The Peyton Manning era started with a bang last year for Denver but ended in the division round to the eventual Super Bowl champions from Baltimore in a 38-35 double-OT thriller. Their season was marred by a blown coverage on a Hail Mary pass but now they’ll try to make amends. The Broncos have been installed as the football betting favorites in the AFC heading into the 2013 season, but can they live up to their lofty expectations and at least get to the big game?
Best Offseason Move
While the acquisition of Wes Welker is a huge boost to the receiving corps, there is no question that the best offseason move that Denver made was re-signing Ryan Clady to a five-year deal worth $52.5 million (with $33 million guaranteed). The left tackle made his third Pro Bowl team in four years and at 26 years old, just heading into what you would think is his prime and protecting Manning’s blind side is the key to Denver’s chances. Given Manning’s history with injuries (it’s amazing that he came back as well as he did from his neck procedures), the Broncos have to keep Manning upright and Clady allowed one single sack all season. Throw in his well above-average run-blocking skills, and keeping Clady was definitely something that the Broncos simply had to do.
Worst Offseason Move
Allowing Elvis Dumervil to walk is a prime example of how much of a financial game professional football has become. Both sides made mistakes in the process, but it could have been easily avoided and fixed with everyone happy. Instead, Dumervil (who has been to three Pro Bowls) is now a Raven after racking up 63.5 sacks in six years with Denver (a torn pectoral muscle put Dumervil on the sidelines for all of 2010). This hurts even more in the face of Von Miller’s possible suspension for violating league policy as the Broncos were going to struggle to put someone on the other side of their pass rush opposite Miller, but now they may not have Miller for the first four games of the season. Shaun Phillips, who came over from the Broncos’ AFC West rivals in San Diego, will have a lot of pressure on his shoulders early on.
How They Will Finish In The Division
The Broncos are a remarkable -500 favorite on the NFL odds to win the AFC West, and there is no question that they’re the best team in the West. San Diego and Oakland may not be able to put a contending team together if they combined squads and while Kansas City will be improved, they’re not going to challenge the Broncos this year. If Manning stays healthy and the defense holds up just a bit, this is a team that can win the Super Bowl.
They’re going to have to develop a pass rush, especially if Miller has to sit out the first four games. But even with that issue and a couple of others on the defensive end, the Broncos should run away with the AFC West and get a much-needed bye in the first round.
Super Bowl Odds: +600