Denver, CO. With the first scheduled Denver Broncos training camp practice just seven days away, fans across the nation are beginning to get juiced up for the 2012 NFL season. Late July always brings hope to literally all teams, as the NFL has proven to be a league where huge turnarounds from one year to the next can and do occur. A lot of us know the crazy stat that I mentioned last week….for 16 consecutive years now, at least 5 teams who made the playoffs one year, missed the playoffs the following year. Because there are only 12 teams who qualify for the post-season, that is a very big and surprising number. This obviously means that each year, there are a handful of teams who drastically improve and thus keep playing into January. Last season, how many people back during the summer envisioned the Cincinnati Bengals making the playoffs? Or how about the 49ers dominating their division and making it all the way to the NFC Championship game? Not many. For our Denver Broncos, 2011 was a wild ride, and one of the craziest in team history. After a 1-4 start, “Timmy Time” began and took the nation by storm. When it was all said and done, the team finished 8-8, won the AFC West, and proceeded to knock off the Steelers in dramatic fashion. New England ended Denver’s run the following week, but it was a successful, very fun season in most people’s opinions. Now we have Mr. Peyton Manning running the show, as he is poised to do all he can to make his final years in the NFL some very successful ones. Most fans and critics see him making an immediate impact, vaulting the Broncos to another AFC Western Division title and doing damage in the playoffs. But, as all NFL fans know, things sometimes don’t go according to plan and for various reasons. So with that said, here are 7 things that could potentially derail the goals and aspirations for the 2012 Denver Broncos…..
1 – Peyton not being the Manning of old - I have brought this up recently, and although I believe he will be great here, there is that chance he is not what we are used to seeing from him. Whether it be his age, post neck surgery issues, or lack of timing with his new receivers, we could potentially see a slight chink in the armor from him in 2012.
2 – Key Injuries - This one is obvious, and you could say this for any team. But the Broncos are not very deep and don’t have the luxury of suffering injuries at several positions. Health will be paramount for this team to make this season special.
3 – The Defense - The “Orange Crush” had their moments last year, and it was fun at times to see the duo of Dumervil and Miller do their thing. But in 2011, the Broncos defense was ranked 18th against the pass and 22nd against the run. It wasn’t horrible by any means, but the lack of forcing turnovers was. They were 4th worst in the NFL in that category with only 18 combined fumble recoveries and interceptions. That must improve.
4 – The Running Game - Denver finished 1st in the NFL in rushing yards last year. Great job. However, we all know that Tim Tebow guy accounted for a bunch of it, and the fact that opposing defenses were not quite sure how to defend the triple option was a huge factor as well. With Peyton’s pro style offense now installed, the backs will still have to produce. Willis McGahee and rookie Ronnie Hillman will have to do enough on the ground to keep this offense somewhat balanced.
5 – Suspensions - To say that linebacker D.J. Williams had an unfortunate off-season is an insult to unfortunate off-seasons. Because of a failed drug test, he was suspended for 6 games to begin this season. Recently, it is alleged that Williams dropped a bottle from his waist area while he was providing urine for a third test. Over this past weekend in Miami, Elvis Dumervil was charged with aggravated assault. If any charges are filed, he could be looking at a possible suspension as well. These distractions could pose a problem for a defense that needs to stay focused on getting better.
6 – Special Teams - Last year, K Matt Prater and P Britton Colquitt played really well, especially down the stretch. A lot of what they did went under the radar, but it was key to Denver winning the division. Colquitt pinning opponents inside the 20 yard line was 2nd best in the league, and Prater nailing clutch field goals was enormous. If either guy falters this year, it could have a huge effect in the win-loss column.
7 – The Schedule - Strength of schedule from year to year is a bit misleading. Simply put, we just don’t know how good teams will be this year compared to last year. But based on last seasons records, the Broncos have the 2nd toughest schedule in the NFL this season, as only the N.Y. Giants have a more difficult one. It sure looks like a meat grinder, as several 2011 playoff teams litter the 2012 road ahead. It is all based on formulas and playing against different divisions each year, but can you believe the Patriots have the “easiest” schedule in the NFL? Just doesn’t seem fair, does it?
Denver Sports by J Simp