The Denver Broncos are headed into the playoffs as the favorites to win the Super Bowl. That’s really not surprising, considering this team won a playoff game last season with Tim Tebow at quarterback and replaced him with Peyton Manning.
Manning has the Broncos sitting at 12-3 and they are still improving. The Broncos have improved just about every week in one area or another and enter the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in football.
It’s hard to imagine that a team as good as the Broncos could still be getting better, but the stats prove it. When Manning says it can take years in some cases (per The Denver Post), he’s not being untruthful. The passing game is holding steady, but the Broncos are still improving in other areas.
Talking Point for Week 17
Does Manning deserve the NFL's MVP award over players with better stats?
Manning has been massively valuable to the Broncos, but does that make him the NFL’s MVP? That’s the question.
Technically, over six percent of the season is still yet to be played, but that one game isn’t likely to change many minds on the issue.
The reality is this: Manning took a playoff team and made it better. Manning isn’t even the best quarterback in the league statistically and has a better defense and team around him than many other candidates.
That doesn’t mean Manning isn’t the MVP, but it’s something worth consideration. Manning is definitely the Broncos’ MVP and there’s no one doubting that fact.
Holliday is a dynamic return man with issues hanging on to the ball and the Broncos would have probably liked to get him a little more practice in a game catching punts.
Right guard Chris Kuper practiced on a limited basis on Thursday and Friday and is listed as questionable. The Broncos should probably hold him out and get him rested up for the playoffs.
Kuper has had various injuries this season that have limited him, but he’s a veteran that can step in and play without too much rust.
Stat Trends: Offense
Denver’s running game continues to gain ground in the rankings. It appears that Knowshon Moreno has provided just enough production to keep the offense going and the passing game hasn’t skipped a beat.
One notable improvement over last week was on third downs, as the Broncos moved up to fourth in the NFL in third-down conversion percentage. Denver’s offense is now ranked fourth or higher in points, yards and on third downs.
The only area the Broncos could still improve is getting touchdowns in the red zone, as the Broncos currently rank 12th in the NFL, according to teamrankings.com. The Broncos will look to improve that on Sunday against a defense that is pretty good in the red zone and also played them well a few weeks ago.
Stat Trends: Defense
Denver’s pass defense seems to be taking fewer risks, as it has allowed fewer touchdowns, but also come away with fewer interceptions. Gambling in the playoffs against elite quarterbacks is a recipe for disaster, so this is actually a positive trend.
The Broncos have the second-best pass rush in the league, which certainly has helped them to their No. 1 ranking on third down. The run defense continues to look sharp, but will be tested on Sunday when Jamaal Charles comes to town.
Most of the statistics continue to trend upward on defense. The defense carried the Broncos to the playoffs last year and has certainly contributed again in 2012.
The Broncos are the favorites now and the only thing left for them to do is win in the playoffs. The offense and defense are both playing well and the stats support that claim.
Manning isn’t going to get any younger and this is the start of a small window for the Broncos to win a Super Bowl. The Broncos need to strike now so the pressure isn’t on later when Manning is more physically limited.