Peyton Manning: Broncos QB Needs Fast Start to Succeed in 2012

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2012

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 26:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos throws a pass against the San Francisco 49ers during the first quarter of a pre-season game at Sports Authority Field Field at Mile High on August 26, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos will usher in a new era on Sunday, September 9 when they take on Pittsburgh in the Sunday night prime time game. The shape of the franchise changed when they signed Peyton Manning

But as Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker in Spider-Man, with great power comes great responsibility. Manning has the power alone to turn the Broncos into a championship contender—as he so often did with Colts teams that would not otherwise have been anywhere close to the postseason. 

Yet, we all look at what he can do and think the Broncos have the potential to do something special. 

Manning's presence has changed the way the Broncos have approached the season. No longer are they an up-and-coming franchise with talented pieces that are going to take their lumps while learning lessons. 

No, they are expected to contend for a Super Bowl. According to Bovada, they are a 15-1 shot to win the Big Game, good for fourth in the AFC behind traditional powers New England and Pittsburgh, as well as a loaded Houston team. 

So what happens if Manning doesn't start out looking like the player he was the last time he was on the field for a game that mattered? (For the record, it will be 610 days when the regular season starts since the Colts lost the playoff game against the Jets on January 8, 2011.)

Manning is, for the most part, a mentally strong athlete. It takes a lot to rattle his cage, but we have seen things snowball on him when he doesn't have time to throw or when he turns the ball over in a big spot early. 

Suppose Manning, who has had problems against the Steelers' defense throughout his career, throws three interceptions and completes 50 percent of his passes—what will go through his mind?

At 36 years old, and with four neck procedures in a two-year span, Manning knows his time in the NFL is coming to an end. Since we have never seen him fail, of course the Broncos are going to be thought of as a title contender. 

But all of that is because of Manning, which puts tremendous pressure on him to perform at a level close to what we saw when he established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the sport. 

Manning sees no problems with his game and told reporters (via Denver Post) after Sunday's preseason game against San Francisco that, "yes," he thinks it's ridiculous people wonder what he can do after having four neck surgeries. 

Of course he is going to say that, but it is a perfectly reasonable debate for fans and analysts to have. 

If Manning doesn't start fast this season, he and the Broncos are going to have a lot of questions to answer and risk everything snowballing on them.