Short answer: No. At least nothing we did not already know.
I’m of the belief that the Denver Broncos proved to be the most difficult opponent the Super Bowl XLVII champion Baltimore Ravens saw in the postseason. And it’s not even close.
By the transitive property, if the Baltimore Ravens were the best team in football in games that counted toward that designation (i.e. playoffs), the Denver Broncos came closest to knocking off that team. While I fully understand the sight of Ray Lewis drenched in Superdome confetti Sunday night was a tough image for Broncos fans, I also realize if the Ravens are to be considered a serious contender in 2013, I really, really like Denver’s chances. Here are a few reasons why:
Peyton Manning: If you’ve heard or have spread ideas about Manning being totally spent, please put them to rest. Now. We have absolutely no reason to believe he is in decline. The AFC will still be about Manning and Tom Brady – and maybe a bit about Andrew Luck. Manning and Brady are the true elite. Joe Flacco has earned a place in the discussion for now. Flacco has also been a historically average quarterback, but he had an excellent postseason. Is this a sign of things to come? We’ll see just how far Flacco’s offense can take the Ravens once their defense starts to disband.
The Ravens are losing Ray Lewis; that we know, but it’s a safe bet other Ravens standouts will go where the money is, and the bottom line is Baltimore can’t afford to pay everyone as much as he believes he’s due – or what other teams are willing to pay.
From a Broncos perspective, I still like my chances with Manning, gloves and all.
Developing defensive talent: Major gaffe by safety Rahim Moore aside, the Denver Broncos have a nice foundation of developing talent on the roster. What does this team look like if defensive tackle/end Derek Wolfe makes that big jump between his second and third year? Why doesn’t linebacker Danny Trevathan have every bit the skill to be as effective as Baltimore’s Dannell Ellerbe? Denver’s secondary is a strong unit that had a bad game at the wrong time. Doubtful it happens two years in a row.
Offensive continuity: In the same calendar year this offense shifted from a read-option run-at-all-costs unit to a shotgun hurry-up that tied for the league’s best regular-season record. Receivers who were primarily around to block became some of the NFL’s most productive. Again, this all happened in the course of about nine months.
Come September we have every reason to expect this unit will return to play sharper, and with more drive than it had the previous season. Adam Gase’s elevation to offensive coordinator will also allow Denver to maintain continuity while adding a few distinct new wrinkles. Gase’s familiarity with the Broncos was one of the main reasons why he was promoted from quarterbacks coach last month. Time to see that in action in 2013.
The Ravens beat Denver in double overtime and went onto win the Super Bowl. That divisional-round game was a game Denver could and should have won, but didn’t.
If hoisting the Lombardi Trophy this time next year means getting through the current champs, I like Denver’s chances. By all accounts, the Broncos are poised to become a better team next season, and they weren’t exactly bad this past year.