Peyton Manning: Why QB Will Lead Broncos Back to Playoffs in 2012

Ryan DavenportContributor ISeptember 5, 2012

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 26:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos looks to pass during the first quarter of a pre-season game against the San Francisco 49ers 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

If there's one thing we've learned during Peyton Manning's 14 years in the NFL, it's that the guy takes his job as seriously as any athlete on the planet.

Which is why there shouldn't be any doubt that he'll lead the Denver Broncos back to the postseason in 2012.

And this time, they won't be waiting until the final week of the season to clinch a Wild Card berth.

Manning's arrival at Mile High ushered in a new era of Broncos football, one in which the team will no longer be content with simply squeaking into the postseason, because Denver's window to win with the four-time NFL MVP behind center won't be any longer than the five-year contract he signed in March.

Now, with Manning on board, the Broncos will be gunning for their second consecutive AFC West title, and though the team has an extremely challenging first six weeks that includes Sunday's season opener against the Steelers at home and dates with the Patriots and Falcons on the road, it's never easy to bet against Manning.

In Manning's 13 years as a starting quarterback, the former Super Bowl MVP has registered less than 10 wins just twice, with both occasions coming during his first four seasons in the league.

No, Manning doesn't have the star-studded receiving corps he did with the Colts, but if Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker were 500-yard guys with Tim Tebow and Kyle Orton calling the shots, who's to say they won't be closer to 800-900 yards with arguably the best quarterback of all time behind center? 

In Manning's final preseason appearance, he certainly looked in tune with his receivers, as he threw 10 completions for 122 yards and two touchdowns on just 12 attempts.

The other factor to take into consideration is that even if he hasn't admitted it explicitly, Manning would love nothing more than to prove to Jim Irsay that he was wrong to push the greatest player in franchise history out the door.

Beyond that, Manning probably also feels that after watching his little brother take home his second Vince Lombardi Trophy last season, he's got some work to do to silence his critics and prove that he's the best quarterback in the family.

Regardless of his reasons, Manning will be back with all the motivation in the world to prove that he's still an elite quarterback, and he's certainly proven capable of leading less-than-stellar teams to the postseason in the past.

When he does lead the Broncos back to the playoffs, we really shouldn't be all that surprised.

John Elway knew what kind of an opportunity the team had when Manning became available, and after seeing him throw, he knew that the league's most legendary field general had a few good seasons left in him.