A year ago, Peyton Manning’s first season in Denver was one of the greatest upsets in NFL history.
With a new coaching staff and the addition of rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch, the Broncos were one of a handful of teams that would have a chance to be Super Bowl champions and the AFC’s No. 1 seed.
Now, they’re looking at a different direction with head coach Vance Joseph, a coach with an uncanny ability to mold young players into franchise players.
But for the first time in several years, Manning’s future appears secure.
The Broncos were the NFL’s top seed when the season started in 2018.
They’re not going anywhere.
Joey Bosa, who started 14 games in 2018, is on the outside looking in.
AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File”We’re going to be better,” Manning said after Sunday’s win over the Cardinals, a victory that was a game-winner in a matchup between the NFC West’s top two teams and one of two playoff berths in the league.
“I feel like we have a lot of young guys, and we’re going in the right direction.”
Manning’s future is in doubt for a variety of reasons, but the most prominent one is the quarterback.
In 2018, Manning was the best-paid player in the NFL and the most sought-after quarterback in the sport.
He was coming off a season in which he threw for 1,838 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Manning has a long way to go to become the superstar that he once was, but for now, he’s back in the thick of things.
“We’ll see,” Manning told reporters after the win.
“It’s the playoffs.
It’s the next step, so it’s all good.
I’m ready to get back in there.”
Manziel has had a solid season, throwing for 1.2 yards per attempt.
He’s also thrown for more than 2,000 yards in each of his last five seasons, and he’s been the most reliable quarterback in Denver’s passing game.
“He’s a leader, and if we play like that and get the job done, we’re all going to win,” Lynch said.
“It’s a lot to ask from our quarterback.”
The Broncos’ offense has struggled, with the quarterback rating of 38.2 per game in 2017 and 34.2 in 2018 despite a strong receiving corps.
Joe Haden has struggled as well, and the Broncos are not expected to have a significant improvement from that group.
But there’s reason to believe the offense will be better in 2018 as the season progresses.
Manzio has averaged a career-high 3,934 passing yards and 16 touchdowns over his last six starts, and Lynch has thrown for 4,856 yards in the first seven games of his career.
The two have been the Broncos’ best pass-catchers all season, and while Lynch has been inconsistent, the team has been able to find success with Manning behind center.
“That’s been a really good thing for us,” Lynch told reporters.
“We’ve got a really, really good quarterback.”
Lynch’s best day came in Week 13 against the Eagles, when he completed 20 of 24 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown.
He also threw for another score in that game, but he didn’t score until the second quarter, and Denver won by five points.
“This is a quarterback who’s done everything right this year,” Manning added.
“He’s doing it in the most positive way.”
In Week 14, Lynch threw for 329 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.
But he was benched after the game, and this season he has been replaced by rookie tight end Julius Thomas.
The Broncos are still the NFL leader in turnovers, averaging 19.5 per game.
But the Broncos have also been very efficient with turnovers, converting 16 of 22 possessions that ended in a touchdown or less.
Manning said he doesn’t care if the Broncos finish with a turnover.
He doesn’t want to see turnovers in games, either.
“When you get into the playoffs, turnovers are a part of it, and it doesn’t matter how many,” Manning stated.
“If you play at a high level, you can’t let those mistakes happen.”
Manel said the Broncos will continue to use Manning in the passing game, something that’s been their bread and butter for the past three years.
“The whole offense will go up with him, because it’s the best way for him to be successful,” Manning joked.
“So when he’s not throwing for touchdowns, that’s when he’ll be effective.”