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Five questions: Denver Broncos

vonmiller AP

For 16 regular-season games and two postseason games, the Denver Broncos appeared to have the greatest passing offense ever assembled. And then they ran into the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl, and suddenly the Broncos looked like mere mortals.

Looking ahead at the 2014 season, it’s hard not to let that ugly showing in the Super Bowl overshadow the 18 games that came before it: When you get thumped like that, it’s hard to view you as a championship-caliber team.

And yet the Broncos remain the favorites to come out of the AFC, and their aggressive approach to free agency this year may have made them an even better team than they were in 2013. Here are our questions about the Broncos for the coming season:

1. Is Peyton Manning ageless?

Peyton Manning is 38 years old. Father Time catches every athlete eventually, and athletes rarely improve in their late-30s.

And yet the numbers say Manning was better last year than he had been in any of his previous 14 NFL seasons — and for that matter better than any quarterback in NFL history: Manning had absurd totals of 5,477 passing yards, with 55 touchdowns and only 10 interceptions. He couldn’t possibly improve on those numbers, could he?

Probably not. But Manning will benefit from the NFL’s new emphasis on illegal contact, which will force defensive backs to let receivers to run free in the secondary. Manning had his best year in Indianapolis the last time the NFL made illegal contact a point of emphasis, and he should have another big year this year. Manning may not be ageless, but he’ll remain near the top of his game this season.

2. How much better can the new defense be?

The Broncos made huge moves in free agency to bolster their defense, adding pass rusher DeMarcus Ware, cornerback Aqib Talib and safety T.J. Ward. All three players should provide the Broncos significant improvements at their respective positions.

Also improving the Broncos’ defense will be the return of Von Miller, who was suspended for the first six games of last season and then missed the end of the year with a knee injury. If Miller is back to his 2012 form, when he played in all 16 games and recorded 18.5 sacks, he and Ware may be the most fearsome pair of pass rushers in football.

Denver was the No. 1 seed in the AFC last season despite having a mediocre defense. The new additions could give Denver one of the league’s best defense this year, which should be scary to the rest of the AFC.

3. Do Sanders and Latimer make up for Decker’s loss?

The Broncos lost Eric Decker, who caught 87 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 touchdowns, in free agency. But they also signed Emmanuel Sanders away from Pittsburgh and spent a second-round draft pick on Cody Latimer. Adding two talented receivers might actually make the Broncos’ receiving corps better than last year, despite the loss of Decker.

And that’s without even mentioning that the Broncos’ top receiver, Demaryius Thomas, should be motivated by entering a contract year. And we haven’t even gotten to tight end Julius Thomas, who burst onto the scene last year but is still very inexperienced and could get better with another year of playing in Denver’s offense.

If Wes Welker can stay healthy and doesn’t show signs of slowing down with age, the Broncos’ receiving corps could be even better than last year. Another reason for the rest of the AFC to worry.

4. How big a workload can Montee Ball handle?

As a rookie last year, Ball played well as the backup to Knowshon Moreno, carrying 120 times for 559 yards, an average of 4.7 yards a carry. This year the Broncos want Ball to carry the load in their running game.

Ball is currently recovering from an appendectomy, but he’s expected to be 100 percent before the season starts, and Manning has indicated that the Broncos expect Ball to be a workhorse this year. The Broncos could end up giving Ball even more work than Moreno had last year, when he carried 241 times for 1,038 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Broncos’ offensive line may improve this year thanks to the return of left tackle Ryan Clady, who was lost for the season last year in Week Two. That bodes well for Ball’s production. Expect him to have a strong year.

5. Will there be a Super Bowl hangover?

Super Bowl losers tend to struggle the following year, and a Super Bowl loser hasn’t won the Super Bowl the following season since the 1972 Dolphins. Will the Broncos overcome the struggles that so many previous Super Bowl losers have faced?

