Given those lofty expectations, it is hard for any quarterback to measure up. However, Kyle Orton is starting to show signs that he might be worthy of carrying the mantle in Denver.
While that might be hard to grasp considering the Broncos' traded for Brady Quinn and drafted Tim Tebow in the offseason, Orton's play during the opening month has thrust the quarterback into rarified air.
Orton leads the league with 1,419 passing yards, which ranks only behind Kurt Warner (1,557 yards in 2000) for the most passing yards in the first four games of a season.
While few considered Orton a prolific passer heading into the season, he has been on fire directing the Broncos' spread offense. He is completing 67.4 percent of his passes for an average of 8.1 yards per attempt with six touchdowns and only three interceptions. His 96.3 passer rating is tied for eighth in the league, and he is tied for the NFL lead with Michael Vick with five completions over 40 yards.
Those are not the kind of numbers that were expected from a guy who has been regarded as a game manager, not a franchise quarterback. However, Orton has taken to Josh McDaniels' spread system and his maturation in the second year in the scheme has allowed the offense to produce despite the lack of a solid running game.
The Broncos rank last in the league in rushing yards (55 yards per game) and yards per attempt (2.2). With little success on the ground, the team has increasingly relied on Orton to get the job done through the air. He has passed 50 or more times in each of the past two games, and his 43.8 attempts per game leads the league. As a result of the drastic increase in opportunities, Orton has three consecutive 300-yard passing games, including a 476-yard effort against the Indianapolis Colts.
Given his importance to the league's No. 1 passing attack, it is a must Orton is included among the contenders for Offensive Player of the Year.
Manning moving up the charts
Offensive Player of the Year
4. Arian Foster, Texans, RB (NR): The league's leading rusher put on a display against the Raiders despite missing the first quarter due to a disciplinary issue. Foster is one of only three backs in NFL history (Emmitt Smith and Billy Sims) with 500 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards after four games.
Most Valuable Player
2. Aaron Rodgers, Packers, QB (2): The Packers will need Rodgers to continue to perform at an MVP level if they are to remain among the league's title contenders. Though he tossed two interceptions against the Lions, he added three touchdowns and guided the Packers to a win in a tougher-than-expected battle.
5. Mark Sanchez, Jets, QB (NR): After being singled out following a shaky performance in the season opener, Sanchez has been outstanding. While his numbers are not exceptional -- Sanchez is only averaging 177.8 passing yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions -- he is starting to shed the game manager label.
Defensive Player of the Year
3. Shaun Phillips, Chargers, LB (NR): He put on an impressive show against the Cardinals that will have some touting him as a one-game wonder on this list, but he ranks second with six sacks and he has done it without Shawne Merriman on the opposite side to absorb some of the double-team attention that he has faced in recent weeks.