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Introduction to the Denver Broncos

Peyton Manning runs one of the most complex and dangerous offenses in the league

If you had never watched the NFL before and this was the first season you had tuned in, you would be forgiven for thinking the Denver Broncos were the best team ever. In fact based on the first five games of the season, they are the best team ever. No team has scored more points in its opening five games than the 2013 Denver Broncos. It's a truly remarkable feat to say the least and it makes the Broncos one of the most entertaining teams to watch this year. It's a sight that will surely please Denver's Vice President of Football Operations and former Broncos quarterback John Elway. Elway, a former number one overall pick, led the Bronco's to five Super Bowls and won two of them. Having retired in 1998 after his second Super Bowl victory he watched the Denver franchise adjust to life without him. Despite one year where the team made an AFC Championship game, they struggled to remain relevant in an increasingly competitive AFC division. Elway, keen to help his former employer agreed to join the organisation again, this time in an administrative role beginning in 2011. Newly installed in his new role as Vice President of Football Operations, Elway sought once again to make the Denver team a Super Bowl contender. He didn't have to wait long for a golden opportunity. A year after becoming Vice President one of the most highly celebrated NFL free agents in history hit the market and began touring teams. Elway ensure his team was one on his list. The player was quarterback Peyton Manning. Manning, despite recovering from neck surgery that had side-lined him for a season, was still considered to be one of the best quarterbacks to play the game and the competition to sign him was fierce. For Manning though, it was Denver and Elway that appealed to him most and the Broncos pulled off one of the greatest signing in sports history securing Manning to a five year deal. It was this deal that began the genesis of the high powered offense that has borne fruit this season and no doubt Elway will be very pleased about that.

The Best Offense Ever?

Though Elway is an icon in the Bronco's past it is Peyton Manning that that holds the keys to the Broncos future. Considered by many to be one of the best, if not the best quarterbacks of all time, the offense revolves around Peyton and his footballing genius. The Super Bowl winning quarterback and nine time All Pro has one of the best offensive minds to ever play the game. Able to make throws all over the field, Manning's true talent is his ability to pick a defense apart, sensing where the weak points in coverage will be and exploiting them through either judgement or prodigious film study. This gives his offenses a distant style where he will change the play regularly before the snap. This leads to a variety of signals and calls at the line of scrimmage that has become a hallmark of any Manning led team. Despite all his talents and obvious production Peyton still only has the single Super Bowl ring, having won it with the Colts in 2006. This is the biggest knock against Manning in the debate between all-time greats. The good news for Manning is that his career is far from over evidenced by the fact he has finished leading the most lethal offense to ever play the game to five straight wins. Though Manning undoubtedly runs the show, he has a variety of offensive playmakers he can get the ball to, as the Broncos possess one of the most stacked receiver depth charts in the league. Demaryius "DT" Thomas is one such receiver who has developed an instant bond with his new quarterback. Before Peyton arrived in Colorado, Thomas was an erratic player who struggle to make use of his potential. Manning has certainly had a positive influence as last year he nearly tripled his yardage gained and more than doubled his touchdowns caught in his first year with Peyton Manning quarterbacking. A strong physical specimen "DT" can make spectacular catches in traffic but also stretch the field vertically with speed. Look for him and Peyton to once again be on the same page throughout the season. Complimenting Thomas is fellow wide receiver Eric Decker. Decker is a talented route runner and possession receiver that also looks to blossom under Manning's tutelage. A strong and mobile player he has excellent hands as well, a trait only enhanced when you have Peyton Manning throwing you the ball. Decker benefits from his counterpart Thomas drawing the team's top cornerback and threatening the defense as a deep threat, allowing Decker to work the middle of the field and exploit coverage and double teams. You would think the tandem of Thomas and Decker would be enough for such a talented quarterback to make do with but the offseason acquisition of slot receiver Wes Welker rounds out the receiver corp as one of the most dangerous in the league. Welker, formerly a favourite target of one of Peyton's biggest rivals Tom Brady, is one of the best receivers to play the slot role ever.  Standing only 5 ft 9 in Welker exploits his size and his speed to make fast breaks out of coverage and get open, allowing his quarterbacks a reliable option every down. Despite his small stature Welker is a tough player able to bounce back from big hits and make big plays in crunch time. Add on top of that one of the safest hands in the game and you have a formidable third option. Manning certainly knows how to get the best out of his receivers and with such a talented line up its clear to see how they have managed to be so overwhelming on the offensive side of the ball.

