2012 Record: 13-3. Lost to the Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round.
If Tim Tebow went from Hero to Zero in 2012 then GM John Elway went from Hero to Superhero in that same time. In what was the only possible move that could ride the wave of hope while still halting the pandemic that was "Tebowmania," the Denver Broncos signed All-Pro QB Peyton Manning on March 20, 2012. The next day, the Broncos traded Tim Tebow to the New York Jets, thus putting the final nail in the coffin to his Bronco career.
All Peyton Manning did (coming off a year away from football because of neck surgery) was lead the Broncos on an 11-game winning streak to end the regular season, en route to another All-Pro selection. The Broncos were #2 in the league in points per game (30.1 pts) and point differential (+192). Oh, and let's not forget that they were also #2 in the league in total defense, #4 in points allowed, and tied for #1 in sacks. They finished the season 13-3, winning the AFC West, and taking the #1 spot in the AFC headed into the playoffs. And that's where the water ran dry. The Broncos got bounced from the Playoffs in their first game against the Ravens. Manning committed 3 turnovers in the double-OT thriller that will forever be encapsulated by the 70 yard TD bomb from Flacco to Jacoby Jones with 0:30 left in regulation.
They won't say it but it's "Super Bowl or Bust" for the 2013 Denver Broncos. They are fortunate to have the easiest schedule in the NFL in 2013 (if you put any stock in that this early). Most assuredly, if seeing Peyton being Peyton again wasn't enough, a busy off-season for Denver has elevated expectations through the roof. Wes Welker joins a young receiving duo in Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker that led all wide receiver duos in TD's last season. He'll fit right in to that slot receiver role and hopes to be Brandon Stokley 2.0. Not to mention the addition by subtraction that occurs with Tom Brady and the Patriots losing their dynamic slot guy. Here are some other notable signings for the Broncos:
- G Louis Vasquez (San Diego)- At 26, Vasquez was one of the top O-line free agents on the market. Will look to provide protection for Manning and add power to the running game.
- DT Terrance Knighton (Jacksonville)- Drafted by Jack Del Rio, current Defensive Coordinator for the Broncos when he was the Head Coach in Jacksonville. "Pot Roast" will provide depth on the D-line and pressure up the middle.
- CB Dominque Rodgers-Cromartie (Philadelphia)- The Broncos are hoping that DRC gives them what they wanted from Tracy Porter last year.
In the biggest gaffe of the off-season, the Broncos lost one of their top pass rushers, Elvis Dumervil, to the Baltimore Ravens. The Broncos will likely look to replace him with a pass rusher in the draft. They will also look to the Draft to add depth to their Defensive Line and add a playmaking running back to the fold as well. Maybe the most significant loss for the Denver Broncos, however, comes at the coaching level. 2012 Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy has left to be the Head Coach in San Diego. Adam Gase, the Quarterbacks Coach (who is two years younger than his quarterback), is set to take his place. He coached under Josh McDaniels in Denver so there is believed to be some familiarity with Wes Welker's strengths.
How do the Redskins match up?
The match-up has about as many subplots as Game of Thrones. Shanahan returns to Denver. Peyton faces his 2012 suitor (who, in fact, brought him in for an interview the day after trading for the #2 overall pick). Or, how about the least of these, Champ Bailey faces the Skins for the second time. Subplots are subplots but the game itself will be the toughest test for the 2013 Redskins. Currently, the Denver Broncos are the odds-on favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. The Redskins have to go to Denver for this game where they went 7-1 with an average differential of +19 in their wins. It's likely that the game will be on prime-time TV and be played later in the year in order to make sure RGIII will be available (Kevin Sheehan of ESPN980 predicts a Monday Nighter on December 2). Much of the focus will be on Washington's new look secondary (fingers crossed) and their ability to cope with Denver's air attack. Both offenses should have a field day but it's hard to be confident in chalking this one up as a "W" just yet. Redskins lose 31-24, but Redskins fans can be rest assured that Mike Shanahan is going to have a little something prepared for the franchise that fired him. Sav Rocca better warm that arm up now because if their last match-up taught us anything you must beware the holder!