It's not a stretch to say that John Elway has built-up the best, most talented team in all of football with the 2013 Denver Broncos. Top to bottom, this team is loaded.
And speaking of loaded, how about Denver's front office!
In all seriousness, despite the idiocy this week on display by Broncos director of player personnel Matt Russell and Director of Pro Personnel Tom Heckert both getting busted for DUIs within the last month, Denver is still the team to beat in 2013. The 2013 Broncos are more talented than any team quarterback Peyton Manning has ever been on, regardless of whether with Denver or Indianapolis.
Think about it.
The last time Manning had receivers to throw to as talented as Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, and Wes Welker was, probably, 2004. Back then in Indianapolis, it was Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, and Brandon Stokley. Manning threw a then-NFL record 49 touchdowns that year. Stokley could even make a return to Denver - the place he played last season and caught 45 balls and 5 touchdowns from Manning - for 2013, making the Broncos' receiving threats even more potent.
The offensive line will likely have Ryan Clady back, creating a nearly impenetrable wall at left tackle. Free agent pick-up Louis Vasquez is an excellent interior guard, likely to play on the right side. Manning was pressured far too often from the middle of the o-line last year. Vasquez's addition should shore that up. Dan Koppen will also return for a season at center, an underrated veteran who knows how to handle no-huddle line calls. Longtime right guard Chris Kuper seems likely to miss part of training camp as he still recovers from ankle surgery, per the Denver Post.
Even without Kuper, that's a very good offensive line.
Running back will likely be a committee, which is ideal for the Broncos and, in general, teams in the modern NFL. Montee Ball and Knowshon Moreno will split carries, with Lance Ball (another former Colt and no relation to Montee) will get a few touches as well. All solid. All can get the job done.
Regarding Peyton himself, he probably should have won his NFL-record 5th league MVP last year over Adrian Peterson. Manning threw 37 touchdowns, and he was THE reason the Broncos went from a team that barely made the post-season in 2012 to the No. 2 seed in 2013. For this season, Peyton already says his arm strength is better and his familiarity with the Denver franchise will make him more comfortable.
On defense, the loss of Elvis Dumervil will hurt, and no amount of talent can hide the coaching ineptness of Jack Del Rio, Denver's defensive coordinator. However, Denver is infused with enough young studs like Von Miller, Terrance Knighton, Derek Wolfe, and rookie Sylvester Williams that the Broncos' pass rush and run defense will be quite good.
Toss in veteran Shaun Phillips, and it makes a very good front even better.
Denver's secondary choked big time in the divisional round of the 2013 playoffs last season against the Ravens. Champ Bailey was made to look stupid at the hands of Torrey Smith, and outside of getting awarded Super Bowl MVP, safety Rahim Moore might never live down his complete and total f*ck-up defending the deep ball on Baltimore's last-second Hail Mary in regulation of the divisional playoff loss.
Still, despite the mental lapses, Denver's talent in their defensive backfield is potent. Bailey can still cover (just give him safety help next time, Jack). Omar Bolden and rookie Kayvon Webster show some promise while veteran free agent signing Quentin Jammer could provide some excellent depth at both slot corner and safety. They also have Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who is pretty much the poster boy for "talented, but mentally weak" corner.
In terms of matching up with the Colts, this is not an ideal opponent for Indianapolis.
For starters, the Week 7 game will be in Indy, and there are few things in life worth banking on more than the fact that Peyton Manning will enter that stadium highly motivated and obsessively prepared to destroy the Colts.
Manning is still bruising from how Colts owner Jim Irsay released him in March 2012, no matter how logical the move was and still is. Manning will want to stick it to Irsay on a national stage in the building (Lucas Oil Stadium) that Peyton built.
The key to stopping Manning is pressuring him and frustrating him into mistakes. When things don't go according to plan during a game, Peyton starts to press. It's what makes him great, but it's also what opens the door for defenses the capitalize on turnovers.
On offense, the Colts will need to do what Baltimore did: Throw over the top on Denver. Attack their corners. Use deep threats like Darrius Heyward-Bey and T.Y. Hilton to pressure their safeties. Ideally, this is the kind of game where Coby Fleener or Dwayne Allen make a strong impact. Denver's linebackers aren't known for their coverage skills, and if a safety has to run with Fleener and Allen underneath, that means Heyward-Bey or Hilton are running with single coverage deep.
Obviously, anything can happen between now and October, but one thing is certain: That game will be one of the biggest in Indianapolis sports history, especially if both Luck and Manning are healthy. The only thing that would make it sweeter is if both teams are undefeated heading in.
If that's the case... ohboyohboyohboyohboyohboyohboy!!!