State of the AFC West: Broncos

USA TODAY Sports

Can the Broncos make it to the Super Bowl a year after coming up just short?

In the final installment of the State of the AFC West, I will focus on the Raiders' Most Hated Rival and what is likely the least favorite team of most readers of this site, the Denver Broncos.

Last season the Broncos dominated the league and were the #1 overall seed in the AFC, but lost in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champion Ravens.

Come free agency this year, the Broncos had a ton of money to spend and spend it they did, picking up Wes Welker, Terrance Knighton, and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. They also brought in Shaun Phillips and Quentin Jammer to strengthen a defense that lost Ty Warren, D.J. Williams, Tracy Porter, and Elvis Dumervil. Star left tackle Ryan Clady isn't currently listed on the roster at denverbroncos.com as he has not signed his tender, but the team has hopes of reaching a long-term deal with him.

The Broncos have few weaknesses, particularly at the top. They are the only team in the AFC West who didn't make wholesale coaching changes, and they have a new OC only because Mike McCoy took the San Diego HC job. When a team has success, that's what happens- ask the Patriots. John Fox is still there and so is John Elway, and Peyton Manning probably has at least two more years to whizz in the coffee of the rest of the AFC.

If you're waiting for Manning to turn back into a pumpkin, don't hold your breath. He is still Peyton Manning and he's still better than 97% of QBs who ever lived. Until he calls it a career, that's just something we're going to have to deal with.

Not only didn't the Broncos lose any WRs of note, but Wes Welker was added to the mix as well. With Eric Decker on the roster, Welker looks superfluous to me, but this might be something they did just to make the Patriots worse, which is never a bad thing to try. Demaryius Thomas is only getting better and Manning has a habit of making his receivers look better than they actually are, so I anticipate a huge year from the Bronco passing attack.

The offensive line should still be strong even with the loss of Dan Koppen, particularly if Clady reaches a contract extension agreement.

The rush attack has also been bolstered with the drafting of former Wisconsin RB Montee Ball. He is a strong runner with a nose for the end zone and was used in a timeshare at UW so he shouldn't have any problems sharing the workload with Knowshon Moreno and Ronnie Hillman and Lance Ball and whatever other useful running backs the Broncos have sacrificed chickens to acquire.

Denver's secondary remains strong with the additions of Jammer and Rodgers-Cromartie, who will team with Champ Bailey to form a nice whooshing sound as Torrey Smith scores another touchdown. Rahim Moore is a young safety with a lot of promise.

The linebackers outside of Miller and Phillips are mostly anonymous, but Miller is the best rush linebacker in the AFC and maybe second only to Demarcus Ware. The defensive line also improved with the addition of Knighton, who is 6-3 and 330 lbs. Robert Ayers continues to develop at defensive end, and Derek Wolfe is a massive DE who can also play inside.

Barring injury, there's no reason to suspect the Broncos will be significantly worse this year than last. Part of this is due to Manning's influence, and part of it is due to Elway's aptitude for the GM position. It may be another long year of listening to Donks fans braying about how great they are until they inevitably choke in the playoffs.

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