The Denver Broncos took a chance last offseason, signing Peyton Manning to a five-year contract. It paid off better than they could have imagined, as Manning looked exactly like the Hall of Fame quarterback he had been before his neck injury, leading the Broncos to a 13-3 record and an AFC West title. Their playoff performance was disappointing, but Denver still enters this season as the clear favorite to win the AFC and is on the shortlist of Super Bowl contenders.
The Broncos made one of the biggest moves in free agency again this season, signing Wes Welker. This move serves both to give Manning another weapon and to weaken the New England Patriots, their biggest competition in the AFC. The addition of 2nd round pick Montee Ball should provide a nice boost to the run game, and Manning figures to have the Broncos ranked among the top 5 offenses in the NFL.
Defensively, however, the Broncos are facing some issues. Elvis Dumervil is gone and Von Miller was suspended for six games, turning their biggest defensive strength into their biggest weakness. However, the Broncos are still solid in most areas defensively. Cornerback Champ Bailey has shown no signs of slowing down, and the addition of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie gives Denver a very strong pair of corners. The offense should be able to cover for the defense until Miller’s return, and when this team is complete they are very difficult to beat.
The Broncos will play four of the other five AFC playoff teams from last year, with three of those contests being on the road. They have several other tough matchups scattered throughout their schedule, but they are lucky to play in the weak AFC West. The Kansas City Chiefs are the biggest divisional challenge for the Broncos, but they will be hard pressed to really threaten for the title.
The two games that immediately stand out on Denver’s schedule are the Thanksgiving weekend trip to play the Patriots and the road game against the Houston Texans in Week 16. Both of these games could have a huge impact on playoff standing, as those three teams figure to be the best in the AFC. Denver also opens the season with a playoff rematch against the Baltimore Ravens, and they will be eager to exact a measure of revenge for the double overtime defeat that eliminated them last year.
Although there are some challenges on their schedule, I truly believe the Broncos are the best team in the conference and will end the season with a record that reflects that. I am predicting a 14-2 record for Denver, good for the No. 1 seed in the AFC. That may seem like a very high prediction, but this team is more than capable of living up to it. They will be favored in every game they play other than possibly the New England and Houston games, and they have the talent to win every game they are in.
This is going to be a big year for the Broncos, and expectations for this team are sky high. However, they have the ability to back it up. I fully expect this team to dominate the regular season, go on a playoff run and represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.