Peyton Manning is no stranger to Super Bowl Sunday. He took the Indianapolis Colts to the championship game twice, winning Super Bowl XLI in 2007. Now Manning wants to do it all over again with his new team, the Denver Broncos.
The Broncos used to be the butt of jokes come Super Bowl time. This former AFL team (est. 1960) didn’t have a winning year until 1976, but they made it to Super Bowl XII the following season, where they lost 27-10 to the mighty Dallas Cowboys (–6). Then the 1980s happened. John Elway became Denver’s quarterback, and the Broncos went to the Super Bowl three times in four years – only to lose them all by wide margins.
Those jokes aren’t told anymore. Elway finally led Denver to the Promised Land at the tail end of his Hall-of-Fame career, upsetting the Green Bay Packers (–11) at Super Bowl XXXII and dusting off the Atlanta Falcons (+7.5) at Super Bowl XXXIII.
Denver has been looking for another savior at quarterback ever since. Tim Tebow had his moments last year as the 8-8 Broncos made the playoffs for the first time since 2005, even beating the Pittsburgh Steelers (–7.5) in the Wild Card round before losing to the New England Patriots (–14) in the Divisionals. But when the Broncos had a chance to sign Manning as a free agent, they jumped at it.
It was a risky move. Manning is 36 years old and missed the entire 2011 campaign following neck surgery, plus a second spinal fusion procedure. However, the potential reward from signing arguably the best quarterback ever to play in the NFL (11 Pro Bowls, four MVP awards, one Super Bowl ring) was too great to pass up.
So far, so good. Manning has returned to his MVP form, ranking second in the league with a 106.2 passer rating, and the Broncos finished Week 11 with a record of 7-3 (6-4 ATS), three games ahead of the San Diego Chargers for the lead in the AFC West Division. This virtually assures the Broncos will make the playoffs. It also makes them Bovada’s second favorites at 11-2 to win Super Bowl XLVII.
Denver’s profile as a contender is thoroughly impressive. Led by Manning, the Broncos are fifth in the league in passing (288.9 yards per game) and second in scoring at 30.1 points per game, driving the OVER to a 7-3 record. The ground game hasn’t been as efficient at 3.9 yards per carry, and running back Willis McGahee (731 yards rushing, 4.4 yards per carry) has been put on injured reserve with knee and leg injuries. But running is less important to Denver’s success with Manning at quarterback.
The Broncos also have a very strong defense that ranks second in the league at 4.6 yards allowed per play. And the special teams are more than adequate, especially punter Britton Colquitt, who has dropped 45.2 percent of his punts inside the enemy 20-yard line. Looks like orange will be a fashionable choice for betting on Super Bowl XLVII.