The biggest story of the 2012 offseason surrounded Peyton Manning’s search for a new home. After a dramatic adventure around the league it was John Elway and the Denver Broncos who offered him the best chance to win another Super Bowl ring and thus cement his legacy with yet another historic franchise. Questions about the strength of Manning’s arm after multiple neck surgeries and issues with nerve damage were a serious cause for concern heading into Week 1.
In 2012 the Broncos’ offense ranked 4th overall but 16th in rushing yards after having been first in rushing the year before. Manning answered questions about how much gas he had left in the tank and his arm strength by throwing for 4659 yards, ranking 5th in passing offense. In the process he propelled the Broncos to a 13-3 record as the top seed in the AFC.
In the Divisional Round of the playoffs we watched the Broncos’ offense start out hot before fading away and floundering through much of the second half, allowing the Baltimore Ravens back into the game. While statistically it might look like that game was a shootout, the feeling of the second half for Denver felt like a choke job. This ignited speculation that maybe there isn’t enough gas in the tank or offensive weapons for Manning to stay hot for a full season into a playoff run.
During the offseason Elway went out in free agency and the draft and aggressively sought to restock the pantry with even more weapons for Peyton Manning to use to carve teams up in the 2013 season.
Manning will enter this season with a touchdown machine running back in Montee Ball joining him and scat back Ronnie Hillman in the backfield. Then Elway poached soft handed slot receiver Wes Welker away from the New England Patriots.
Demaryius Thomas is healthier this year and looks to have regained the step lost by the Achilles injury he suffered in 2011. Eric Decker has had a full year to build on he and Manning’s chemistry while the presence of Wes Welker forces other teams to play in their nickel package or risk being torn apart by mismatches.
I think the choke job in the AFC Divisional Game isn’t a cause for concern as it’s something you could hang as much on the defense giving up big plays as it is offense trying to struggle against an inspired Ravens defense.
With all of the offensive weapons arrayed around Manning, an extra year of healing combined with the best strength of schedule in the league, this could be Manning and the Broncos’ finest year. When Manning played for the Indianapolis Colts a lot of people called him the Sheriff. With the weapons he has to carve up opposing defenses this year, maybe they should start calling him the Surgeon.
Eric Beuning is a Football writer for RantSports.com.