 41 and 45, 45 and 49 points, respectively, in 2011. Brady threw six touchdowns in New England's 45-10 playoff win over Denver, and Rodgers threw four touchdowns and ran for two more.
While the Broncos defense struggled in 2012, the team didn't. Even though their offense was inconsistent, the team was able to win close games and make clutch plays. With Peyton Manning at the helm, imagine what the team can do.
Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, who both have great hands when catching on-target passes, will dominate. Decker will be able to get open on short routes, as he runs very crisp routes. Thomas takes longer strides, so he can't cut as well. He will be a great deep threat for Manning.
Overall, all this team needs is chemistry. The Broncos have a lot of capable receivers and tight ends, such as Decker, Thomas, Andre Caldwell, Jacob Tamme, Brandon Stokley and Joel Dreessen.
The team has a tough schedule, but by midseason, the team will be working together well and dominating the AFC West. When Denver does come across a weaker opponent (which won't happen often), expect their defense to dominate.
By the end of the year, the Broncos should be ready to go for the playoffs. I expect improvement from the defense and the offensive line, as they won't have much work to do. Manning picks defenses apart with long drives and short passes, so he only needs three or four seconds to make a throw.
While Denver does have a tough schedule, they will be able to handle it. They have a great team full of players ready to contribute, and I expect them to be ready to win close games at home and on the road in the playoffs.
Then, I expect them to win Super Bowl 47 in New Orleans.
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