If the experts are to be believed (at least in some cases) the Denver Broncos have won the AFC West and should march right into the Super Bowl on the strength of Peyton Manning’s right arm. This may very well be the case.
Last year Denver posted a surprisingly good record of 8-8 in a division that often found itself looking like that poor guy from Airplane 2 that was trying to shave in the bathroom. The Chargers fumbled, dropped passes, forgot they were supposed to play defense at crucial moments, and just generally played a terrible year of football. The Chiefs lost three of their big playmakers early on, got confused when they found that people outside of Kansas City wwere actually watching them play and generally discovered that Todd Haley was just kind of…creepy, all the while bemoaning the fact that they hadn’t become the Patriots West version of themselves. And the Raiders? Well, the Raiders were the Raiders, pre AD and post AD.
Now the Broncos have signed Peyton Manning and the rest of the division should roll over and die or, at least, be very afraid. The Chargers hinge on Philip Rivers, as he goes so, to, does the team. The Broncos? Well, the Broncos now have some questions to answer.
First Question: Is Peyton Manning’s neck actually healed? I realize he threw for teams. He did so in shorts and a t shirt in sunny weather with no one running at him trying to dislodge him from his pancreas. This tells us nothing. I’m not a doctor (despite the screen name), but I can’t imagine 3 (or 4) neck surgeries are a good thing. Peyton’s never been great about standing tall against the rush. Is he going to be even more reluctant to do so now? How will his mental state be? The Chargers know what they’re getting with Rivers. Game in and game out he provides the same thing. The Broncos have no idea what they’re getting with Manning.
Second Question: In Indianapolis Manning had receivers he had worked with for years and a coaching staff that pretty much let him do what he wanted to do. He wasn’t being coached so much as asked his opinion. "Which play do you want to call, Peyton? Oh, ok. Have fun!" Is the coaching staff in Denver going to be willing and able to do that? And how much do the Broncos mortgage to get Peyton the tools he needs to succeed? The Broncos’ wide receivers are not great. They’re not consistent. They are young and inexperienced. They are not bad, but they are not Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. At this point in time, however, does Denver have much of an option left? There aren’t many receivers left unclaimed and Denver won’t be picking in the top ten.
Third Question: Which Broncos defense shows up this year? The good defense that kept them in tight games or the defense they showed at the end of the season that forgot to stop watching Tim Tebow?
Fourth Question: Who will run the ball for the Broncos? Can they continue to ride the legs of 31 year old Willis McGahee or do they hope Knowshon Moreno can stay healthy for longer than five minutes at a stretch? Admittedly, the Colts never had much of a running game, either. But the Broncos don’t have the team the Colts did in their heyday.
Did the Broncos get better? Absolutely. Yes. Tebow was awful as a quarterback. Should the rest of the AFC West be scared of Denver? I don’t think so. I just feel there are too many questions to anoint the Broncos AFC West Champions because of one signing.