Peyton Manning is a master of keeping the ball out of the opponents’ hands, throwing just 36 interceptions during his three years with the Broncos. The Broncos defense, meanwhile, picked off opposing quarterbacks 51 times over that same span. With another year under their belt as a unit, there could be more to come. Then again, Manning is a year older and his totals rose from 10 in 2013 to 15 in 2014.

Who will have more interceptions?

Manning’s 15 interceptions last season were his highest total since joining the Broncos. While an extent of the blame can be placed on Manning’s torn right quad, some questions have begun to creep in about the quarterback’s age.

Manning will play his 17th season at the tender age of 39, and though “The Sheriff” is undeniably an all-time great, not many quarterbacks have pioneered a successful season at his age. The Broncos’ quarterback has played in 256 games in his career, 30th most all-time. The four neck surgeries in 2011, and the torn quad from last season, are indicative of the beating Manning has put his body through.

Though Manning still has a trio of dangerous weapons in Demaryius Thomas, C.J. Anderson, and Emmanuel Sanders, the loss of red zone magnet Julius Thomas and security blanket Wes Welker could have a negative impact on the quarterback’s numbers.

If Manning is injured, missing his favorite targets, just too old, or any combination of the three, despondent Broncos fans will witness more than 15 interceptions.

That said, it can be hard to doubt Peyton Manning. The five-time NFL MVP threw 55 touchdowns just two season ago and hasn’t thrown more than 17 interceptions since 2002.

In 2009, Brett Favre, whose illustrious career compares favorably with Manning’s, had one of his finest seasons at the ripe age of 40. Favre threw 33 touchdowns against 7 interceptions, the lowest total of his career, and led the Minnesota Vikings to a 12-4 record and the NFC Championship game.

If the legendary Favre can have one of his best seasons at 40, than Manning should be able to as well. Favre was able to lean on running back Adrian Peterson to shoulder much of the offensive load. In 2015, Manning will look to C.J. Anderson to provide similar relief.

On the other side of the ball, the Denver defense intercepted the opposing quarterback 18 times in 2014. The 2015 schedule should be tough, but with games against the Browns, Bears, Bengals, and two against the Raiders, the opportunity for interceptions will be there.

Wade Phillips taking over at defensive coordinator for the departed Jack Del Rio could spark an increase in turnovers for the Broncos defense. Phillip’s aggressive defensive style is reliant on applying pressure through heavy blitzing, and with talented pass rushers all over the field, the defense should be very intimidating.

Intense pressure leads quarterbacks into making poor decisions, and poor decisions often end up in the hands of the defense. Expect Von Miller, Demarcus Ware, and company to make that happen.

Last season Chris Harris Jr. established himself as an elite cornerback and one of the best players in the game. Harris had three interceptions on just 89 targets. If he can bait a few more throws in his direction, Harris will spend a lot more time with the ball in his hands.

On the other side of the field, cornerback Aqib Talib had four interceptions last season, and has at least four in five of seven NFL seasons. He should be reliable for four or more.

The Broncos defense are hungry and talented, and under Phillips, they have the scheme to be successful.

39-year-old Peyton Manning is back in Denver for a one last shot at the Super Bowl.

So, who will have more interceptions Peyton Manning or the defense?


Bryce Rudnick, a Mile High Sports intern and CU-Boulder student, contributed to this report