It won’t be easy, and the Broncos’ schedule is tough. But with Manning at the helm, good veteran additions including Ware, Sanders, Ward and Talib, and veterans like Clady and Miller getting healthy, the Broncos have every reason to feel confident that they can get back to the Super Bowl. And, hopefully, play a lot better than they did against the Seahawks six months ago.

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33 Responses to “Five questions: Denver Broncos”
  1. beardinals says: Aug 15, 2014 5:48 PM

    #1 He already showed last year that his arm loses steam a the end of the season.

    I wouldn’t be shocked to see Osweiler have to take over at some point.

  2. aceakking says: Aug 15, 2014 5:48 PM

    The Super Bowl beat-down doesn’t matter because the Broncos finally beat the Seahawks in the preseason game. Broncos are the pre-season champions!!!

  3. realitycheckbaby says: Aug 15, 2014 5:53 PM

    Good chance to win the AFC, and add to their all time leading SB loss record.

  4. troluxus says: Aug 15, 2014 5:57 PM

    This article seems as if it was written by a Broncos fan.

  5. gloryfromheaven46 says: Aug 15, 2014 5:57 PM

    “Also improving the Broncos’ defense will be the return of Von Miller”

    And Chris Harris but of course no one talks about the best nickel CB in the game like usual…

  6. slugbaitspace says: Aug 15, 2014 5:59 PM

    On paper, this upcoming season is MUCH tougher for Denver than last season. But their defense looks much tougher on paper as well. If the D stays healthy and plays well, they’ll win their division again.

    Post-season is another story. Patriots also upgraded their defense with Revis and Browner, and I think they have the best chance of any AFC team to take the Broncos out.

  7. distracted9 says: Aug 15, 2014 6:00 PM

    Manning broke all those records while playing the softest schedule in NFL history.. first real D he faced embarrassed him. KC is the only team they beat with a winning record and they were playing that same joke of a schedule.. he couldn’t even hold off New England when spotted 28 pts.. so how will he do this year against the NFC west?

  8. thegreatgabbert says: Aug 15, 2014 6:19 PM

    Will Von Miller star in a remake of the Shaft series?

  9. thegronk87 says: Aug 15, 2014 6:33 PM

    How does talib significantly improve them at CB if he has his annual deep bone bruise that will sideline him?

  10. shaqattaqer says: Aug 15, 2014 6:38 PM

    They beat no teams with winning records last year except kc twice, Philly, San Diego twice and New England. So yeah that’s a good argument…

  11. boogerhut says: Aug 15, 2014 6:55 PM

    Bring on the hate losers. Waaah, they played the easiest schedule in history….. Waaah, New England got Revis…. (who spent the joint practice getting pawned BTW), Waaah… Now don’t forget to say Waaah Manning pads his stats at expense of his team… Wahhh megahead…..Waaaaaaaah!

  12. mt10425 says: Aug 15, 2014 6:57 PM

    Yeah shaq, let’s talk about those San Diego games. Maybe two plays gives SD a sweep of all three.

  13. scw1993 says: Aug 15, 2014 7:03 PM

    “Manning will benefit from the NFL’s new emphasis on illegal contact, which will force defensive backs to let receivers to run free in the secondary. Manning had his best year in Indianapolis the last time the NFL made illegal contact a point of emphasis, and he should have another big year this year.”

    When the games are slowed down to a standstill, and the players are dancing around the maypole with all the yellow flags, and nobody can lay a hand on anyone, put the blame exactly where it belongs…on Megahead. Because when he doesn’t win, the rules get changed. What manning wants, manning gets.

  14. elrock7 says: Aug 15, 2014 7:24 PM

    What a bunch of whiny, jealous morons responding here.

    Worry about your own team. You don’t like the Broncos, fine every team has their fans. just don’t be so juvenile about it. The rules are the same for everyone.

    Enjoy the season and see what happens!

