Peyton Manning: 6 Goals Broncos Star Must Set for 2012-13 Season
For a man who's already considered one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, Peyton Manning has a lot to prove this season.
Though I'm sure Manning is more than prepared for the season to begin, it's going to be a very, very different year for him.
Keeping that in mind, here are a few goals that Manning needs to meet in order to consider this season a success.
Don't Get Hurt
I think we can agree that this is the baseline. According to Mike Klis and Jeff Legwold of The Denver Post, the Broncos actually included clauses in Manning's five-year, $96 million contract specifically in fear that he may re-injure his neck.
Only one year of Manning's deal is guaranteed money. As amazing as the quarterback's career has been, he's now 36 years old and hasn't played the game in almost two years.
It's sad to say, but if Manning's neck keeps him off the field this year, we could be looking at the end of his career.
So while this goal is a pretty obvious one, it's also very important—Manning needs to stay on the field.
Win the Division
Tim Tebow led the Broncos to a division title last year. That's really all that you need to know.
The division should be far tougher this year, meaning the playoff margin will be much slimmer—but the Broncos aren't paying Manning $96 million to miss the playoffs or even to win a wild card. They want the division title.
And honestly, I think Peyton expects the same thing. Only once in the past nine seasons (not including last year, when Manning was out) were the Colts not the champions of their division.
Manning is accustomed to making the playoffs and making them with ease. There's no reason that he shouldn't set the same standards this year.
Lead a Balanced Offensive Attack
As strange as it sounds, this one might be a bit tough for Manning.
Manning was essentially the offensive coordinator for the Colts. He called a lot of the plays, he mixed stuff up at the line of scrimmage and provided most of the direction for the offense—but that offense was much different than the one they have in Denver.
Rarely did the Colts run the ball and when they did, it was more to set up Manning's impeccable play-action passing game.
In Indianapolis, the running game was used to provide some unpredictability rather than to actually generate serious yardage.
It's completely different in Denver. The Broncos had the best running game in the league last year, rushing for almost 165 yards per game. While some of that can be attributed to the unorthodox offense that Tim Tebow played under, there's no denying that Denver has the personnel to run the ball and to run the ball well.
It would actually be more beneficial for Peyton to do less for the Broncos than he ever did for the Colts. It's something that he'll have to adjust to, but if he's able to run a good mix of rushing and passing plays, the Broncos will be an enormously difficult team to defend.
Have a Solid Statistical Season
With all that being said, the Broncos still want Peyton to be Peyton. They expect more production through the air than the meager amounts they generated last year, so it'd be worth Manning's time to set some benchmarks.
I think that around 200 yards and two touchdowns per game sounds about right for the recovering quarterback.
That would add up to 3,600 yards and 32 touchdowns for the season. Amazingly enough, that would actually be Manning's worst season ever statistically (except for possibly his rookie season, where he threw 28 interceptions).
Even if the production is low compared to Manning's astronomically high standards, it would prove that he's still every bit as good as he was with the Colts—and hopefully that he understands how to run a balanced offense.
Develop His Young Receivers
The Broncos actually have two young receivers bursting with star potential.
Demaryius Thomas developed into Tebow's favorite target by the end of last season, while Eric Decker has all the makings of a superb slot receiver—it wouldn't be a surprise if both of the two young wideouts have breakout years.
Manning has a history of helping develop star receivers, whether it be Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne or Austin Collie (who looked to be on the way before being injured in 2010).
I suppose you could try and chalk some of that up to luck, but I think most would agree that Manning is the reason for such success.
The Broncos are going to need a Marvin Harrison or a Reggie Wayne come playoff time. They need someone who inspires such confidence that Manning will think, 'I'm just going to toss it up to _____, because I know he'll come down with it.”
Having a receiver like that is important in the playoffs, and if Manning can create that kind of connection with someone on the Denver roster, things will be looking pretty good for the Broncos.
Win a Playoff Game
This is the big one. Peyton's got to show that he still knows how to get it done when the pressure is on.
A run to the AFC Championship or even the Super Bowl, while not absurd, is a lot to ask in Manning's first season as a Bronco. But a playoff win? That's something that Denver will expect now that they have one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time at the helm. And really, they should.
Denver has all of the pieces to make a successful championship run. All that they've been missing is the right quarterback.
Again, I'll give Manning a pass on a sustained playoff push until year two in Denver—but a playoff win is important.
Denver has to show that this team is at least as good as last year's version. It's the best way for Peyton to show that he still deserves to be considered one of the greatest in the league.