Even though Peyton Manning has only led his teams to two conference titles in 14 years as starting quarterback, it still just feels natural that the Denver Broncos would receive AFC-high 6-to-1 Super Bowl odds from Vegas. It really feels like his teams should get there every year.
However, the 2012 divisional-round loss proved yet another time where Manning’s team fell in the postseason as a heavy favorite, even if he did put his team in position to win before a Baltimore Ravens‘ deep bomb from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones extended the contest. This drew memories to another time Manning put his team in position but a teammate dropped the ball metaphorically, with Mike Vanderjagt badly missing a field goal in the 2006 divisional round against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
There are other more literally examples of dropping the ball in key situations as well. Regardless, Manning is maybe the greatest quarterback of all time for a reason.
You could make the case that this Broncos squad surrounding Manning is better than any supporting cast with the Indianapolis Colts, even the great earlier teams. Not only does Ryan Clady give Manning the best blindside pass-protector in football but Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker make for perhaps the best wide receiver trio.
Throw in the continued maturation of Von Miller, a top preseason candidate for Defensive Player of the Year awards, and this defense could be even better without departed edge rusher Elvis Dumervil — making their absurdly high -500 division title odds and 11.5 regular-season win-total line even considerable.
“I feel like if we all take a percentage of what he did – if I step my game up 5 percent, if Derek Wolfe steps his game up 5 percent,” Miller said, via USA Today Sports. “If everyone takes a little piece of what him leaving took away from us, we can definitely get it done.”