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Insider

Manning's retirement doesn't lock in an Osweiler return

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What is Osweiler's future in Denver? (1:27)

ESPN Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold breaks down the likelihood QB Brock Osweiler signs a long-term deal to stay in Denver in the midst of QB Peyton Manning's decision to retire. (1:27)

The Denver Broncos could have won the Super Bowl this past season with just about any credible journeyman NFL quarterback. That's not a knock on Peyton Manning or his brilliant career. But Denver's defense was incredible. Every Broncos opponent in the postseason scored between 10 and 18 points, all but assuring victory for Denver.

The math is simple and striking. NFL teams won 82.5 percent of their games over the past decade when keeping opponents in that 10-18 scoring window. Tarvaris Jackson has a 10-1 starting record when his teams give up that many points. The record over the past decade is 17-2 for Vince Young, 16-2 for Matt Schaub and 14-1 for Ryan Tannehill. Tim Tebow, John Skelton and Gus Frerotte are a combined 16-0 in these games over the 10-year period in question. (Manning, for what it's worth, is 44-1.)

The Broncos could win many, many games with Brock Osweiler at quarterback if their defense continues to play as well as it played during the most recent postseason. That level of defensive dominance typically is not sustainable, however, and that means Denver probably will need more from its offense to remain a contender. Osweiler might yet leave the Broncos in free agency, but for now, he is the top candidate to lead an offense that has fallen off a statistical cliff.

Has Osweiler shown enough through seven starts to assure he can bridge the gap between this anticipated defensive regression and continued championship contention? The Broncos have already answered that question.