With the recent news about Peyton Manning to the Broncos, the media has gone into a frenzy. Automatic super bowl contenders, running away with the AFC West title, America’s new little darling. I scanned over a few articles, even read some of John Clayton’s articles. I do have to admit, the Raiders and Chargers are doing everything they can to hand this division to the Broncos, Rivers is even excited about the Broncos representing the AFC West.
Mr. Clayton likes to believe that Manning can add 3 wins on top of the wins that Tebow earned while he was a starter. I suppose his thinking is relatively understandable but I definitely wouldn’t bank on it. How many wins was Donovan McNabb worth? Can you have negative wins? I know, I know Manning is 100 times the QB that McNabb was, but it is a similar situation. Tebow won 7 regular season games last year and by some was credited with winning 6 of those games. That means that without Tebow the Broncos would have been 2-14. I’d buy that, adding the clutch 4th quarter drives is as important as the remarkable job the Broncos defense did at times last season. So if Tebow could take a 2-14 team to 8-8 team, how can Manning take a 2-14 team to 11-5? Asking your starting QB to win you an additional 9 games is asking a lot and I’ll take the under in that situation every time.
The 2011 Broncos:
1. Run oriented, Primary focus was run blocking which extended McGahee’s career
2. Limited passing attempts
3. Defense overachieved due to the success of the offense’s running game
4. Benefited from a down division
5. Offense performed better with an unorthodox QB than with a prototypical QB
The 2012 Broncos:
1. McGahee won’t have the benefit of a run first offense
2. Line will have to perform almost 100% different than last year
3. Defense will have less time to rest in between drives
4. Left Tackle will have a huge spotlight on them
5. Media pressure, probably similar to Tebowmania
6. Targeted Back, much like the super bowl champions, teams will add an extra gear to defeat Manning’s team
7. Division has one other team significantly better than they are
I’m not saying the Broncos can’ win 12 games, especially since we only control two of those games. However, I’m saying that there is room for doubt that this Broncos team will even have a winning season. This offense has question marks with manning, can the line pass block?, can the receivers hold on to the ball?, how will McGahee perform without the benefit of Tebow? The defense has question marks as well, how will they handle being on the field longer? How will they do against the pass? Has Champ Bailey lost a step? Just too many question marks for me to make them the favorites to win the division but I will admit, they are a contender for the division title.
1. Raiders – No
2. Chargers – Maybe, they have lost some key free agents and added some weapons to their offense. Their offensive and defensive lines have question marks but with Phillip Rivers I have to believe they will be in the hunt. I’ll give them a mild chance to win the division.
3. Chiefs – Yes, they are the most well rounded team in the group. Their defensive line has question marks but like most teams in their third year following a rebuilding phase, they are primed to have a pretty good year. Depth is an issue but the draft should resolve that issue at key positions. One other potential weakness is the ceiling of Matt Cassel, who has demonstrated lack of clutch play against elite competition. The biggest unknown is how much of an impact Todd Haley had on the play of Matt Cassel. When the play selection seemed to be pretty good, Matt performed well, when play calling was suspect, I’m not sure Cassel was to blame for that. My major issue with Cassel is his lack of ability to correctly read the defense and latching onto his first read too many times. However, I do not know if that was attributed to him or to the way Haley organized this offense and his offensive philosophy. Trent Green was one of my favorite QBs and after his second year there was no question that he was the right guy for the job. I have never had that feeling towards Matt Cassel even after his 2010 season. Entering his fourth season as starter of the Chiefs and he still has question marks as to whether or not he is the best option to start concerns me greatly. My overall evaluation of him is similar to Alex Smith, He’s an ok QB that with the right coaching staff, will win against less talented teams but most likely to win the super bowl, we will need to find a different starter. With all of that said, with RAC and Brian DaBoll he does have the correct coaching staff to bring out the best in him, so he will win games against less talented teams. The Raiders, Chargers and Broncos all have less talent than the Chiefs so by that standard the Chiefs should be the favorites to win the AFC West.
Conclusion, Manning does make the Broncos better at the QB position but I’m unconvinced they will be better off as a team with just this one move. Adding other key starters could sway me into believing they are just as likely to win the division as the Chiefs but as of right now at this very second, the Broncos are only second fiddle to the Chiefs and Chargers.
My prediction of how the division will turn out:
1. Chiefs 12-4, 4-2 in the division
2. Chargers 9-7, 3-3 in the division
3. Broncos 8-8, 4-2 in the division
4. Raiders 6-10, 2-4 in the division