There is very little reason to believe Peyton Manning won't be successful with the Denver Broncos this season.
And yet, for some reason, many seem hesitant to believe that the Broncos will be able to do some damage in the AFC this season.
Sports Illustrated's Peter King made waves this week when he predicted that the Broncos will make it to the Super Bowl (where they'll face Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers). I don't know if I'd go that far; rarely can anyone predict the eventual Super Bowl contenders. Who would've thought that the Giants would have been facing the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI a few months ago?
But do the Manning-led Broncos have a chance—and a good one, at that? Absolutely.
In a multitude of ways, the Broncos have gotten much better in the offseason. They were already a good team last year, but they had an inexperienced quarterback who ran into a team with a veteran coach and a three-time Super Bowl champion quarterback.
Now, though, the Broncos have added a few young players—including a wide receiver and a tight end who played with Manning in Indy—as well as a young corner. This team already has two wide receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker who are capable of thriving under a Pro Bowl quarterback, as well as a 1,000-yard rusher at running back.
True, it does have a defense that finished in the bottom half of the league in 2011, and it does face a very intimidating schedule—particularly in the first half—but this team hasn't gotten worse. Mostly because, aside from all of those offensive keys, the Broncos upgraded to one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
And as we've seen from the Patriots, Saints, Packers and the Giants in years past, that is truly the key to forging the identity of a Super Bowl contender.
Manning may be coming off neck surgery, and he may be a bit of a wild card because he hasn't played since 2010, but he is going to be just fine. He's a couple of years older, but the fact remains that he is one of the smartest, most consistent quarterbacks in a league where consistency is a nearly impossible trait to come by.
And Manning didn't become an 11-time Pro Bowler and a four-time MVP by accident. He did it because his work ethic is unparalleled in the NFL. He's been accused of over-working his receivers and his backups in the past, but that, after all, is what made Indianapolis a perennial Super Bowl contender while Manning was at the helm.
Simply having him on this roster immediately makes the team better because he knows precisely what it takes to build a winning team.
Another reason the Broncos are going to be a formidable offensive opponent—perhaps even more formidable than the Colts were with Manning calling the shots—is because Manning isn't stubborn. He's not trying to coach this team. He's trying to make it better, but he's willing to do it on offensive coordinator Mike McCoy's terms. As the Associated Press' Arnie Stapleton wrote this week:
Manning told his new coaches he wasn’t interested in lugging the Colts’ playbook from Indianapolis, offering instead to fit into the Broncos’ system just as much as they’d tailor the offense around him. By meeting offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and quarterbacks coach Adam Gase halfway, Manning has more options at his disposal for his 2012 comeback tour than he did in his 14 seasons in Indy.
The Broncos were already a good team last year. They're looking at a hard schedule, but they were a good team that now has a future Hall of Famer at quarterback instead of a second-year wild card.
It's a little extreme to guarantee that the Broncos will be in the Super Bowl a few months from now, but it's not at all hard to see why some would think that. Not with Manning at the helm.