The Denver Broncos are my pick to win the 2014 NFL Super Bowl.
But winners are never crowned in late August, and there is an entire season of football left before parades are planned and trips to Disney World take place. That being said, it is always fun to make predictions. Plus overlooking what the Broncos have done last year is just ignorant.
They finished the 2012 season on an astounding 11-game winning streak and a 13-3 record, tied with the Atlanta Falcons for best in the NFL.
A close game and an ill-timed error cost the team a shot at the big one. But, this team will be angry and hotter than ever.
There is no doubt that the Denver Broncos are the favorites to win the Super Bowl in my eyes.
Before that fateful playoff loss, the Mile High City was scorching their opponents left and right behind the offensive genius of Peyton Manning and defensive firepower of Von Miller while head coach John Fox and executive John Elway were looking over the genius of Denver.
That whole crew will be back for blood in 2013, with the exception of Miller. The superstar is suspended without pay for six games. Those first six contests (vs. Baltimore, @New York Giants, vs. Oakland, @Dallas, vs. Jacksonville) aren’t tough at all. Miller will be back creating havoc for opposing offenses when it really counts, the playoffs.
A superstar defense should be able to keep the Broncos afloat when they don’t have Miller.
Derek Wolfe is entering his sophomore season playing at a dizzying rate. He racked up 40 tackles and 6 sacks as a rookie. The Cincinnati prospect is a hazard for the men instructed to try and block him.
Wesley Woodyard lead the teams with 117 total tackles and this is a squad that no offense wants to match up against. Denver limited opponents to just 289 total points in 2012. The 290.8 yards per game that the Broncos held their competitor’s to is second in the league.
If one still thinks that an offense can score at will in Denver, it is time to think again. Elvis Dumervil and company only allowed 18.1 points per game in 2012 and will only be stronger this year.
Rival quarterbacks do not want to go up against one of the best secondaries in the NFL. Only 16 touchdowns were thrown against the Broncos in 2012.
From top to bottom, no one is better than Denver.
Manning will have this team cruising through the season and a big part of that is how well the future Hall of Famer will play.
He boasted a 105.8 quarterback rating and 4,659 passing yards with 37 touchdowns to only 11 interceptions on a 68.6 completion percentage in 2012.
No. 18 finished the season with a 3.75 WPA (Win Probability Added, an advanced NFL stat that measures the impact a player had on the outcome of a game) and a 171.5 EPA (Expected Points Added, another advanced stat that measures the the impact a player had on the score of a game). His WPA was sixth in the NFL and his EPA was good for third.
But, you didn’t need advanced stats to tell you that Manning has made an incredible impact with the Broncos in just one season.
With another year to prepare and practice with his new bunch of pass catchers, you can expect to see the receiving numbers skyrocket.
As if they weren’t good enough before, though.
Demaryius Thomas reeled in 1,434 receiving yards, good for fourth in the entire NFL. His counterpart Eric Decker was not for behind with 1,064 receiving yards, which was 17th in the league. Thus, the Broncos were only one of two teams to have two receivers ranked in the top 18 for that stat. The other? The blitzing Atlanta Falcons who boasted both Julio Jones and Roddy White.
All told, Denver picked up 4,671 receiving yards last season. That number was sixth in the NFL, right behind those Falcons.
That is without even mentioning the addition of Wes Welker. Manning will get a whole offseason to throw balls to the Pro Bowl slot receiver, and the terrific trio of Thomas, Decker and Welker should be a headache for opposing defenses in 2013.
After all, the Broncos are the only team with three players that netted 1,000 receiving yards in 2012 as the former Patriot grabbed 118 balls for 1,354 yards last season.
Welker has risen up as one of the best in his position during his tenure in New England and should continue that dominance in the Mile High City.
In short, the 5′ 9” Texas Tech product is a pass catching machine. On December 17, 2012 he became the first player in NFL history with five seasons of 100+ catches. Additionally, Welker has led the league in catches for three of those five seasons. He topped the NFL in 2011, 2009 and 2007 with 122, 123 and 112 catches respectively.
That 123 catch season in 2009 was good for the second most single season receptions in the history of the league. Welker was behind only Marvin Harrison, who caught 143 balls in 2002 when he had Manning throwing to him in Indianapolis.
Who does Welker have throwing to him this year? Manning.
The styles of Thomas, Decker and Welker work very nicely together. But even if theydidn’t, the quarterback in Denver would make it work. Peyton Manning has always got 100 percent production out of all his receivers and this upcoming season will be no different.
Welker is a five-time Pro Bowler and a bona fide superstar in the NFL. Any team would be lucky to have him. However, when that team already has an Pro Bowl receiver and another one that will be making a trip to Hawaii very soon, it isn’t luck. It is pure dominance.
With a ground game that averaged 114.5 yards per game, this is an offense that will be a burden for defenses to try and slow down.
Now add Montee Ball to that equation. He will be the perfect compliment to Ronnie Hillman and both will play off the strengths of Manning very well.
Ball is blessed with excellent vision and solid balance while also being able to cut very well. The ex-Badger has great feet and can break through tackles to pick up extra yards.
All of this is music to the Broncos’ ears as they have decided to use a running back by committee system with Hillman and Ball.
For Denver that is the perfect option as opposing defenses will be kept questioning which back is running which play. While the running game slows down their rivals, Manning and his plethora of targets will put the game away.
Week after week.
The amazing fans in Denver are about to experience the ride of a lifetime. At this point, the Broncos are my favorite to be celebrating in New York come February.
With the easiest schedule in the NFL and a stacked roster, the regular season will be a breeze.
But it will be in the playoffs that the Denver Broncos show their muscle and avenge a 2012 loss en route to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.