Last season, the favored Denver Broncos were upset and humiliated by the Baltimore Ravens in their loss at home in last season's playoff game despite having home-field advantage.
It was for many Broncos fans as bad of a loss as it was in the 1996-97 season when Denver was upset by the Jaguars one year before John Elway got his ring.
The game-tying pass from Flacco to Jacoby Jones and Manning being intercepted before the Ravens' game-winning field goal are two plays where the Broncos desperately want to move on from. But the Broncos got something from a team that has given Manning more headaches in losses. That man is Wes Welker.
When Welker was on the Patriots, he was one of Bill Belichick's greatest weapons on offense. Along with Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, Tom Brady had a amazing trio to get back to the Super Bowl. But things have changed now. Hernandez is charged with murder, Gronkowski is tying to overcome surgery, and Welker has changed his colors from red, white and blue to blue and orange. The Pats can overcome all those challenges just like in years past but they're going to have to do it without Welker.
Depite losing possession of the pass from Brady in Super Bowl XLVI, Welker has had an exceptional career. He has the speed and legs to light up the scoreboard. He was part of the record-tying 99-yard touchdown pass against the Broncos two seasons ago on Monday Night Football against Miami. But is he what Peyton Manning needs to go all the way back to the Super Bowl?
The Broncos have a great quarterback and a great receiver. But the team needs some work. Manning has amazing stats but playing in the clutch seems to be Manning's biggest weakness. So in late game situations when wins are on the line, Manning will need to work on his drive as well as his acuracy in clutch moments if passes to Welker are needed.
Also, though Welker is a huge addition, the running game needs to take some of the pressure off of Manning and Welker. Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball are two Broncos running backs that need to step up their running game and take some pressure off of Manning's arm. They do that, and the Broncos can switch up Welker from wide receiver to tight end and can give the offense more options.
The Broncos also have to work on their defense especially with the upcoming four-game suspension of Von Miller for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. The Broncos can go to the Super Bowl again the same way Elway got his ring a year after being upset in the Divisional playoff round.
But this team is different that the team that had Terrell Davis to take the pressure off of Manning. Wes Welker has moved from Brady to Manning. But we'll see this season if it is enough.