Now that Peyton Manning is officially a Denver Bronco, we can begin in earnest to speculate on what this means to the AFC West. First, it is now a “franchise quarterback” heavy division with three of the four teams having first round pick QBs. Second, it becomes much more important to strengthen defenses against the passing game. And third, there may now be a bigger advantage to having a run-first offense.
I’ll admit I was among those who wanted our front office to bring Manning to KC. There are few who were not in that group—and of those who were not , most would still have been happy to get him. It’s a little scary when you consider that we have to play Manning and Rivers and Palmer—with a back-up quarterback or a rookie behind a new center. Let’s face it, we have to be prepared for almost everyone in the media to pontificate on how dismal our chance of winning the division will now be. They have the sexy gunslingers—we have plodding and mechanical. It almost seems that Romeo Crennel has found himself in a worse situation than the one that nearly ended his career in Cleveland, where his less than stellar quarterbacks had to match up against Palmer in Cincy, Big Ben in Pittsburg and all the Baltimore bruisers. However, we did pretty well against Palmer and Rivers last year, and given his past success, there is no reason to doubt that Romeo’s defense will once again handle Manning.
The best offense still has to overcome what the defense presents. I was worried about losing Carr, but Routt seems to be a good replacement—not quite as physical, but maybe a little faster, and still young. And we still have Flowers. Arenas is starting his third year and now knows his assignments well enough that he should become another pass rush threat as well as a solid nickel defender. Lewis really showed us something in the absence of Berry last year, so with Berry’s return I’m just not seeing many deep completions. If we find (or already have in Powe) a solid nose tackle, the Hali-Houston bookends should be as good as anything we’ve seen since Thomas-Smith. And, of course, we have DJ in the middle. So, I pity the poor fool who has to scheme against all that.
Finally, I feel really good about our new RB tandem of Charles-Hillis, our solid blocking and receiving TEs, Boss and Moeaki, and an O-line that suddenly looks very impressive with the addition of Winston. Our run-first offense, led by whatever game manager happens to be the best choice, has the potential to dominate time of possession, giving those high-priced honchos plenty of bench warming time. Keep the best quarterback frustrated and out of his rhythm and the odds strongly tilt in favor of his opponent. It’s risky if it doesn’t play out this way. Our eggs are definitely stacked in the run game basket, so if we can’t chew up yards and first downs on the ground, we are likely to see more of those lopsided losses of last year. But if it works, think how beautiful it will be to see those “elite” quarterbacks wearing their whiny faces on those sideline shots as the clock goes tick, tick, tick.