The Denver Broncos knew that the spotlight was going to shine brightly on them after signing Peyton Manning. John Elway was fully aware that would be the case. Though they may be off to just a 2-2 start through the first quarter of the 2012 NFL season, the Broncos appear poised to make another run at an AFC West division championship.
With that being said, they will still have to improve in many aspects if they are to catch up to the San Diego Chargers and hold off the Kansas City Chiefs in the division. After watching the first four games of the season, all three should be well within reach for the Broncos in 2012.
Denver started off the season right by beating the same team they defeated in last season’s wild card round in the Pittsburgh Steelers. After a pair of six point losses to two undefeated team – the Atlanta Falcons and Houston Texans – the Broncos came out an annihilated the Raiders last week. Considering their only two losses have been close ones to two out of the three remaining undefeated teams, the Broncos could be a much better team than their 2-2 record currently indicates. We could find out when they travel to take on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on Sunday. Watching Manning vs. Brady never seems to get old.
Through the first four games, Manning has helped the Broncos rank ninth in the NFL in passing yards per game. With a strong run game led by Willis McGahee, Denver is also 14th in rushing yards per game. While Manning continues to get used to his new weapons on offense, the passing game should get even better, as it has looked the past couple of weeks. That will also open up even more holes on the ground. Here is a look at the numbers on offense through the first quarter of the 2012 season.
Peyton Manning: 99 completions of 153 attempts for 1,162 yards // 8 TD and 3 INT
Willis McGahee: 69 carries for 325 yards // 3 TD
Lance Ball: 16 carries for 44 yards // 0 TD
Ronnie Hillman: 12 carries for 38 yards // 0 TD
Knowshon Moreno: 8 carries for 15 yards // 1 TD
Demaryius Thomas: 21 catches for 325 yards // 2 TD
Eric Decker: 24 catches for 322 yards // 1 TD
Brandon Stokley: 13 catches for 158 yards // 1 TD
Jacob Tamme: 15 catches for 125 yards // 1 TD
Joel Dreessen: 7 catches for 75 yards // 2 TD
As you can see, McGahee is the primary ball carrier for the Broncos on offense. Moreno has almost become a complete afterthought. Manning does have three interceptions, but they all came in one awful quarter on the road in the Monday Night Football loss to the Falcons. Aside from that, he has played exceptionally well after missing all of last season. Thomas appeared to be the favorite target through the first two games, but Decker is right there with him after the past two contests. Manning is also getting both of his tight ends involved, including his former Indianapolis Colts’ teammate, Jacob Tamme.
On defense, the Broncos have limited their opponents in both the pass and run game. Denver ranks 13th in defensive passing yards allowed and ninth against the run so far. If they can continue to get strong play from Wesley Woodyard, Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, this unit will only continue to get stronger. They just need to find ways to create some more turnovers
As has been the case by so many kickers this season, Matt Prater is a perfect 7-for-7 in field goal attempts to kick off 2012. With strong punting as well from Britton Colquitt, the Broncos have played very well on special teams. If Denver can continue to develop the passing game with so many changes, and also get some more help from the defense, there is no reason to believe that they will not be able to challenge the San Diego Chargers in the AFC West. As of the first quarter, the 2012 Denver Broncos have earned a grade of a B through the first four games.