DENVER — Breaking-news alert from here in the snowy, northern bureau of The Gazette sports department:
The Broncos are popular, the hottest ticket this side of Bieber Fever.
How popular? Over the past year, the waiting list for season tickets increased by 10,000 patient, devoted, optimistic names. The entire list is right around 40,000.
With a little luck, No. 40,000 will have something nice for their great-grandkids.
How popular? If the Broncos are on, they're on your TV. In the Denver market, every Broncos game in 2012 marked the most-watched TV program of the week. Only the Seattle market witnessed a bigger increase in TV ratings from the 2011 season to the 2012 season.
By upgrading their QB ratings, Denver and Seattle upgraded their Q rating. It's not complicated. At roughly $18 million per season, Manning was a happy-hour bargain.
Six months out, has there ever been this level of anticipation for a Broncos season?
I think not.
The numbers say not.
During the 2012 season the Denver market — the thumping heart of Broncos Country — averaged a 37.2 rating. That is an increase of 60 percent from 2010.
Kyle Orton didn't finish drives or capture your attention like Peyton Manning did.
How popular? During the 2012 season, Manning's No. 18 Broncos jersey was the top-selling jersey in the NFL, according to a representative from Fanatics.com.
Robert Griffin III’s jersey was No. 2. Aaron Rodgers’ was No. 3. Tom Brady’s was No. 4. J.J. Watt's was No. 5.
For jersey sales in January, Manning’s No. 18 was bumped out of the top spot by Ray Lewis’ No. 52. That makes sense, given the circumstances.
The Broncos will enter next season in the top spot — the Las Vegas favorite to win the 2014 Super Bowl. Denver will be judged only by what happens in the playoffs.
And that makes sense, given the circumstances.
"We make our money in the regular season," VP of football operations John Elway told reporters at the NFL scouting combine. "You make your legacy in the postseason as a player."
I have seen enough to believe Manning might be the finest regular-season QB of my lifetime and enough to worry about in the postseason.
I have seen enough to ask: Six months out, has there ever been this much anticipation for a Broncos season?
The numbers say not.
The (official) sellout streak is 350 home games and counting, dating to the start of the 1970 season. Elway was 10.
It took 9 minutes to sell the allotment of 5,000 tickets for the playoff game against the Ravens. This is both a skier's and a scalper's paradise.
With or without a golden ticket, Broncos Country tuned in. After seeing what Manning can do in the regular season, earning the AFC's top seed, the 2013 ratings will soar a mile high.
Of the top 30 most-watched TV programs after Labor Day — nationally, not just in Denver — a Broncos game accounted for five of them.
You watched 11 straight wins; you watched the Mile High Mistake. An estimated 45.5 million were tuned into the first overtime of the Ravens gut-punch.
For March — with the Nuggets rolling, the Rockies spring training, the Avs stagnating, the Rams and Buffs (on their way to) dancing — the Broncos never have been more popular.
No, but 2013 surely will break records.
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