NFL Commentary: The Denver Broncos: Team to Beat, Or A Bit Overrated?
The Denver Broncos.
After five weeks into the 2013 NFL season, the AFC division leading Denver Broncos sit with a perfect 5-0 record. The Broncos, along with their AFC West rivals the Kansas City Chiefs and the NLC South leading New Orleans Saints, are the only three teams that have maintained an undefeated season thus far.
Out of the aforementioned three teams, the biggest surprise is undoubtedly the Kansas City Chiefs. Before the season began, the Broncos were expected to be one of if not the top team in the NFL. Those expectations are fairly valid based on what the Broncos accomplished last season. However, it's unlikely that most people believed that the Broncos offense would be able to achieve what they have so far.
Denver's veteran quarterback and future hall-of-famer, Peyton Manning, has been putting up staggering passing numbers thus far. Manning's play has lead to several Bronco opponents being utterly and thoroughly embarrassed on national television. All of this has put the Broncos atop on various NFL power ranking charts, and in most people's eyes have them viewed unofficially as the NFL's team to beat.
Despite the Broncos dominance so far, there are still skeptics and questions out there as to whether or not this team can actually go all the way. I happen to be one of those people that question whether or not the Broncos are a tad bit overrated. However, I do believe that the Broncos are a solid threat go go all the way. I'm going to discuss why I think the Broncos may be a bit overrated, and point out a few reasons why people may be a bit too high on them.
Before I begin, I want to state that I'm in no way taking anything away from the Denver Broncos. On paper, they have personified what it means to be a dominant team up to this point, and they deserve credit for that. The Broncos offense has been on an entirely different level so far this season. Through five games, Peyton Manning has completed 75.8% of his passes for 1,884 yards. In that span, Manning has also thrown an amazing 20 total touchdowns passes. It's almost as if Manning is really getting better with age.
The Broncos rushing attack has been solid as well. Running back Knowshon Moreno is currently handling the starting duties, and has performed solidly so far. Moreno has rushed for 331 total yards, and is averaging 5.1 yards per carry. Denver's backfield is a committee with backs Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball getting carries as well. However, Moreno's blocking abilities and steady play thus far has allowed him to stay at the top of the depth chart.
Although Denver's rushing attack has been a solid complement to their passing game, their passing attack has been where their strength lies. The Broncos receiving corp is talented enough that any one of their starter could be number one options on any team. Peyton Manning has also made great use of veteran slot receiver, Wes Welker, who came to Denver after six seasons as a New England Patriot.
Although Welker's number of receptions are lower than the numbers he put up in New England, Welker has become one of Manning's top options. In five games, Manning has hooked up with Welker 31 times for 315 yards and 7 TD passes. Manning has also took a relatively unknown tight-end in Julius Thomas, and has made him an important part of the Broncos passing attack as well. With the emergence of Welker and Thomas, receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker have seen their targets go down from last season, but both are still playing very well. Overall, the Broncos offense has been nearly unstoppable so far.
As good as the Denver Broncos have been, I think there have been a few things that have played to their advantages. Again, I'm not taking anything away from their record, nor what their players have accomplished so far. However, there are some things that I feel need to be pointed out regarding the Broncos dominance up to the this point.
- Schedule: So far the Broncos have played the Baltimore Ravens, New York Giants, Oakland Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, and the Dallas Cowboys. Between these five teams, there is a total record of 9-16; well below .500. Although the Baltimore Ravens are the defending Super Bowl champions, they're arguably not the same team they were last season. The NFL is a competitive league, but the opponents the Broncos have faced thus far aren't viewed as top tier teams.
- Media: Out of the Broncos five games played so far, two of them have been televised on national television. The Broncos played extremely well in both of their televised games against Baltimore and Oakland. Here's something to keep in mind; the thing with playing on national television is that everyone watches you. The opinion of a casual fan watching on national TV will probably be different from a die-hard Broncos fan that follows all of their games. Since Denver looked terrific in both of those games, it's a little easier for fans to anoint them as being dominant. The way the media portrays a team can have a big effect on how their viewed.
