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Are the Denver Broncos Getting Too Much Love?

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 30: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos looks toward the sideline as he warms up before a game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 30, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 38-3. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
Christopher HansenNFL AnalystJanuary 3, 2013

The Denver Broncos have a first-round bye and home-field advantage in the NFL playoffs by nature of being the No. 1 seed. The Broncos opened the season as Super Bowl favorites and are now 2-to-1 favorites to win the big game, according to VegasInsider.com.

The handicappers like the Broncos and so do the stat geeks over at Football Outsiders, who ran 50,000 simulations using their proprietary DVOA statistic. The simulations gave the Broncos a 26.2 percent chance of winning the Super Bowl.

I’ve got nothing against the greatness of Peyton Manning or Von Miller, but they are getting a little too much love. Maybe people are forgetting that the Broncos won six games (over 46 percent) of their games against the AFC West and only beat two teams that finished the year above .500.

Among all playoff teams, the Broncos had the third-easiest strength of schedule and they were just 2-3 against playoff teams. The Broncos took care of business and won games they should have, but how will they respond when they play a good team in the playoffs?

Beating the Baltimore Ravens on the road was one of Denver’s biggest wins, but they had 10 days to prepare for the Ravens and were coming off an easy win against the Oakland Raiders. The Ravens had to play an overtime game against a playoff team in the Washington Redskins the week before playing the Broncos.

The Broncos are the favorites, even though the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds in the AFC beat them earlier in the season. Have Manning and his receivers progressed enough to beat the other elite teams in the NFL?

I think they have, but that doesn’t automatically make them the favorites.

Pro-Football-Reference.com uses something they call the Simple Rating System (SRS) to rate teams. This system uses margin of victory and strength of schedule to rate each team. The Broncos are ranked fourth in the NFL in SRS.

National lead writer Dan Levy took a look at whether it is better to be the best team or the hot team in the NFL playoffs.

The Broncos are both the hottest and best team headed into the playoffs.

In short, it’s good to be both.

The best team in football has never won the Super Bowl since Roger Goodell became commissioner. The New England Patriots went undefeated and lost in the Super Bowl, so being hot doesn’t mean a lot.

Everything is lined up perfectly for the Broncos to make it to the Super Bowl: Their toughest games will be in Denver. The Broncos are also very good on both offense and defense, but there are other things to consider.

Even Broncos fans want to pump the brakes a little.

Manning is 9-10 in the playoffs with a passer rating over seven points lower than his career average. Manning has advanced to the Super Bowl just twice in 11 playoff appearances and been one-and-done six times.

Things look good and the Broncos are certainly capable of winning it all, but the favorite never seems to win. It’s irrational, but being the favorite also seems to be a detriment. The Patriots, the Green Bay Packers and Manning’s Indianapolis Colts have all been favorites in recent years and were unable to win.

Pick the Broncos to win, but keep it quiet.

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