The 2013 Denver Broncos have as good a chance to go undefeated as any team in recent memory. After a 51-48 comeback win against Dallas last Sunday, the team has shown that they have what it takes to win in the clutch after coasting to easy wins in weeks one through four. Granted, Tony “Choke-O” played his usual game of three brilliant quarters and an epic implosion, but it ultimately came down to an aging quarterback showing he still has a few tricks up his sleeve.
At age 37, Peyton Manning continues to make jaws drop across the nation with his record-breaking passing numbers and game-to-game dominance. Two years removed from career-threatening neck surgery, Peyton is on track for about 6,000 yards and 60 touchdowns this season alone, putting him in contention for the most coveted title in sports, “Greatest Quarterback of All Time.”
In the game against the Cowboys, Peyton recorded his 20th TD of the year and threw his first interception. He even ran for a touchdown on an improvised bootleg that he declined to tell his teammates and coaches about.
The Broncos aren’t just about Manning though. Demaryius Thomas is playing as well as any wide receiver in football right now, and would have even gaudier numbers if not for Wes Welker and Eric Decker sharing targets. Consider first-year starter Julius Thomas emerging as the best tight end in football not named Jimmy Graham, and Denver has the best four pass-catchers that we’ve seen in recent memory … maybe ever.
The three-headed mini-monster of Knowshon Moreno, Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman are more than serviceable in a pass-heavy NFL, considering the New Orleans Saints, Green Bay Packers and New York Giants all won the Super Bowl in the last five years with less firepower out of the backfield. They each provide something unique and valuable to the team, with Moreno being the workhorse and pass-blocker, Ball being the goal-line threat and power back and Hillman providing quickness and an explosive playmaking element. Moreno in particular is having the career-year everyone has been waiting for, averaging over five yards per carry with defenses sagging off to protect against the dangerous pass attack.
Granted, the defense gives up a ton of passing yards, but this is only because opponents are usually down by multiple touchdowns in the first quarter and throw like mad in an attempt to play catch-up. When it comes down to it, cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are talented enough to make big plays in the outside, and the return of linebacker Von Miller gives Denver a much-needed playmaking pass-rusher.
Statistically, Denver is first in the NFL in yards allowed against the run, although, on paper, their interior defensive line and linebackers might be considered a weakness. Their dynamic passing offense covers up this chink in the armor, as the numbers show.
The last team to make an honest attempt at going undefeated was the 2009 Indianapolis Colts. They won the first 14 games of the regular season and might have gone undefeated if not for resting their starters in the final two games. The quarterback of that historic team: Peyton Manning. Now, in the last few years of his career, maybe Peyton will decide to go out, play 16 weeks of world-class football and make a run at history.
A version of this article appeared on page 6 of October 8, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.
Art by Emily Zhang of The Daily Nexus.