But in the next two games, the Broncos fell behind early thanks to four turnovers in the first quarter against Atlanta and two big plays given up on defense against the Texans. Peyton Manning and the Broncos managed to rally late, but fell just short in both games, proving that the schedule was indeed as tough as advertised.
To be fair, both losses came to teams that are 4-0, and neither was a blowout.
Fast forward to Sunday's game against the hated Raiders. The first half was a bit sluggish with a few errant mistakes (Demaryius Thomas) or it would not have been that close. The second half turned into a rout and the Broncos once again looked like the contenders they were built to be.
Now they face another daunting task this week against the New England Patriots. This game is a true test on multiple levels.
First, Tom Brady and the Pats shredded the Broncos for 86 points in two games last year, embarrassing Denver and sending them packing in the divisional round of the playoffs.
In addition, Peyton Manning has an extensive and well-documented history against the Patriots, and the Tom Brady versus Peyton Manning arguments ensue every time these two quarterbacks face each other.
In order for the Broncos to overcome the home-field advantage and emerge triumphant in New England, they must follow these five keys.