A Game Of Two Halves 

That isn't to say the Broncos are a one dimensional team as they possess one of the best defences to compliment this high octane O. Head coach John Fox is a former defensive back and has shaped his defense into one of the most fearsome units in the league. It's an outfit that has the strength and size to win the battle up front, but also the tenacity to get after the quarterback and force turnovers. One such player that encapsulates the defenses ethos is third year outside linebacker Von Miller. Miller has been a phenom since being drafted second overall in 2011 and has made the All Pro teams both years since joining the league. Miller is a high energy player that operates as a complete linebacker that can not only stuff the run, but rush the passer and drop into coverage. One of the most relentless defensive players in the league he plays side line to side line and will not quit. Last year was Millers best as he finished in the top five in sacks, quarterback knockdowns, forced fumbles and tackles for loss. The scary thing for opposition teams is that the young player looks only set to improve on this base. The only worrying issue is his alleged drug use and Miller has been suspended for the first six games of the season after the NFL learned he attempted to cheat a drugs test. The Broncos D has been effective without him but look for Miller to return with a vengeance once his suspension is lifted. The Bronco's defense has also been without another familiar face as veteran cornerback Champ Bailey has been side lined with an injured foot. The 15 year adept has made the All Pro team an astonishing 7 times and is one of the most respected cornerbacks in the league. Bailey is a smart defensive back that still possesses the hips and speed to play cornerback at an elite level. Bailey, once he is back, will be looking for atone for past sins as he drew heavy criticism for his play in last year's AFC Championship game where he let Ravens receiver Torrey Smith run riot over him. This is not to say that Bailey is still not one of the best players at his position and the Broncos will be eager to have him back at full fitness. Despite all his accomplishments Bailey still has yet to taste Super Bowl glory so look for this wily veteran to make a strong return to help guide the Bronco's to their first Lombardi since Elway was under centre.

Early Favorites

As this season has progressed it has become evident that the Broncos are the team to beat in a relatively weak AFC division and have separated themselves as early Super Bowl locks. With Manning orchestrating the show you are never out of a football game and the team has the depth and talent to certainly cause problems for any side they come up against. That being said the Broncos division, the AFC West, appears to be the surprise division for playoff contenders. In recent years the AFC West has been one of the weakest divisions in the NFL but this season it looks to be one of the most competitive. The Oakland Raiders appear to be piecing together a young and talented squad and are off to a better start than anyone suspected of them. The San Diego Chargers have always failed to reach their maximum potential but seem to have started strongly this year also. The biggest surprises however is that Broncos aren't the only undefeated team in the division. The Kansas City Chiefs, the worst team in football last year, have started 5-0 as well and have made some serious noise early on this season. If the Chiefs can continue their form it should make their divisional games very interesting to say the least. Despite this the Broncos are still the favourite to clinch to division for a second straight year and will be looking to improve on their playoff disappointment of last year and bring to the Lombardi Trophy back to Denver once again.

Head Coach: John Fox

Super Bowl Appearances:  1977, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1997, 1998

Division: AFC West

Biggest Rivalries: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers

Jersey to buy: #18 QB Peyton Manning, #88 WR Demaryius Thomas, #87 WR Eric Decker, #83 WR Wes Welker, #58 OLB Von Miller, #24 CB Champ Bailey