The Denver Broncos head in to the 2015 campaign with one of the greatest signal callers ever under center once again. There was plenty of speculation following last season that it was it for Peyton Manning, but he put that to rest and started to prepare for this season. Manning, towards the second-half of last season, was starting to wear down. There wasn’t anywhere near the same zip we are accustomed to seeing from Manning. His arm looked dead, and his career was looking over with each passing week. The Broncos opted out of the hurry-up offense and went for a more balanced attack, with more ground game work. I really didn’t understand why they weren’t using what had been so good to them since Manning took over. However, it was clear that either Manning’s arm was done for, or there was an injury we didn’t know about. I believe it was the Buffalo Bills game that I started to question Manning. He threw a severely underthrown ball along the sidelines that was picked off. Some people chalked it up as bad game, but there was more to it. Manning continued to sputter down the stretch, as they essentially became a run first squad.
Following the season it was revealed that Manning was playing with an injury, a thigh injury to be exactly. The injury was disclosed during the season, but I don’t think many people thought much about it. The thigh certainly has an impact in the process of throwing a football. Before the injury, Manning was losing zip on his ball, but not to that extent. We’re going to find it real quick if Manning is going to get through another season. It won’t take me long to ascertain if Manning is toast. This may very well be the last season of his career. Stay tuned.
Then there is the added drama of the rumors surrounding John Elway wishing to trade Manning away. The Broncos and Manning open the year against the Baltimore Ravens. Joe Flacco needs to regain some of that Super Bowl magic he had a few years back. Flacco is still undoubtedly a great quarterback. I have no doubts that he puts together an impressive season. He passed for 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, which equated to his best season as a pro. He surpassed his passing yardage record with 3986. 27 touchdowns was also a career high for him. A big jump from his lackluster 2013 campaign, which saw him dishing out 19 touchdowns to 22 interceptions. Flacco and Manning duel it out in this CBS nationally televised game at 4:25 ET.
Baltimore Ravens vs. Denver Broncos NFL Pick
Odds provided by Bovada.lv
Ravens vs. Broncos Pick:
Manning and the Broncos’ offense will be without the services of some faces that have become familiar in Denver. First, Wes Welker is out, and is actually still looking for work. His history of concussions has caught up to him and no one is willing to take a shot on him. Welker was one of the main plugs in the Bronco offense two seasons ago, but severely dropped off in 2014. We all saw it coming, a guy of his stature getting beat up on the field for as long as he has was eventually going to slow down. If this is the end for Welker, it was a great career for him, but will be without a Super Bowl ring. Additionally, tight end Julius Thomas, a favorite of Peyton, will be catching balls from Blake Bortles in Jacksonville. Owen Daniels takes over as the number 1 tight end in Denver, definitely a drop off. Manning will still have Demaryius Thomas as his go-to guy, the undisputed number 1 on the Broncos. Emanuel Sanders plays opposite Thomas in the Bronco offense.
The Broncos’ offense didn’t live up to their 2013 season. But we can come to the conclusion that the defense improved drastically. Manning didn’t need to score 40 points a game for the Broncos to win. They could chew up clock on the ground and let the defense go to work. The signing of Aqib Talib was a big reason for that. Talib is back in a Broncos’ uniform this season. The Broncos in fact ranked as 3rd best in the NFL in terms of total team defense. If you weren’t paying attention I’m sure that comes as a bit of a surprise.
I believe that Manning is going to come out with something to prove in week 1. I really don’t know if he is going to hold up throughout the entire season. The Broncos blew the Ravens out in an opener in Denver a couple years back. I see the environment in Denver playing to the Broncos advantage here. The thin air always does, but in game 1 where teams aren’t exactly in mid-season conditioning form, it should wear down on the Ravens come the 4th quarter. I expect a 7-10 point victory for the Broncos, thus, covering the 4.5 points.
PICK: BRONCOS -4.5 (-110)