Denver's wide-open title window

Are Peyton Manning and the Broncos really a "win-now" football team?

Updated: July 7, 2013, 10:44 AM ET
By Chris Sprow | ESPN Insider

Peyton ManningRob Carr/Getty ImagesGiven his ability to elude hits, Peyton Manning could remain healthy -- and elite -- for several years.

The narrative surrounding the 2013 Denver Broncos tells us this is a team entering a "win-now" season. Last year, we saw what they might be capable of; this year, it had better happen -- or else.

The 2012 team was the seventh-oldest in the league based on snap-weighted age (a Football Outsiders measure), and it didn't get any younger with the additions of players like Wes Welker and Dan Koppen. Peyton Manning is 37, Champ Bailey is 35, and after a somewhat reserved approach to finding immediate help in the 2012 NFL draft, John Elway went hard after players in the 2013 draft who could help immediately. Even the rookies are seasoned. Sylvester Williams is 24 and will start right away at defensive tackle. Montee Ball carried the ball a hair under 100,000 times at Wisconsin and was drafted as a potential Week 1 starter. During the draft, ESPN and other network hosts were ready when Ball was picked. "Any concern about all that wear and tear on Ball's legs?" they asked. "Sure," analysts said. "But why should Denver be concerned when they're the NFL's ultimate win-now team?"

You could imagine an ad agency using Jack Bauer to sell tickets for the season. Set the music. Cut to images of Manning dropping back, then Bailey backpedaling, finally a John Fox grimace as he looks up at a clock ticking down. "Come see your 2013 Broncos," says Jack, wincing as he scales Invesco Field stairs. "Because we're running (TICK-TOCK) … out of (TICK-TOCK) … time! (KABOOM)." Cue the scoreboard exploding.

This is the narrative, but is it a fair one?