Why the Denver Broncos are Super Bowl contenders


The Denver Broncos are one of six undefeated teams in the NFL. How good are the Broncos? Here’s a closer look:

Super Bowl contender or pretender: The Broncos are a title contender based on the speed and power of their defense. After Sunday’s games, they are No. 1 in total defense, No. 1 in sacks, No. 1 in pass defense, No. 1 in third-down defense, No. 2 in points allowed and No. 7 in run defense. The Broncos also have shown at least some early signs of shaking loose on offense; if they can find a way to do that, they will be on the short list of championship hopefuls.

Reason to be excited: Injuries are always an enormous concern in projecting any title chances, but the Broncos’ defensive depth is well worth a double take. They played 20 different players for at least two snaps on defense in a Week 3 win over the Detroit Lions, then played 19 players on defense in their win over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday. Against the Vikings, seven different players contributed to their seven sacks.

Reason to be concerned: The Broncos have shown more glimpses of what they believe the offense can be over the last two weeks: Quarterback Peyton Manning had his first 300-yard passing game in Week 3, and Ronnie Hillman had the team's first 100-yard rushing game in Week 4. But Manning has already been sacked 10 times behind a retooled offensive line and has thrown five interceptions. Four of those interceptions have led to points for their opponents -- two were returned for touchdowns, while the Vikings followed Manning’s two interceptions Sunday with drives for a touchdown and a field goal.

What the schedule tells us: According to ESPN's Football Power Index, the Broncos have an 8.4 percent chance to win the Super Bowl -- sixth highest in the league -- but everybody is going to get a good look at where things really stand in November. The Broncos have two road games remaining in October -- at Oakland and at Cleveland -- before their bye week. But on Nov. 1, the Green Bay Packers come to Denver, then the New England Patriots visit Nov. 29. Also that month, the Broncos have games against Indianapolis, Kansas City and Chicago. According to the ESPN's Football Power Index, the Broncos have a 90.5 percent to make the playoffs and a 83.4 percent chance to win the AFC West.