- Mile High Advantage: Three of Denver's five games have been played on their home turf, Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Most football fans already know this, but what makes this significant is the altitude change that Denver opponents have to adjust to. The Broncos home stadium is 5,280 fee above sea level. The altitude and thinness of air has been known to wear out opposing teams in uptempo games. Denver's all-pro cornerback, Champ Bailey once said of the stadium when he first became a Bronco in 2001, "In an up-tempo game, the altitude wears you out. Nobody coming in here is used to it." The Broncos organization has the NFL's best home winning percentage (.700) going back 30 years. Again, not to take anything away from the Broncos, but it's clear the home field advantage plays to their strength.
- Shaky Defense: Yes I know that the Broncos have been without linebacker Von Miller, and defensive back Champ Bailey this season. However, the Broncos pass defense has been very shaky this season thus far. Out of the Broncos five opponents, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, and Tony Romo have all thrown for over 300 yards. Tony Romo had the best game of his career throwing for 506 yards and 5 touchdown passes before his late game interception. In my personal opinion, the Broncos high powered offense has helped mask the problems they've had on defense. Denver will most likely be able to escape with this during the regular season, but they'll have to fix those defensive problems before the playoffs arrives.
- Peyton Manning Playoff Woes: I have a great deal of respect for Peyton Manning, and I'll always be an admirer of how talented he his. However, just like in most aspects of life, a person's reputation precedes them. Lets be honest, Peyton Manning's performances during the playoffs have been at least questionable. Lets look at a few stats. Peyton Manning previously led teams have a combined 9-11 record in the playoffs. Remember last season what happened to the Broncos right? Number one seed in the AFC, and got knocked out of the playoffs in a double overtime loss to the Ravens, who would go on to win the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning's career performances during the regular season have been nothing short of amazing. I know that he has a previous Super Bowl win with the Indianapolis Colts, but Manning's reputation in the playoffs should be questioned.
Possible Threat to the Broncos?
Oh yea before I forget, there may be another potential problem the Denver Broncos could be facing. That problem could stem from another 5-0 team in their division named the Kansas City Chiefs. Many analysts and fans doubted how good the Chiefs could be with all of the changes they made during the off-season. However, the Chiefs are proving a lot of those doubters wrong.
Now you're probably wondering why I view the Chiefs as a threat to the Broncos right? Well to be honest, I think that the Chiefs have a great team setup to defeat a team like the Broncos. I believe that a team needs a game managing quarterback, a good running attack, and a solid defense to beat a team like Denver. The Chiefs have all three in my opinion. To beat Denver, you have to keep Peyton Manning off the field.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith isn't a gunslinger type of quarterback. Smith works the intermediate game well, and knows how to manage a game. The Chiefs also have one of the leagues most underrated backs in Jamaal Charles. Charles is a career 5.6 yard per carry rusher. Charles is averaging 4.3 yards per carry this season, but his usage in the receiving game has been helpful to the Chiefs. Charles already has caught 28 passes so far this season, which would put him on track to outdo his career high of 45 receptions in 2010.
The Chiefs defense really knows how to create pressure on a quarterback. The Chiefs defensive unit has accumulated 21 sacks in total so far this season. Linebacker Justin Houston is leading the way with 8.5 of those 21 sacks. Also, add in the fact that the Chiefs and Broncos are division rivals, which means they are familiar with one another. I think Kansas City has the right formula to potentially defeat the Denver Broncos.
I know that it sounds like I'm coming down hard on the Denver Broncos, but that's far from the case. I just think that no one team is invincible, and the Broncos have already been crowned by many as the team to come out of the AFC. The Broncos are a solid team but as I've stated several times, there are some things to question regarding this team.
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