Everybody knows the story of Peyton Manning, and the future Hall of Fame quarterback is back in the MVP picture. Actually, he’s probably the favorite to win his 5th Most Valuable Player award, especially after clinching the AFC West division in 12 games. On the other side of the ball, 2nd year outside linebacker Von Miller, is a prime candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
Beyond the possible individual accolades, the Broncos win back-to-back division titles for the first time since the mid-80’s. Last year was more of a surprise, but this time around the team was expected to be Super Bowl contenders if Peyton Manning was truly healthy, and it’s evident with arguably the best season of his career.
For the most part Willis McGahee has spearheaded the ground game, however Knowshon Moreno has stepped up so the offense hasn’t skipped a beat. The passing targets are gaining yards after the catch in the seams, and stretching the field making big plays. The offense appears to be as balanced as any team in the league right now, plus it’s a great feeling when you can can chew up the clock and finish games pounding the football. This success is attainable, in large part, to an offensive line working in unison and adapting to the audibles of their signal caller.
And let’s give a shout out to a very good special teams unit, from the return game with Trindon Holliday to Matt Prater’s kicking (5th in scoring for kickers).
If you look at the league leaders in sacks, you will see Von Miller up there in both of his NFL seasons thus far. Last year there were times that offenses took advantage of his aggression and ran to his side, but to his credit he has improved and is involved against the run and dropping back in coverage. He has elevated his game while facing double teams, as well as getting chip blocked by running backs and tight ends. It certainly helps to have a healthy Elvis Dumervil on the other end, another upper-echelon pass-rusher that applies constant pressure. Not to overlook the hogs in the middle, that rotation at defensive line is plugging the gaps and getting the job done in the trenches.
Sometimes when watching a game you hear the announcer say, “that was a coverage sack.” That means a quarterback had time to get rid of the ball, but the secondary and linebackers locked down and the play results in a sack. That’s right, future Hall of Fame cornerback Champ Bailey is still playing at a high level as the veteran leader of the defense. They brought cornerback Tracy Porter on board and he’s played very well when healthy. The youth at safety rounds out this defense and they’ve played exceptionally well, all a reflection on strong veteran leadership and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.
In perhaps one of the weaker divisions in football, the Broncos completed their first mission by clinching the division. They’ll be in a close race to the finish, with a few other AFC teams vying for that second seed and a first round bye. Denver has a favorable slate of games as their schedule plays out, visiting Baltimore but wrapping up the season at Mile High Stadium against Cleveland and Kansas City.
The Denver Broncos have a great opportunity at obtaining the second seed and they’re legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Personally, I’m rooting for them to finish right where they’ve been for several weeks now. My preference for them to finish 4th in the AFC playoff picture, is solely based on a matchup with the current 5th seed. It just so happens to be Manning’s old team, the surprising Indianapolis Colts, led by Andrew Luck.