Part of why Manning chose Denver over other teams like Arizona, Tennessee and Miami was because he felt the Broncos had a better team already in place and that they had the capability to upgrade at key offensive positions.
So far, this has proven to be true when it comes to receivers and tight end. Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker have played well this season, while Brandon Stokely and fellow Broncos free-agent acquisition and former Colt Jacob Tamme have been very effective.
But other than his receivers, what help has Manning really had? There are two areas where the future Hall of Famer has lacked help on the offensive side of the ball.
Let's start with the offensive line, which for Denver has been offensive. Manning has often found himself under duress throughout the season, and he has already been sacked 10 times in the first six games of the season.
You could attribute that to the teams the Broncos have played so far this season, as well as Denver losing center J.D. Walton for the year due to a broken ankle. But protecting Peyton has become problematic for the Broncos, and it has affected his actions in the pocket as well as how he throws.
Manning only has four interceptions on the season to go along with his 14 touchdowns. Three of those interceptions happened in the same game, while all four of those interceptions came when he was under duress. More protection from his line would help Manning
Also of help to Manning would be a strong running game, something that he has lacked in Denver since signing with the Broncos. Willis McGahee hasn't been able to live up to last season, as he has only 432 yards on 100 attempts. Knowshon Moreno has only been active for two games this season, contributing 15 yards on eight attempts before being deactivated following Denver's loss to Atlanta.
The lack of a run game meant that Denver's defense had to bail out the Broncos against the Chargers on Monday night. Denver's first clock-killing drive stalled at midfield, forcing the Broncos to punt at midfield. During that drive, Manning had an incomplete pass on one play and an offensive pass interference go against the Broncos on what would've been a likely game-ending 28-yard pass from Manning to Decker. Manning was under heavy pressure during both passes, something that an improved running game and offensive line could offset.
The game was still in doubt until Chris Harris' interception put Denver up 35-24.
Are the Denver Broncos a playoff contender? Of course they are. They hold the lead in the AFC West and after Monday's victory over the San Diego Chargers, they hold the keys to their own destiny.
But their offensive line and running game will have to improve throughout the season in order for them to have any chance of advancing once they get into the playoffs.
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