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2012 NFL Preview: Manning gives Broncos chance at Super Bowl

Ben Fisher, TSN.ca

9/2/2012 11:42:54 AM

Reasons to Believe

1. Peyton Manning – This one is easy. Manning is working his way back from neck surgery as he tries get back to his old self – his old self being the four-time league MVP. Manning joins a Denver team that looks better than many of the Colts teams the 36-year-old led to the playoffs. His presence will do wonders for already-promising WRs DeMaryius Thomas and Eric Decker.

2. Defensive Scheme – When Jack Del Rio and John Fox last coached together, they led a dramatic turnaround of the Carolina Panthers defence. Now the two are reunited and reports have Del Rio heading up a continually improving Broncos defence. With talents like Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, the Broncos have a chance to put up a ferocious defensive front.

3. Clever As A Fox – In just his second season as head coach of the Carolina Panthers, Fox led the team all the way to the Super Bowl in 2004. After heading a four-win improvement for the Broncos last season, he could be looking to make similar waves in his second season as Broncos head coach. Fox is well liked by his players, all of whom appear to have fully bought into his system.

Reasons to Doubt

1. Peyton Manning's Neck – It's strange to have one player show up as both a reason to believe and a reason to doubt, but Manning's neck injury – which kept him out of action all of last season – will be a concern for the Broncos, at least in the early going. As loud as fans will cheer with every nice throw Manning makes, they'll gasp equally as loudly with every big hit.

 2. Running Game – Mike Shanahan was famous for getting productivity from a group of relative no names at the running back position. Four years after Shanahan's departure, Denver is sticking with a cast of relative no names at tailback, only minus the production. To be fair, Willis McGahee was decent last year, but now past the 30-year-old line, expectations should be lowered.

3. Suspect Secondary – A lot will be put on the aging Champ Bailey's shoulders because the rest of the secondary simply isn't that impressive. Denver's other corner – Tracy Porter – is an injury risk while the safeties – Mike Adams and Rahim Moore – are nothing special. Bailey is a surefire Hall of Famer, but the aging corner may be asked to do too much with the supporting cast around him.

What to Expect

In a very winnable division, a healthy Manning should equal a second-straight division title for the Broncos. At this point in his career, Manning is concerned about one thing – winning championships, and combined with what looks to be a decent defence, the Broncos could make some noise in the post-season. Considering them a bona fide Super Bowl contender, however, may be a stretch.