7 Biggest Threats to a Denver Broncos Championship
The Denver Broncos sit at 11-2 and have the inside track to earn home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Broncos are averaging 39.8 points per game and are outscoring their opponents by more than 13 points per contest.
So what can stop them from winning the Super Bowl? Several things, actually.
While the Broncos are arguably the best team in the league, there are still plenty of obstacles they'll have to overcome to complete their goal of winning a championship and getting Manning another ring.
Despite a career that has easily been one of the best that a quarterback has ever had, Manning has not been overly successful in the postseason, where he has a 9-11 record.
But just like any other championship team, it won't all be on the shoulders of the quarterback to win a title. It will take every player on the roster to help overcome these roadblocks.
Here, we will take a closer look at the things that could prevent the Broncos from winning it all this year.
The secondary is an area of concern for the Broncos, as they haven't really been able to stop anyone from throwing the ball.
They have had to deal with injuries to Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the top two cornerbacks on the team, along with safeties Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter.
This has forced the team to turn to inexperienced backups like Omar Bolden, Kayvon Webster and David Bruton a lot more than it'd probably like to.
The Broncos have given up just under 275 yards passing per game this year—only three teams have been worse.
Unless the pass rush intensifies, the secondary will be exploited by teams that possess dangerous receivers and a solid passing game.
Getting off to a Slow Start
Granted, the team was able to come back and win both of those games, but does it really want be in that position when it is in a win-or-go-home situation?
Broncos fans know all too well what it feels like to see their team lose a game that nobody thought it would and have the season end in an instant.
Denver needs to be the one to jump out to that early start and put its opponents in the position of having to dig out of a big hole.
The Titans are 5-8 on the season, but they moved the ball against the Broncos relatively easily in the first half Sunday. Teams that qualify for the playoffs may not let Denver back into it if they get a sizable lead.
Facing a Strong Pass Rush
The Broncos have had to reshuffle their offensive line more than once this year, but they have still done a solid job in protecting Peyton Manning.
In one of their two losses this season, the Indianapolis Colts were able to get after Manning with plenty of pressure.
In that game, Manning threw 20 incomplete passes and one interception, and he was sacked four times.
Not many teams have been able to do that to the Broncos, but it could be a blueprint to beat them, and defensive coordinators that serve on a playoff squad will figure out ways to dial up the pressure.
Injuries will slow down any team, but the Broncos have been hit hard by them this season. The problems worsen when the depth behind those injured players is questionable.
The Broncos lost center Dan Koppen and All-Pro left tackle Ryan Clady very early in the season. That forced Manny Ramirez and Chris Clark into the starting lineup.
Beyond that, Stewart Bradley, Kevin Vickerson, Lerentee McCray, Quanterus Smith and Quinton Carter have all been placed on injured reserve.
Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post suggested that Welker should consider retirement following the season due to his concussion history.
Will Welker play again this season? That seems to be at least a fair question.
The Broncos have overcome all of these injuries to this point, but when will they break? How much of a difference will it make if guys like Andre Caldwell or Paris Lenon have to play an extended role?
Peyton Manning did plenty to silence his critics on Sunday with his performance against Tennessee, throwing for 397 yards and four touchdowns in the chilly Denver air.
But that was against the Titans.
Manning still holds a poor record when the temperature goes below 32 degrees (4-7). He has a lot left to prove.
Can he beat a solid team when a trip to the Super Bowl is on the line?
Denver will almost certainly play in cold weather in the playoffs. The Super Bowl will be played in New York in February.
If Manning doesn't perform well, all of those critics will return.
New England Patriots
This may be the biggest obstacle of all.
The Broncos need to beat the Patriots, and Peyton Manning needs to beat Tom Brady. To this point, that hasn't happened often, at least not recently.
The Broncos have lost four straight meetings with the Patriots, including a meeting in Week 12 this season in which they squandered a 24-0 lead on the road.
If the Broncos can hold the Patriots off and claim the top spot in the AFC, New England would have to travel to Denver if the two teams faced off.
However, the pressure would be squarely on Manning and the Broncos to get that monkey off their back.
Seattle Seahawks Defense
Should the Broncos reach Super Bowl XLVIII, the Seattle Seahawks could likely be on the opposite side of the field.
As good as the Denver offense has been, the brand of defense Seattle plays is exactly what could slow it down.
The secondary plays physical, something that has given Denver receivers issues in both of the Broncos' losses this season.
The Seahawks have only given up 15.8 points per game on the season, and if these two teams squared off in New York, the Seahawks would be a very tough draw.
Though it was just a preseason game when these two teams last saw each other in August, the Seahawks absolutely dismantled Denver, winning 40-10.
If Denver is going to hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season, a victory over a tough Seattle team may be necessary.