By Cody Strahm @CodyJStrahm on July 8, 2014
Even after being trounced during February's Super Bowl, the Denver Broncos will open training camp this month as the heavy favorite in the AFC West. But here are five reasons why Peyton Manning and company won't lead Denver to a fourth consecutive division crown.
Montee Ball showed some promise during his rookie year, but the loss of Knowshon Moreno, who was Denver's most productive and reliable back, leaves the Broncos without a solidified starter entering training camp. The No. 2 spot is up for grabs as well, so the Broncos could be in dire straits at the position if Ball doesn't pan out.
Although the Kansas City Chiefs were the Broncos' toughest competition within the division in 2013, it's the San Diego Chargers who will dethrone John Fox's team this fall. An upper-echelon quarterback in Philip Rivers has been in place for 10 years, but a complete team finally began to take shape around him in 2013. The Chargers will take the next step this season, emerging as a legitimate Super Bowl contender.
The Broncos went all in this offseason to maximize Peyton Manning's Super Bowl window. History, however, hasn't been kind to teams that spend big in free agency. The additions of Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and DeMarcus Ware all look great on paper, but obstacles like complacency, higher expectations and unfamiliarity could water down their impacts.
The disappointment of losing the Super Bowl has deflated many teams before, and given how badly the Broncos were thrashed by the Seahawks earlier this year, Denver might not be exempt. Since 2000, seven Super Bowl runner ups have failed to even reach the playoffs during the subsequent season.
Peyton Manning didn't appear anywhere close to falling off last season, the most prolific campaign of his career. Still, at 38 years old, his decline is looming. He'll still be one of the game's most effective signal callers, for his intelligence if nothing else, but his age will finally begin to catch up to him in 2014.
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