When Peyton Manning realized that his 2011 was a lost effort, I'm sure it was not a good day. We're talking about a player that isn't just perhaps the greatest player of all-time, but a guy that had no idea what it was like to miss a game. He had gone 13 straight seasons without even coming close to missing a start in Indianapolis, and then all of a sudden, he missed an entire season.
The Denver Broncos couldn't be happier about that. If he hadn't gotten his pain in the neck, Manning would very likely still be with the Colts, and Andrew Luck might be quarterbacking the Rams or Browns. Congratulations also go out to Luck on that one!
It happens to every legendary quarterback. Joe Montana played for the Chiefs. Johnny Unitas played for the Chargers. Brett Favre took his talents to New York and Minnesota and made new friends along the way. However, none of these players were able to replicate their Super Bowl-winning ways elsewhere. The magic had left the building. That might not be the case for Manning, who has put together an MVP-caliber season and led the Broncos to the top seed in the AFC. There is a good chance that Denver will be winning the Super Bowl this year and for Manning, that would be a good day.
Why the Broncos Win the Super Bowl
Peyton Manning's mama cooked the breakfast with no hog
Finally happy and healthy, Manning put together one of the finest seasons of his career in Denver, even at age 36, after missing all of 2011. Manning completed 68.6 percent of his passes for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 8.0 yards per attempt and a QB rating of 105.8. The last time Manning had a QB rating of at least 100.0, the Colts won the Super Bowl.
Manning had three touchdown passes in a ridiculous nine starts this year and has thrown only eight interceptions in his last 14 games. In his last start against Baltimore (Week 15), Manning led Denver to a 34-17 win. Against the Patriots in Week 5, he had 337 yards, three TDs and zero INTs.
On one hand, Manning has been to the playoffs many times and only has one championship to show for it. On the other hand, only Tom Brady has as much playoff experience of any of the remaining quarterbacks right now, and it's not even close. There's little question that if anyone can get it done in the playoffs, it's either Manning or Brady, and Manning has at least one advantage in that respect ...
Denver gets to drive to the pad and hit the showers, won't even get no static from the cowards
The Broncos get to enjoy home-field advantage through the AFC playoffs, and that's great news for a team that was 7-1 at home, their lone loss coming to the Texans in Week 3. It's even better for Manning, who just dominated at Mile High:
22 TDs, 3 INTs, 112.3 QB rating
In addition to that, Denver's road to the Super Bowl only goes through a weak AFC conference that, at worst, will feature the Patriots, but the Broncos have the advantage of the No. 1 seed. They easily beat the Ravens, and despite their earlier loss to Houston, shouldn't have a problem against the Texans in the AFC Championship Game should it come to that.
Denver has a better shot at a championship right now that anyone in the NFC if only for one reason: The Broncos don't have to go through the NFC.
Saw the lights of the Goodyear Blimp and it read "The Defense is Pimp!"
Everybody (including me) talks about Manning, but let's not forget that Denver won the AFC West last year with Tim Tebow. Why? They are one of the best defensive teams in the league. It's a good part of why Football Outsiders currently gives the Broncos the highest odds of winning the 'ship.
Denver was fourth in scoring defense, second in total defense, allowed the fewest yards per net pass in the NFL and the second lowest yards per carry. The Broncos were fifth in the NFL in defensive DVOA and second in weighted DVOA, which puts an emphasis on more recent games. Basically, they're coming into the playoffs on fire. I mean, that's obvious right? 11 straight wins, y'all.
If there's an area where Denver has surprisingly fell behind, it's turnovers. The Broncos rank 16th in both takeaways and giveaways, and they actually finished -1 in their turnover differential. This despite the fact that Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil combined for 29.5 sacks and young cornerback Chris Harris returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Oh, and Champ Bailey is still around.
If Denver wins the Super Bowl, Manning will get the pub, but it's the defense that might do the heavy lifting. Will they be able to follow through though?
Why the Broncos Won't Win the Super Bowl
Don't hesitate to call Tom Brady the Top Gun?
Let's just get through this weekend and get to the inevitable Manning-Brady showdown, okay? It's what we are all expecting and we haven't had this playoff matchup since 2006. Manning is 1-2 in the playoffs against the Patriots, but both losses came in New England. Can he do it again at home?
It's not like I actually think definitively that Brady is better than Manning, but I can say definitively that Brady has had more playoff success in his career:
Three Super Bowl wins to one
Five Super Bowl appearances to two
16 playoff wins to nine
Three playoff comebacks to one
Six playoff game-winning drives to one
And Tom Brady didn't even become a starting quarterback until Manning was in his fourth season. By the end of 2003, Brady had more Super Bowl wins than Manning had playoff wins.
Now, how much does history come into context of a 2013 playoff game? Maybe none. But if I had to make a bet on one of these guys, I would go with the guy that had the dramatically better lead in playoff success.
This season Denver didn't even have to use their AK
In other words, the Broncos' schedule was ridiculously easy. Football Outsiders actually ranks it as the second-easiest in the NFL.
"They played the Falcons, Texans, Patriots, and Ravens. What is it that you are smoking good sir?"
Yeah and they didn't play anyone else. Don't worry about what I'm smoking, you can't have any. Congratulations to the Denver Broncos, the AFC West is terrible! It's so bad in fact that last year you won the division at 8-8 with Tebow! And now you have Manning, so obvious difference is obvious. You get the Raiders ... twice! You get the Chargers ... twice! You get the CHIEFS! ... TWICE!
/Oprah voice "AND YOU GET A CAR! AND YOU GET A CAR! AND YOU GET A CAR!"
Denver won 11 in a row and they went through very little obstacles to get there. Yes, they beat the Bengals in Cincinnati. Yes, they beat the Ravens in Baltimore. I don't think anyone is disputing that Denver is better than those teams, but what about the other playoff teams they faced?
@ Atlanta Falcons: LOSS
Houston Texans: LOSS
@ New England Patriots: LOSS
Any of the teams with a real shot at a Super Bowl this year, Denver lost to them. Denver is a reallllly good looking team, but are they nearly as good as what the paper shows? Because their schedule was so cake that I love it, and I am a fat kid. I am not convinced right now that the AFC champion, whoever it is, will beat the NFC champion. Period. Space bar space bar enter enter.
Can Knowshon Moreno f*%! around and get a triple-double?
I was still on the Moreno bandwagon long after everyone jumped off, but even I had to give up at a certain point. He couldn't stay healthy or effective and found himself at the end of the depth chart. Then, Willis McGahee's knee was all like "Peace out, see ya later!" and Moreno was starting again.
He looked good against the Ravens (21 rushes for 115 yards) but Baltimore isn't a very good run defense. I guess on the bright side, the Broncos are playing the Ravens! Otherwise, Moreno hasn't averaged 4.0 yards per carry in any other game except for against the Chiefs when he had 20 carries for 85 yards. In his next start against KC? 15 carries for 44 yards.
Of course, Denver will mix in other backs and they should do fine against Baltimore, but what about the Patriots and their surprisingly good run defense? What if they have to play the 49ers or Texans or Seahawks? I'm not convinced that the Broncos are going to be nearly as effective if they are forced to be one-dimensional on offense with Manning and Demaryius Thomas.
They're going to need to protect the football and be able to run the football with efficiency. If they can't, it won't be a good day. But if they can anything is possible.
Even a 2013 game between the Lakers and the SuperSonics.