Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 7/10/13
2012 Record: 13-32012 DownfallThe Secondary Caves InThe sight of Rahim Moore awkwardly pawing at the air like a strobe-light-blinded house cat is indelible. Jacoby Jones slipped past the hapless safety, hauling in a 70-yard touchdown pass to tie the Broncos at 35-apiece, with just 41 seconds left in regulation.Moore's miscalculated defense mechanism wasn't the only errant point of Denver's secondary in their 38-35 overtime loss to Baltimore. Of Baltimore's four offensive touchdowns, no drive took more than five plays to execute.Moore, Champ Bailey, and others felt the wrath of Torrey Smith on 59 and 32 yard touchdown strikes. The defense at large failed to stop Ray Rice on a 32-yard scamper that led to a touchdown following a fumble. And then the Jones one hurt the most.Manning ErrsPeyton Manning's return from multiple neck surgeries earned him the 2012 Comeback Player of the Year Award. He also led the league in completion percentage (68.6), and threw for a rating of 105.8, his fourth time over 100.0, and first time since 2006.But in Manning's first playoff game wearing orange with his blue, he was responsible for all three of the team's turnovers. A first quarter interception to Corey Graham was returned for 39 yards, giving the Ravens and early 14-7 lead.Up seven late in the third, Manning was sacked by Pernell McPhee, and Paul Kruger recovered the ensuing fumble. Ray Rice scored five plays later. And, of course, Manning threw the overtime interception, once again to Graham. Baltimore gained 16 yards on the ground in order to position the winning field goal.2013 Projected Wins: 12Top 3 Rookies-Sylvester Williams, DT (1/28): Unflappable strength allows him to make tackles and sacks, as well as break blocks and stand up to double-teams at the line.-Montee Ball, RB (2/58): Raved about by fantasy connoisseurs, very patient, and will make huge gains running inside the lanes of a disciplined, skillful Broncos line.-Kayvon Webster, CB (3/90): Considered a bit of a surprise pick, possesses lightnining-fast quickness, which he can use to some success on corner blitzes.Other MovesNo move made as many headlines as the surprise defection of Wes Welker from the Patriots to Denver. Welker received just a little more money from the Broncos, who'll join him with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker in Manning's deep receiving corps.After the fiasco against the Ravens, the Broncos are also adding reinforcements to the secondary. Veteran safety Quentin Jammer was a later-on signing, but still provides quality play. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is also in after a lambasted run in Philadelphia.Linebackers Elvis Dumervil and DJ Williams both departed, so depth is needed. Veterans Shaun Phillips and Stewart Bradley both look to provide that. Louis Vasquez joins an already good offensive line, and Terrance Knighton will start at defensive tackle.Potential Starting LineupQB - Peyton ManningRB - Montee BallWR - Demaryius ThomasWR - Wes WelkerWR - Eric DeckerTE - Joel DreessenLT - Ryan CladyLG - Zane BeadlesC - Dan KoppenRG - Louis VasquezRT - Orlando FranklinDE - Derek WolfeDT - Sylvester WilliamsNT - Terrance KnightonDE - Robert AyersOLB - Von MillerMLB - Joe MaysOLB - Wesley WoodyardCB - Champ BaileyCB - Dominique Rodgers-CromartieFS - Rahim MooreSS - Mike AdamsK - Matt PraterP - Britton ColquittLS - Aaron Brewer2013 at a GlanceSuch a waste to squander three straight months of victory on a playoff game that Denver should have won. But that's football for you; an ill-timed mistake (and the Broncos had more than one) can really do a team in. It doesn't matter if you were undefeated from October 15 onward.The Broncos' 30.1 PPG was second best in the league, and their 18.1 PPG allowed was fourth best. You'd think with that impressive twelve-point swing, the Broncos would want to keep their core together.Of course, that playoff loss exposed a worst-case scenario involving the secondary, and Denver did do some panic shopping there. Rodgers-Cromartie's time in Philadelphia was marred by the failure of he and Nnamdi Asomugha to live up to expectations. Bailey's 35, and coming off a haunt of a game where he played some of his worst football. It's dicey to think that Denver will be better in 2013, but maybe "DRC" needed real coaching.Speaking of coaches, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy was bade farewell upon his accepting of the Chargers' head coaching job (following Dennis Allen's footsteps from John Fox's assistant to Fox's rival).McCoy is replaced by Adam Gase, previously the team's quarterback coach. Not that Manning needed much guidance in that department. But Gase comes in with something that McCoy wasn't imbued with: a possible explosive rookie running back.Ronnie Hillman is a fine talent in his own right, but Ball's been the talk of the town. With Elway boldly comparing the Wisconsin back to his former teammate Terrell Davis, it's clear the office is high on their selection.Ball has leapfrogged the vast pool of backs on Denver's payroll to get first team reps with Manning. Willis McGahee became an injury cut, going down with an MCL injury last season. Denver's running average was a mere 3.81 YPA, one of their lone statistical blights.Welker's inability to get a long-term deal with the Patriots led to his shocking two-year, $12M deal with Denver.Manning knows what it's like to have three 1000-yard receivers on the same team. He had it in Indianapolis in 2004 with Reggie Wayne (1210), Marvin Harrison (1113), and Brandon Stokley (1077).Last season, Manning gunned his passes to Thomas (1434) and Decker (1064), while Welker (1354) remained a consistent threat for Tom Brady. He and Decker could possibly be the two best slot-receiver teammates that the league has ever seen, and a nightmare for teams that have to scheme to cover them.VerdictWhile the secondary provides some concern, as well as the loss of sack-master Dumervil, this is still a team that can overpower foes with their offense. Recent Super Bowl winners like New Orleans, New York, and Baltimore reigned, even with average to bad defenses.And as stated, what an offense it is. Welker, Decker, and Thomas will stretch defenses thin, the line is built to keep Manning upright, and Ball has breakout potential. Factor in three division foes trying to find themselves, and Denver's in for perhaps a title run.Prediction: 14-2
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