Short version of the preview — the team replaced the most controversial quarterback of his generation with one of the best of any generation and they should be glad they did. That’s a loaded opinion, of course.
There will be many who agree that getting rid of Tim Tebow was exactly the right thing to do — that he was not the choice to lead the franchise in the long-term, and despite his skill set the mistake was made when they acquired him in the first place. Others will rave about his ability to win when it matters and question whether Peyton Manning has anything left in the tank after missing a year due to a serious injury, and adding another year to his age in the process. It’s a debate that will rage intensely, and will only be settled once we see how the next season or two ends up in Denver — and in New York, for that matter.
This is unquestionably Manning’s offense and his team now. As significant as that, though, Denver legend John Elway has also consolidated his power this offseason and made it perfectly clear that the fate of this team rests entirely on his shoulders.
Elway doesn’t yet have a long track record of success in management, but I can’t help but feel that the Broncos are lucky to have him, and that he’ll be there for a long, long time. He’s proven to be decisive, he’ll certainly make the tough decision if needed, and he knows a thing or two about winning.
You can decide for yourself whether this is the Manning era, the Elway era, the Manning-Elway era, or the Elway-Manning era. Whatever you call it, though, you won’t want to miss it. It’s been a while since Denver has been a team you don’t dare miss.
Take everything you remember about this offense from last year and forget it. Many of the pieces are the same, but none will perform in a remotely similar way.
Manning is going to complete a whole lot more than 46 percent of his passes. Offensive coordinator Mike McCoy won’t have to adapt his preferred style to Tebow and his quirks. Heck, McCoy won’t have to do much with Manning at the helm.
The team led the league in rushing last year, but they almost certainly won’t do the same again since Manning won’t look to run and won’t be content handing off more than he has to.
Tremendously talented receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker will go from criminally underused to intensely productive. The biggest change is the addition of Jacob Tamme in the crucial tight end position. Tamme and Manning know each other from Indianapolis, though, so that transition should be smooth.
It’s going to be a dramatically more productive offense than last year. That’s all but certain. There’s just one “if,” and it’s a big one. If Manning gets hurt then this team is in serious, serious trouble.
Caleb Hanie sits second on the depth chart right now. In Chicago we learned that he is definitely not ready for prime time. It seems like an unwise gamble to not have a better backup on board given the status of Manning’s neck. He’s never worried about having a real backup in place in the past, but things have changed now and this just seems like an unnecessary risk.
I would feel much better if the team added a better option at some point before the start of the season.
Jack Del Rio is installed as coordinator now that Dennis Allen is head coach in Oakland. I am a big fan of former head coaches who move back to a coordinator role — they seem hungry and are often effective — so I like the move. I also like the chemistry between Del Rio and Head Coach John Fox.
Del Rio has some challenges. He needs to find ways to make the secondary more effective and the defense less vulnerable to big plays from explosive offenses. He also needs to deal with the loss of two players who have been key to this unit — DT Brodrick Bunkley and safety Brian Dawkins. There is plenty of talent on board, but leadership will be an issue if Del Rio isn’t on his game.
This defense was solid early in the year last year, but it was lousy down the stretch and had clear weaknesses. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect the unit to be as good as they were — and hopefully more consistent.
2012 Denver Broncos Schedule Analysis
The Broncos will have their bye week in Week 7 of the season. By that point we will have a pretty good sense of how the first year of the Manning experiment is going to work out.
The first six weeks are absolutely brutal, and if the team isn’t ready for war then they are in trouble. They open against the Steelers, then they travel to Atlanta before hosting Houston. A home game against Oakland may offer a slight relief, though Raiders’ Head Coach Dennis Allen knows the Broncos well. Then it’s trips to New England and San Diego before the bye. To cap things off they have a game against the Saints to look forward to after the bye.
Things could easily be over before they begin for this squad.
Things get a little easier down the stretch, but not much. They travel to Carolina and Baltimore, and host San Diego and Tampa Bay. If this team winds up with a strong record they will have unquestionably earned it.
2012 Denver Broncos NFL Futures Odds
Bovada believes the hype. They have Denver favored to win the AFC West at +170, though the Chargers are close behind at +180. The Broncos are tied for third most likely to win the AFC at 7/1 with the Ravens and Steelers. They trail the Patriots and Texans.
It’s interesting to note that all four of those teams plus the Chargers, next on the list at 10/1, appear on Denver’s brutal schedule.
They are 16/1 to win the Super Bowl. BetOnline set the season win total at 10 initially. It has dropped hard to 8.5, though the over is heavily favored at that level (-165) so it could climb up again.
2012 Denver Broncos Predictions
I love the gamble of picking up Manning, and I think the end of the Tebow era is for the long-term good of the team. That being said, I am not overly optimistic about this team this year.
The defense is a question mark, the schedule is brutal, and the offense is in great hands but has to adapt to a radically different system in a short time. There are inevitably going to be growing pains for this team, and with little margin for error in the schedule that’s a problem.
There is also the elephant in the room — one hit could end it all for Manning after all he has been through. I want things to work out, but I can’t in good conscience be anything other than skeptical.
I like the “under” on the win total at a juicy +135.
Doc’s Sports is offering $60 worth of member’s picks absolutely free – no obligation, no sales people – you don’t even have to enter credit card information. You can use this $60 credit any way you please for any handicapper and any sport on Doc’s Sports Advisory Board list of expert sports handicappers. Click here for more details and take advantage of this free $60 picks credit today.