The 2012 Denver Broncos might be a Super Bowl contender.
The AFC is wide open and the Broncos do have the talent to possibly make a run in the postseason. They have shown that they can compete against the top teams in the NFL.
The Broncos first six opponents boast a combined record of 24-14. That's a winning percentage of .631. That is some pretty good competition. The second half of the schedule will get significantly easier at least in terms of win/loss percentage.
Yet there are some obstacles that can keep this team from Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans this February.
Here are five of the biggest obstacles that stand in the way of the Denver Broncos playing for a championship.
The New England Patriots are a thorn in the Broncos' side.
The Broncos have lost the last three games that they have faced the Patriots by a combined score of 117-54. If Denver is going to make a run in the postseason, they will most likely have to face Tom Brady at some point.
Oh, and while we are on the subject of Tom Brady, let's talk about his performance in those three games. In three games versus Denver, Brady has gone 72/99 throwing for 906 yards and nine touchdowns.
If the Broncos are going to win a championship, they are going to have to beat the Patriots.
The offensive line is a unit that seems to be improving each week. They have given up 11 sacks on the season but eight of those were in the first three weeks.
So they are getting better.
But to win playoff football games not only will they have to protect Peyton Manning, they will have to generate a running game.
There will come a point when you need a possession to run some clock and save a lead. Currently the Broncos are averaging just under 94 yards per game which ranks them 23rd overall.
But here is the ultimate question concerning the offensive line and the run game: If it is third down with three yards to go, can this offensive line get you a first down?
There will come a time that you will need them to.
The Houston Texans look to be the class of the AFC right now.
We know how quickly things can change in the NFL, but it appears that the AFC Championship will have to go through Houston at some point.
The Texans are 6-1. They boast the No. 5 rated defense in the league in points allowed and their running game their running game is averaging over 140 yards per game.
In their Week 3 victory over the Broncos, Houston managed to rack up 436 total yards on their way to a 31-25 road victory.
Denver is going to have to find a way to beat the Texans.
Turnovers will beat you.
The Broncos have seen that first hand this season. In their three wins, they are plus two in the turnover differential.
In their three losses? Minus five.
You can't turn the ball over in the NFL and expect to win. Currently the Broncos rank No. 23 in turnover margin in the NFL at minus three. That has to improve if they want to beat the top teams in the league.
If the Broncos are going to make the next step and truly be a Super Bowl contender, their defense is going to have to step up. Offense seems to be improving. They are currently averaging over 28 points and nearly 385 yards per game.
However, the defense is struggling.
Through six games, they are allowing 23 points per game. Hey, that isn't so bad. Through six games, they are allowing over 330 yards per game. Okay that is a little worse.
Through six games, they are allowing over 46 percent of third downs to be converted into first downs.
Now that will get you beat.
The Denver defense has to find a way to get off the field and get their high powered offense back on the field. They need a better pass rush. They have struggled to stop the slot receivers and tight ends.
And they have to stop the run. If the Broncos can improve their defense, they have a legitimate chance to play for a championship.
If not, you are probably going to be asking too much of Peyton Manning and the offense.