In the summer of 2012, Broncos fans everywhere were excited when John Elway signed Peyton Manning. Many thought simply having Manning would guarantee a spot in the postseason, or even a trip to the Super Bowl.
Not so fast, my friends.
Three weeks into the 2012 season, it's obvious Manning still isn't 100 percent. He also hasn't had time to build chemistry with his receivers.
The past two weeks are proof that Manning cannot carry this team alone. Yes, he led the Broncos to a comeback against the Texans, but still fell short. He is very talented, don't get me wrong, but the Broncos and their fans cannot solely rely on him to win games. His arm strength is still not 100 percent, causing him to make wobbly passes that contributed to some of his picks in the game against Atlanta.
But Manning isn't the biggest problem.
The frustrated looks on Manning's face yesterday summed it up: Even if he is 100 percent healthy in the postseason, he needs to have protection from his offensive line and a great defense that can stay on the field long enough to give him rest. Manning was doing all he could, but Eric Decker was dropping easy passes, and at times the pocket was crumbling around Manning before he could get off a good pass.
As Manning put it, "It's a "we" thing." Yes, he threw more incompletions against Houston than he has in a single game over his career, but there were also four dropped passes that should have been caught.
The one that stood out most was a pass to Demaryius Thomas in the end zone, but he couldn't keep his second foot in bounds. There were also a few dropped passes by Decker that, if caught, would have been a first down and advanced the Broncos further down the field.
The defense is another problem. Manning can throw as many touchdowns as he can, but unless the defense can stop the opposition, it's an uphill battle for Manning and the offense.
Yesterday, Matt Schaub threw the same route twice and the defense missed the coverage both times. The defense also allowed the Texans too many third-down conversions when they could have stopped the drive. A big hit from Von Miller was what was needed in the fourth quarter for Manning to get the ball back with more than just 20 seconds.
In conclusion, signing Manning to a five-year, $96 million contract doesn't give the Denver Broncos a free pass to the postseason. The Broncos still have a lot of work ahead of them in building quarterback-receiver relationships and making sure the offensive line can protect Manning. Jack Del Rio also has a lot of work to do with the defense. They need to be able to stop the opposition quicker in order to help control the pace of the game.
The only thing Manning guarantees for the Broncos is that he will bring excitement and more nationally televised games (perfect for this Dallas native). There's no guarantee his arm will fully recover to pre-2011 strength or that he will gain control of his offensive line like he had in Indianapolis.
Broncos fans just need to take it one week at a time and realize that, without help from the offensive line and a solid defense, the Broncos won't make it very far in the postseason, if at all.