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2011 Week 17 ranking: No. 21
Gone is Tim Tebow;, in is Peyton Manning. Where I come from, that's called an upgrade.
Manning will look to take the Denver Broncos back to the playoffs, but he'll be asked to do so with a tougher division in front of him than the one Tebow faced in 2011, and with a supporting cast well below any he played with in Indianapolis.
Manning is an all-time great, but there are still questions about how healthy he is, how long he can stay healthy and what the effects of a hard hit to the neck will do. We're all hoping for the best, but the reality is much closer to an unknown.
The Broncos have a decent offensive line, but they are built for a run-first offense. Ryan Clady is the lone upper-level player here, and thankfully he'll be the one blocking Manning's blindside. With how fast Manning delivers the ball, the offensive line doesn't have to be great, but it needs to improve.
Manning will be working with Demaryius Thomas, who may be the best deep threat he's ever had, and possession receiver Eric Decker. What's missing on paper is someone to work the slot on hot routes and a good tight end. Brandon Stokley may become that guy in the slot, but he's nothing to write home about in matchups.
The defense has stars in Von Miller and Champ Bailey, but they need more production from the other players. Elvis Dumervil has had off-field issues this summer and needs to get past those to get on the field. There is youth in the secondary, especially at safety, which could be a blessing and a curse.
The expectations are for a postseason run, but with Kansas City healthy and San Diego reloaded, the Broncos may actually be a better team in 2012 and still miss the playoffs.