There was a great deal of doubt and speculation surrounding Peyton Manning’s return to the field in 2012. The big item, of course, was his departure from Indianapolis and arrival in Denver. He was lured by a QB elder statesman in Broncos’ GM, John Elway. And, he found a near perfect fit.
One of the big questions concerning Manning at the beginning of the season was whether or not he could be accurate and show the arm strength necessary to produce at the high level we’ve all been accustomed to for so long.
In the very beginning of the season it was looking like he had lost some zip and was showing both signs of serious rust and a need to find chemistry with his new cast in Denver.
The questions were soon shoved aside, however. Manning has greatly improved his timing with his receivers as the season has gone on, and he has been back to his old at-the-line signal calling self. Certainly, he looks as if some zip has left him in his throws, but he has made up for it by being…well….Peyton Manning. “Laser rocket arm” euphemism aside, Manning has always succeeded by smart play, a masterful understanding of defenses, and the ability to make the right blocking change or play audible at the line. He’s never been the kind of quarterback that has particularly needed great arm strength because he puts himself in the position to make the passes that he needs to make. Such has been the case this season in Denver. His play calling has been excellent and his decision making masterful. Manning is proof that smart quarterbacks can remain relevant with age.
The greatest sign that Manning has found himself in a great position is the team that is around him. For years in Indianapolis he often had to carry a team on his shoulders that was weak on defense and often had a lacking running game. He was certainly up to the task and had great success for the Colts, but here in Denver he finds himself on a team with legitimate talent on both sides of the ball.
This Broncos team is definitively the best defense that Manning has ever played with. They have been a terror to opposing offenses.
Von Miller is having a career season, and is surely a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He is currently ranked 3rd in the sack list with his 17.5 sacks, and he has 65 combined tackles for the season.
Additionally, the Broncos are the only team in the league with two pass rushers in the top 10 on the sack list as Elvis Dumervil also has 11.0 sacks. Oh yeah, and this team has future hall of fame cornerback, Champ Bailey. He’s still pretty darn good.
Statistically, the Broncos are 4th in the league in total offense with 391.9 yards per game, and 3rd in total defense as they are only allowing 302.2 total yards per game. Their offense is 6th in passing and 18th in rushing, and the rushing stat is particularly impressive considering they’ve had to find production in multiple places after Willis McGahee went down with an injury in November.
The team has been as hot as you can get going into Week 17 as they are currently riding a 10 game winning streak.
This year has been a record performance for the Broncos, and it is certainly one of the best seasons in team history. Good news. That is exactly where a team wants to be going into the playoffs.
Depending on the outcome of Week 17, the Broncos are going to be either the #1 or #2 seed going into the AFC playoffs. They are in as good of shape as you could ask for at this point in the season, and Manning and crew has looked like a championship caliber team for much of the year. Interestingly, depending on how things shake out in the playoffs…we could potentially see another classic Manning versus Brady AFC Championship game.
It seems like a new team hasn’t changed a thing for Manning. He’s back to his playoff guarantee championship self, and that’s good news for Broncos fans. Do Manning and the Broncos have a Lombardi Trophy in their near future? They certainly have an inside track. If this team can keep up the strong production on both offense and defense through the playoffs they will be a team that no one will want to face.
Only the coming weeks will tell, but the sun is shining bright for Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning fans.