Two years ago, the Denver Broncos pursued Peyton Manning in hopes that he would lead them to a Super Bowl title. He has been to two Super Bowls in his career, beating the Chicago Bears and losing to the New Orleans Saints. Last year, as the favorite to win it all, the Broncos lost to the eventual champion Baltimore Ravens in their first playoff game and had to go back to the drawing board.
One of the areas that they decided to go after during free agency was cornerback by signing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Quentin Jammer. They also went out and got Manning the best slot receiver in NFL history in Wes Welker. The addition of Welker also meant that he was no longer a New England Patriots where he was Tom Brady’s favorite target.
One of the biggest surprises for Denver has been tight end Julius Thomas, who in his first two NFL seasons had one catch for five yards. In 2013 with Manning, Thomas finished with 65 catches and 12 touchdowns as well as a pro bowl selection. He has been a vast upgrade over Joel Dreessen and Jacob Tamme this season and has given Manning a big target to throw to.
Manning shattered the single-season TD record with 55 this year and threw at least 10 touchdowns to four different players. The Broncos surprisingly finished 14th in the NFL in rushing and Knowshon Moreno got his first double-digit touchdown season of his career.
In his second year in Denver, Manning seems to have complete control of the offense and is ready to lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl. With a first round bye and home-field advantage, they can feel comfortable knowing that they will have two home games before the Super Bowl.
One negative is that all three of their losses this season came to three of the five other teams in the AFC playoffs. They went 2-0 against Kansas City Chiefs, who they are likely to play in their first playoff game. Manning threw six TDs in those two games and should feel confident in a third matchup. If they play Indianapolis Colts, who they lost to 39-33, they will feel better knowing that it is a home game and the Colts are missing Reggie Wayne.
San Diego Chargers played Denver close in both games going 1-1 and have had the best blueprint to beat them. They put together long drives that ate a lot of the clock and kept Manning off the field. The Chargers will have to beat Cincinnati Bengals to get to Denver. The Bengals beat the Chargers 17-10 in their November matchup in San Diego.
Manning is playing the best football of his career and the favorable match ups he will get in the AFC playoffs will allow him to lead the Broncos to the Super Bowl.