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2013 NFL Preview: Broncos ready for ‘Three Amigos’ sequel

Peyton Manning and Broncos take on Super Bowl champion Ravens on Thursday. (Associated Press)
Peyton Manning and Broncos take on Super Bowl champion Ravens on Thursday. (Associated Press)

DENVER – John Elway envies Peyton Manning.

The Three Amigos back in Elway’s playing days were Vance Johnson, Mark Jackson, and Ricky Nattiel.

Denver has the makings of a spectacular sequel in Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker, whom Elway, now the Broncos’ executive vice president, pried away from Tom Brady and New England in free agency this offseason.

Thomas and Decker combined for 23 TD catches last season, and Welker caught 118 passes last year.

“I have to admit I’m truly jealous of the weapons that Peyton gets to throw to,” Elway said. “I’m not saying that I didn’t have great weapons. But when you look at the weapons that Peyton has: Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and a young kid that we drafted a couple of years ago in the fourth round named Julius Thomas … there’s four weapons right there.”

Manning surely would never say it, but he’d probably be envious of Elway’s running back, Terrell Davis, an established starter when he helped the Hall of Fame quarterback win back-to-back championships in the late 1990s.

Manning’s backfield consists of second-year pro Ronnie Hillman – who had zero starts last season – and rookie Montee Ball, two young players whose growing pains resulted in too many fumbles and quarterback knockdowns in the preseason.

If they can clean up things, Manning could put up historic numbers in 2013.

Manning is stronger and healthier in Year 2 in Denver after a successful comeback last season, albeit one that ended early with a double-overtime loss to Baltimore in the playoffs.

Davis, now an analyst for the NFL Network, thinks the Broncos were too good for their own good last year, rolling into the playoffs like they did on an 11-game winning streak.

“Last year just felt like they were winning games too easily and I always felt that there’s something to be said about a quality loss,” Davis said. “People underestimate that loss late in November or December, not to say that you go out there and try to lose a game, but it’s a chance for the team to refocus, recalibrate, look at the things that you’ve been sweeping under the rug because you’ve been winning.”

While the Broncos went 5-0 in December, including a 34-17 win at Baltimore, the Ravens stumbled down the stretch, yet they were the ones celebrating in a rain of confetti when it was all over.

The Ravens return to Sports Authority Field on Thursday to kick off the 2013 season against the team many consider this year’s favorite.