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Catching up with … the Broncos

06.10.12 at 12:11 pm ET
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Peyton Manning is getting used to wearing blue and orange. (AP)

Part of a continuing series that takes a look at what some of the Patriots’ biggest competition in the AFC is doing this offseason. We’ve already looked at the JetsRavens and Steelers. Now, we turn our attention to the Broncos:

The last time we saw the Broncos, they were getting curb-stomped by the Patriots in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs at Gillette Stadium, 45-10. That being said, it was a tremendous run for Denver in 2011 — buoyed by a great run from the defense, some clutch work from its special teamers and a little magic from the quarterback, they finished 8-8 and upset the Steelers in the first round of the playoffs.

Who they added: Peyton. The Broncos artfully extracted themselves from the Tim Tebow situation by dealing for Manning and signing him to a five-year, $96 million deal. Denver also augmented an already above-average group of pass catchers by adding tight ends Jacob Tamme (Indianapolis) and Joel Dreessen (Houston) as well as wide receiver Andre Caldwell (Cincinnati). In the draft, the Broncos didn’t have a first-round selection, but added defensive tackle Derek Wolfe (Cincinnati) and quarterback Brock Osweiler (Arizona State) with their two second-round picks.

Who’s gone: Tebow was shipped to the Jets for a fourth-round pick. And  defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley signed a five-year, $25 million contract with New Orleans, while cornerback Andre Goodman was released in April.

What do they think of the Patriots? “Manning all day. What do you expect me to say? He’s my teammate.” –Current Denver (and former New England) defensive lineman Ty Warren on who he thinks is the better quarterback, Tom Brady or Peyton Manning

Analysis: Even though it was just a change at quarterback, no 2011 AFC playoff team heads into 2012 with more of a different look — at least offensively — than the Broncos. The Tebow-for-Manning switch means Denver will make wholesale changes to their offensive game plan, going from the triple option they used with Tebow to a full-on passing attack under Manning. At the same time, there have to be questions to whether or not Manning is fully recovered from four neck surgeries in two years. If he’s healthy, look for Denver to be the class of the AFC West. If not, expect the Broncos to rely on a young and aggressive defense (as was the case in 2011) to get them back to the postseason. Either way, Denver will be a fascinating team to watch in 2012.

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