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Catching up with … the Broncos

06.10.12 at 12:11 pm ET

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? ‘€œManning 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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