2014 NFL Preview: Denver Broncos

2014 NFL Preview: Denver Broncos

What more can be written about the 2013 Denver Broncos? With Peyton Manning at the helm, the offense smashed league records. Manning threw for more yards and touchdowns than any other quarterback in a single-season. Four pass catchers snagged 10-plus touchdowns. Knowshon Moreno looked like an actual NFL running back. They were a fantasy football dream come true. Of course the assumed storybook ending turned into a Grimm’s Fairy Tale in Super Bowl XLVIII when Seattle dismantled them 43-8. While the players spent the offseason shaking the devastating loss, the front office hurled money at big name free agents to repair a broken defense. With the clock ticking on Manning’s career, Denver is in “win now” mode. Here’s a preview of their upcoming season.

Outlook: The offense ranked number one in 2013, but the defense was 22nd. For the Broncos to return to the Super Bowl, the defense must be better; key additions should help, but it’s not a guarantee. Von Miller is still rehabbing a torn ACL, but should be back for most of the season. Expecting Manning to throw 55 touchdowns again would be unwise. He’s still a decent bet to throw 40, but he’s only topped 40 twice in his career, so a significant drop is likely. The bulk of the running duties will be handed to Montee Ball, who may or may not be an upgrade. Denver is a playoff team and leading contender, although wins will be tougher to come by.

New arrivals: Once Miller returns, he’ll be paired with DeMarcus Ware, who had his best years playing in a 3-4. A troubled secondary should be bolstered by cornerback Aqib Talib, safety T.J. Ward, and first-round pick Bradley Roby. However, getting everyone on the same page will be a challenge for defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. Ex-Steeler Emmanuel Sanders is a solid possession receiver who will no doubt post career stats with Manning throwing to him. Second-round wide receiver Cody Latimer is a big-bodied prospect with loads of potential.

Wave goodbye: Champ Bailey is an all-time great, but age and injury caught up to the 36-year-old corner, so he will attempt to extend his career as a Saint. Eric Decker goes from Peyton Manning to Geno Smith after inking a 5-year, $36 million contract with the Jets. Knowshon Moreno received little interest in free agency before signing a one-year deal with Miami; he has since shown up to OTAs out of shape and undergone arthroscopic knee surgery. Shaun Phillips, Wesley Woodyard, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Robert Ayers, and Mike Adams all played in Super Bowl XLVIII, but all five were deemed expendable. Decker’s departure hurts the most, although Manning had a lot to do with his success.

Over/Under wins – 11: Their first four opponents are as follows: Colts, Chiefs, Seahawks, Cardinals. They also face San Francisco, New England, and Cincinnati. That’s a brutal lineup. A revamped defense will be tested and the pressure on Ball and Sanders to at least equal Moreno and Decker will be great. Smart money says take the over, but 11 wins is a trap.

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