I am one of those people who tries to take a realistic view of what the Broncos will be like. Sometimes I am right, sometimes I am very wrong. As a case in point, at this time last year, I was extremely concerned about the viability of Peyton Manning as a QB coming off an injury this late in his career. I am happy to say that I have never been more wrong in my entire sports fan existence.
So what is my outlook for this year? Anything less than a Super Bowl appearance will be a major disappointment/underachievement. Yes, the Broncos are that good, and are, in my view, a better team today than they were at any point last year. The additions of Wes Welker and Montee Ball have huge implications for our already potent offense, and Shaun Phillips is certainly a serviceable replacement for the technologically challenged Dumervil and I have high hopes for both Sylvester Williams and Quanterus Smith on the defensive line.
And as a bonus, our primary competition in the AFC has not kept pace with our improvements. In New England, Tom Brady finds himself in a situation that shares similarities with Manning's at the beginning of last year. He has to get chemistry and timing with a whole new batch of WRs. Of all the receivers on the Pats roster, only four were on the team last year, and of those, only one caught a pass. This makes the loss of Welker to us loom all the bigger. Good thing for Brady he has the Twin TEs of Doom.... oh, wait..... Gronk is having another surgery and Hernandez is also dealing with injuries, so it is possible that neither will be back by the beginning of the season, and who knows how long it will take for them to get back to full strength once they are playing. The beginning of the year might be a bit rough for our friends in New England.
In Baltimore, well, what can I say about the Ravens? Yes, they are the defending champs, and will be until someone knocks them off their perch. But no matter how the Ravens fans shout about how they are reloading and getting younger, you just flat do not get better by replacing two no doubt HOFers that were still performing at a high level, not to mention their top receiving threat and several other defensive starters. Now, they play the games for a reason, and there is certainly the possibility that I am wrong and that Ravens will seamlessly transition to the new era, but looking at it from the outside, I just don't see how the Ravens are not a worse team this year than they were last year.
Houston strikes me as something of a paper tiger, Pittsburgh is getting old, and the Bengals are still the Bengals.That just leaves Indy as a possible contender. If Luck suffers a sophomore slump, I think we don't have much to worry about. If he doesn't, then to me, the Colts are the biggest threat to us. I still give us the edge in that match-up though, because Manning gets the edge as the crafty veteran over the young gun in Luck.
With all these things in mind, I have to think that anything less than an AFC championship is a failure. And if we do make it to the SB, I think we should win, regardless of who we play. But there are two teams that give me pause in the NFC. Green Bay is always dangerous with Aaron Rodgers. They can put up a lot of points in a hurry, and while their defense is suspect, Clay Matthews is capable of game-changing plays at any time. But the biggest worry is San Fransisco. While we have a clear advantage at QB, they have an excellent team from top-to-bottom. This is a team that made it to the NFC championship game with Alex Smith at QB, a guy who is basically a better version of Kyle Orton. They also have one of two guys in the league who are a match for Von Miller at rushing the QB in Aldon Smith. This is a team to be wary of. But they are beatable, as the Ravens showed, so if they can do it, why can't we?
I see no reason not to be thinking Super Bowl. This is the best team we have had since 1998. The stars are aligning and New York is the destination. Meadow Lands, February 2nd, 2014..... where will you be? I expect the Broncos to be taking the field.