There we have it. The sweepstakes are over and Peyton Manning is going to Denver. Overall, it’s still a surprise as Miami seemed to be the early favorite, Tennessee had ties from Manning’s college days and a better defense, and San Francisco was actually the best landing spot to win now. In the end, a relationship with John Elway and five years/96 million dollars won out.
What does this mean for the Broncos? Are they division favorites? AFC favorites? Or, suddenly Super Bowl contenders? To answer that in reverse, apparently Vegas believes it’s a league-altering decision, as Denver went from about 75-to-1 for winning the Super Bowl to 10-to-1 after the signing. But is that really the case?
The Broncos still need a lot of work if they are going to win a title, let alone take the AFC or run away with their division. Sure, Jeff Saturday and Dallas Clark appear to be on their way to Denver too, but that only addresses some of their problems. The Broncos still need major helps on defense. They gave up the ninth most points per game and had only 18 takeaways (tied for fourth worst). Plus, the team might be considering moving Champ Bailey around on defense and/or replacing him as he’s losing his effectiveness.
Yes, Peyton can make anyone good in the passing game (see: Jacob Tamme, Anthony Gonzalez, etc.), and the Broncos would appear to have two great talents ready for the Manning molding – Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. What about the running game, though? Willis McGahee turned in a surprisingly good season, but still missed a game (has only one full season since 2005) and scored just four times. Meanwhile, Knowshon Moreno is a bust, if only based on his inability to stay healthy for more than 15 minutes.
In reality, this team still needs work. On top of that, Kansas City suffered tough injuries last year, still finish at 7-9 and improved this offseason. San Diego is still hanging around and Oakland can put up a fight, at least. Running away with the division is not a given or an easy task. Then, you still have to be better than New England, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and even Houston with a healthy Matt Schaub. Can anyone say with certainty that adding Manning helps Denver leapfrog any of those teams? Speaking of those playoff teams, Denver has to play every single one in the regular season plus the AFC North, so toss in a difficult game against an improving Cincinnati squad. Who do they get in the NFC? Just the NFC South with New Orleans, Atlanta, Carolina and Tampa Bay. The schedule is brutal to say the least.
Don’t misunderstand. Peyton Manning is a terrific addition – if healthy or the player he was. Remember how excited the Chiefs were to get Joe Montana? How did that work out? There is no guarantee Manning is healthy or will be the same QB that can take a mediocre team to greatness. Add in a defense that will provide little help at winning games and a brutal schedule, and you have a situation where you had better not take a bet to Vegas.
For Denver’s sake, I hope this works. There are just many reasons why being overly optimistic will lead to disappointment. And, the Broncos are getting rid of one of the most beloved players in all of football for this risk-laden chance at glory. I think Denver paid attention to the wrong part of the Bible when Tim Tebow suggested reading it… sacrificing virgins for gain is not the key to glory.
In addition to covering the NFL, MLB, NBA, and College Football for RotoExperts, Jake Ciely (a.k.a "All In Kid") is also a poker fiend and a Maharishi in the world of sports wagering. Jake was a finalist for the FSWA's 2010 Newcomer of the Year award. You may email Jake @ firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JakeAllinCiely