Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 7/16/12
The Denver Broncos are one of the few teams that are extremely hard to predict for this upcoming 2012 season. Making the switch from Tim Tebow to Peyton  Manning is one of the three major questions heading into the season. It's not a question of who has a better skillset for these two quarterbacks because it is no comparison. But coming off a season ending neck injury, will Manning be back to his normal self, Pro Bowl caliber? The Denver defense was mediocre last season, but helped this team win games at times when needed. The running game was top notch last season, best in the league actually, leaving the questions of will the defense have a greater impact and will the running game once again be excellent in 2012?

From Kyle Orton, to Tim Tebow, and now to Peyton Manning. The Denver Broncos moved on from the ever-so-talked-about Tim Tebow but without any concerns because they had a back-up plan in place. That back-up plan was put together by executive vice president of football operations, John Elway, and consisted of future Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning. Manning has been a dominant player ever since being drafted out of the University of Tennessee No. 1 by the Indianapolis Colts in 1998. This brings the first, and most important of three questions heading into training camp.

Peyton Manning is an all-time great, but does he still have a few years left in the tank?

Manning played for the Indianapolis Colts for fourteen years before being released by Indianapolis when they felt it was time to move on after the neck injury he suffered. Not only is Manning's injury a risk but his age is as well. He is currently 36, and that is certainly an old age when it comes to the National Football League. Manning had never missed a game until having to miss the entire 2011 season due to his neck injury. The most dangerous surgery and the second one of what is reported as four neck surgeries, was the level one cervical fusion. Many people throughout the world go through these neck procedures but not many current NFL players do and that is where the risks are. Healing certainly takes time, and taking a hit to the neck area could leave Manning in even worse shape than where he was in before. Manning's arm strength, accuracy, and other quarterback skills are not questioned, even at the age of 36. Sources say he looks great throwing the ball but he has not yet played a game and this is where many start to wonder, leaving us with the biggest question for the Denver Broncos heading into training camp... 

Is Peyton Manning ready?

546 attempts, 2,632 yards are the league leading rushing numbers for the Denver Broncos in 2011. Willis McGahee lead this Denver team with 1,199 yards in this last season. This was McGahee's first season in Denver, and one of the best of his career. He has said this offseason that he will be even better considering the quarterback situation. This makes perfect sense because, with Peyton Manning at quarterback, defenses will not stack the box planning to stop only the run. Denver was easily readable last season as Tim Tebow was one of the worst passing quarterbacks in the NFL. Manning is sure to have a better season than Tebow in the passing game, giving McGahee more room to run.

But is it possible that this top-ranked rushing team last season was only because of Tim Tebow?

Tebow had 665 rushing yards last season, finishing second at the quarterback position behind rookie of the year Cam Newton who had 709 yards. The Denver Broncos will be a good rushing team with Willis McGahee at running back, but do not expect McGahee to get as many attempts or yards as he did last year.

Then there is the Denver Broncos defense who bailed this team out in many games last season. The defense needed to do this because Tim Tebow's numbers were lacking. The only chance they had to win games was if they were completely on point. This wasn't a top notch defense in the NFL but they made stops in crunch time. Stops were made and Tim Tebow finished games, somehow, in the fourth quarter. The Denver Broncos defense definitely has some solid pieces such as defensive end Elvis Dumervil, linebacker Von Miller, and veteren cornerback Champ Bailey. Fully expect and watch for these players to make a solid impact in 2012.

This Denver Broncos team is poised to win this AFC West division but it won't be easy. They will certainly need these major questions answered heading into training camp. If Peyton Manning can play Peyton Manning football, and if the defense and running game can play mediocre, then you can fully expect this team to be in the playoffs. If this running game and defense plays more than mediocre then you should fully expect the Denver Broncos to win the AFC West, and even try for a push in the playoffs.

 

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