2nd Annual 32 in 32ish NFL Previews: Denver Broncos

The AFC West is the next division up in our preview of all 32 NFL teams, beginning with the Denver Broncos, the team that won the division last season.

QB Peyton Manning led the Broncos to a 12-4 record and another division title, but his play began to regress later in the season. There are many questions about whether 39-year-old Manning will be able to make it through an entire season without a similar regression this year as it gets later in the season.In addition to being a year older, Manning has lost a couple of his targets — TE Julius Thomas signed with the Jaguars in the offseason and WR Wes Welker is a free agent who remains unsigned.

Overall last season, Manning threw for 4,727 yards and 39 touchdowns. WRs Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders each had over 100 receptions; Thomas had 111 catches for 1,619 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Sanders had 101 for 1,404 yards and nine touchdowns. The running game was a bit of a mess before RB C.J. Anderson took over in the second half. He started seven games — playing in 15 total — and ran for 849 yards with eight touchdowns in his rookie season. The defense was pretty much average, finishing 17th in the league.

The key to how successful the Broncos’ season will be comes down to whether Manning can stay healthy and in game shape for all 16 games of the regular season at the age of 39. Without him, the offense obviously takes a big hit with QB Brock Osweiler next on the depth chart. Losing Julius Thomas and Welker likely isn’t as big of a deal for the Broncos as it might be for other teams, with two of the league’s best receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Sanders still on the roster. And the team signed TE Owen Daniels to try to make up for some of the lost production. Daniels is familiar with new head coach Gary Kubiak’s system, having played for him previously in Houston and Baltimore.

Kubiak begins his tenure as the Broncos’ head coach with a home game against the Ravens, the team on which Kubiak was the offensive coordinator last season. Elsewhere on the schedule, the Broncos have a prime-time divisional battle at the Chiefs in Week 2. They have a Sunday night home game with the Packers in Week 8, followed by a visit to Indianapolis, where Manning faces his former team, the Colts. In Week 12, it’s another prime-time game, this one at home against the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots. The season ends with back-to-back home games against the Bengals and Chargers. The Broncos are still clearly the best team in the division and should win it again, the only question is what will their final record be? If Manning can make it through the season without much of a regression, they should be able to match their 12-4 mark from last season.

Source: http://www.denverbroncos.com, http://www.pro-football-reference.com


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