Peyton Manning set a torch to the NFL single season record books in his 16th season eclipsing marks for most yards thrown (5,477) and most TD passes (55). With those numbers it was no surprise he was voted the league’s MVP for a record setting 5th time. His inflated stats helped lead his Broncos to the Super Bowl where they were embarrassed by a 43-8 loss to the Seahawks (one of the most lopsided scores in the games history).
Manning lost one of his favorite targets in Eric Decker (1,288 yards, 11 TD’s) to free agency, but the team responded nicely by signing Emmanuel Sanders; the Steelers 2nd leading receiver in 2013.
Denver also lost leading rusher Knowshon Moreno, who left for Miami. His departure means Montee Ball will take over as the starting back. Ball is unproven in the NFL so far, but broke the NCAA record for most career touchdowns, so he could have a big upside.
While the offense was setting records, the defense struggled in a big way. They could not match the physicality of the Seahawks offense in the Super Bowl, and looked soft. They needed to toughen up and they made all the right moves in free agency to do so. They signed cornerback Aquib Talib, safety T.J Ward, and defensive end Demarcus Ware. Talib is an elite corner that they hope can fill in the shoes of the very good but aging Champ Bailey, who departed for (and was recently cut by) the Saints. Ward was the the second leading tackler for the Cleveland Browns last season, and Ware is the Cowboys all time leading sack leader.
A Denver Broncos team that was the best in the AFC might even be better in 2014. At 38, Peyton Manning is in the twilight of his career, if the Broncos are gonna win a ring they need to do it now. I expect another deep playoff run.
Click on the logo below to see the next team in Hawk’s 2014 NFL Preview: AFC West Edition: The Kansas City Chiefs: