Over the course of 32 days (or so) I will be previewing all 32 NFL teams, followed by an overall season prediction post, leading up to the start of the 2014 season. This post is previewing the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos had a 13-3 record last year thanks to a record-breaking season by QB Peyton Manning, who led the team to the Super Bowl, where they got blown out in a dominating 43-8 performance by the Seahawks. The team will look to repeat its regular-season performance this year but improve upon the disappointing finish to the season.
Manning’s 5477 passing yards and 55 touchdown passes both broke the respective single-season records, with the latter surpassing Tom Brady’s previous mark by five. The veteran’s leading receiver last year was WR Demeryius Thomas, who caught 92 passes for 1430 yards and 14 touchdowns while WR Eric Decker — who is now on the Jets — was a close second. TE Julius Thomas also had a productive season in the receiving game in his first season as a starter, despite playing just 14 games. The team is also losing its leading rusher from last season — RB Knowshon Moreno, now on the Dolphins –and RB Montee Ball, who will be the starter this year, ran for 559 yards and four touchdowns in the backup role in his rookie season.
As long as Manning’s age and/or injuries don’t get the better of him, the future Hall of Famer should have another one of his typically strong seasons, though another 55-touchdown season probably isn’t likely. With WR Wes Welker suffering another concussion in the preseason — his third since late last season — his status for the season opener is up in the air. That is going to be one of the big questions for the Broncos’ offense, with another being whether or not Ball can handle the heavy load as the team’s starting running back. The Broncos have a tough stretch to begin the season, starting out with home games against the Colts and Chiefs before heading to Seattle for a week-three Super Bowl rematch against the Seahawks. The team then gets an early, week-four bye before the schedule gets easier, with the toughest remaining games looking like a home game against the 49ers and a road contest against the Patriots. The Broncos are likely still the best team in the AFC West and should get another division title this year.