Manning Caps Year With Top Seed For Broncos

The road to the Super Bowl now goes through Denver. Read why Manning's team should be considered the favorite to win it all.

Josh Helmuthby Josh Helmuth

Minutes before kickoff in Denver, the "ChuckStrong" Colts knocked the Texans down a few pegs on the slippery playoff ladder and the red-hot Broncos took full advantage by thrashing the Chiefs 38-3. With the victory, Denver secures the AFC's No.1 seed while finishing out the year at 13-3.

The "Sheriff" has just put the NFL on notice. After missing all of last season to recover from four neck surgeries, the Peyton Manning has returned to the dance. The future Hall-of-Fame quarterback has proven once again that he is the best player in the NFL. Maybe the best we've ever seen.

Who else can take two virtually unknown receivers (Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker) after one year and make them the top receiving tandem in the NFL?

Thomas and Decker became the Broncos' best receiving duo since the 2004 Rob Smith / Ashley Lelie tandem, as both men racked up over 1,000 yards each. Thomas finished the year with 1,434 yards to go with 10 touchdowns while Decker ended up with 1,064 yards and 13 touchdowns.

"We came in [through the 2010 draft] together," said Decker. "We're good friends. We knew what we wanted to accomplish and that was a mark we wanted to hit. But we have to keep getting better."

And getting better is what the Broncos have been doing since Manning's arrival in Denver. The "Manning effect" (as I like to call it) has even invigorated the Broncos defense to play above and beyond of what is expected. The team ranks high in most key defensive categories with the two most important being first in sacks and first in third-down efficiency.

"Peyton is the best ever, but he can't go out there and win it all,"  said safety Rahim Moore after the game. "And the defense can't win it all. That's why teamwork makes the dream work. That's what we've been doing. We've both been handling our sides of the ball."

Manning also has a chance to cap this unprecedented season (4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) with something that has never been done before in the NFL. He can be the first to win the league's MVP award the year after missing the previous season.

"The Super Bowl is what it's all about with Peyton," said veteran cornerback Champ Bailey. "He's such a team guy. Individual awards are great — I'd love to see him get the MVP but at the same time, I know what he really wants is that ring."

The Broncos are the hottest team in the league right now and I say forget 'MVP.' Forget "Comeback Player Of The Year". Just give him the damn ring already.

Zachary Hutton is the lead boxing writer and an NFL contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can see what he's up to at his band's website or also subscribe at

Photo Credit: Getty

By: Dustin Bradford
Collection: Getty Images Sport