  15. avr29 says: Aug 15, 2014 8:26 PM

    As a Seahawks fan, Denver will only be better if their defense gets better. Miller, while talented, struggled coming back from suspension, then got hurt, so he’s somewhat of a wildcard. Ware is also a wildcard, as he is hurt a lot too. The passing game should be fine from a pitch-catch standpoint, but we saw their line have trouble against better d-lines, and they’re pretty much going to face the defensive ringer going up against the NFCW this year, and with the exception of Houston and Carolina, face a handful of teams with strong pass rush (New England, Buffalo, Miami, Jets, Bengals).

    We’ll see how it plays out.

  16. mt10425 says: Aug 15, 2014 8:38 PM

    No whining, no jealousy. Just want Denver fans to realize you have a one-trick pony. And, Peyton is indeed a good trick. Without him, you have an average team. All you folks do is quietly pray he stays upright and boast about how great your ‘team’ is.

  17. txraiderfan says: Aug 15, 2014 9:25 PM

    They have a great chance. Really looks like the NFL wants them to win it all… with the rule changes and all

  18. elrock7 says: Aug 15, 2014 9:28 PM

    mt10425, you are SUCH a jealous whiny, little child. Denver has one of the strongest teams in the league period. We could probably win even with your QB!

  19. niwotian2014 says: Aug 15, 2014 10:23 PM

    @mt10425: The Broncos got to the playoffs the year before Manning with Tim Tebow as quarterback! If that doesn’t signify a great “team,” then I don’t know what does.

  20. joetoronto says: Aug 16, 2014 7:10 AM

    Manning is done and so are the Donkeys, they flamed out last year.

  21. theravenmaniac says: Aug 16, 2014 9:52 AM

    They look stacked but if injury hits manning they are screwed. This is a 2 year window at best before the house payments come due as well. Bronco fans better cross their fingers and get out the rabbits foot that Jesus in cleats stays healthy.

  22. mt10425 says: Aug 16, 2014 10:03 AM

    It seems I confused elrock and nitwt2014. My apologies for combining my response.

  23. dynastybeforeyoureyes says: Aug 16, 2014 12:01 PM

    Will they lose to Seattle by 20 points?
    30 points?
    40 points?
    50 points?
    60 points?

    #WeOWNManning

  24. eldarknight says: Aug 16, 2014 12:21 PM

    To all the seattle lovers: if not for the last quarter in the NFC championship game you would have been watched the SB from your bar stool. Enjoy your 1 year “dynasty” as the 49’ers will be playing Denver in the SB in 2015.

  25. simonator917 says: Aug 16, 2014 4:42 PM

    Not a Pats or Saints fan, but I think it’s gonna Pats over Saints in Super Bowl 49.

  26. superjay3282 says: Aug 17, 2014 12:50 PM

    seachicks are a one and done team just like the 85 Bears and 2000 Ravens!

  27. superjay3282 says: Aug 17, 2014 12:50 PM

    Let’s GO BRONCOS!!!

  28. superjay3282 says: Aug 17, 2014 12:51 PM

    Peyton Manning is the GREATEST QB of All-Time!!!

  29. orangecrush823 says: Aug 17, 2014 8:31 PM

    thegronk87 says: Aug 15, 2014 6:33 PM

    How does talib significantly improve them at CB if he has his annual deep bone bruise that will sideline him?
    —————————————————–
    anybody with a name like “thegronk87″ should not talk about injuries… your boy is made of glass, son…

  30. orangecrush823 says: Aug 17, 2014 8:36 PM

    joetoronto says: Aug 16, 2014 7:10 AM

    Manning is done and so are the Donkeys, they flamed out last year.
    ———————————————–
    Peyton Manning has more wins as a Bronco than the Raiders have in the last 5 seasons

  31. coloradical420 says: Aug 18, 2014 3:38 PM

    Best Offense in NFL history. You won’t have to remember that because you’ll be hearing it for the next 25+ years. Enjoy.

  32. hairpie2 says: Aug 19, 2014 9:45 AM

    The Broncos haven’t won anything since they were caught twice cheating the salary cap both times they wont the SB and then caught taping other teams practices.

  33. puhleezho says: Aug 19, 2014 11:45 PM

    the broncos are better in every phase of the game. They have no weakness.

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