Perhaps the question most looming on the minds of NFL fans entering the 2012 season is “Does Peyton Manning still have it?” Everyone got a slightly better answer to this question as Manning and the rest of the Broncos started their training camp yesterday. Although Manning is coming off of 4 separate neck surgeries he is one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time and furthermore one of the most durable athletes in American sports over the past decade. For the first time since John Elway retired, the Denver Broncos are the favorites to win the AFC West division and as well are considered to be one of, if not the, best team(s) in the entire NFL.
The Broncos and Manning will be tested immediately as the first 3 weeks of the 2012 season will have them matched up against playoff contenders. The most difficult of which could very well come in the first game versus the Pittsburgh Steelers who own one of the leagues most feared defenders, James Harrison, who some critics of Manning theorize could have his career ended by one solid hit from the 6 foot tall 242 pound linebacker. After what should be a relatively easy Week 4 match up against the Oakland Raiders, Denver goes on to play at the New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers. These two games will most likely be a catalyst towards either the Broncos success or failure as New England won the AFC Championship last season and San Diego has controlled the AFC West for the better part of this generation. After a week 8 contest against the New Orleans Saints, who underwent their own type of controversial off-season, the schedule begins to clear up for Denver however if they do not get off to a strong start those first 7 games their season, and the hopes of millions of fans, could fade away not unlike what happened to the Philadelphia Eagles “Dream Team” last season.
Manning had his characteristically flawless charm on display when answering questions during camp yesterday and appears as confident as ever. Those who were privileged enough to watch claim that he is throwing with “as much precision and power as ever”. The AFC West race should be a great one with the Raiders, Chargers and Broncos all finishing with a record of 8-8 last season and Kansas City in last at 7-9. This clearly displays the competition in this division and places a huge emphasis on every game as the division winner was decided by a tiebreaker in 2011. With the teams leading rusher from last season Willis Mcgahee returning as well as both of their leading receivers, Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas, the Broncos offense should be spectacular this season being led by perhaps the most effective quarterback of the 21st Century.