The Denver Broncos were a playoff team in 2011, and they even won a playoff game. But that didn't stop the front office from changing things drastically.
The Broncos made the biggest splash of the offseason, luring Peyton Manning, long regarded as one of the best quarterbacks of all time, to Denver. Within days, Tim Tebow was traded to the New York Jets.
Did the Broncos make the right decision? Although Manning entered the season with 54,828 career passing yards, he came with many questions. Questions concerning things like his arm strength and his health.
Through eight games, Manning has been nothing short of terrific for the Broncos. Manning has been so good that an argument could be made for him as the league MVP through the halfway point of the season.
How about the rest of the team?
Manning seems to be getting the most out of players like Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, but what's been especially encouraging has been the play of the defense.
It is currently ranked 10th overall in total defense and was able to hold the high-powered New Orleans Saints to just 14 points.
Linebacker Von Miller is tied for second in the league with nine sacks, and he is becoming one of the top overall defensive players in all of football.
The pieces are starting to fall into place for the Broncos, and if you look at their schedule, they are in great position to go on a serious run.
Week 10—At Carolina: The Panthers will be feeling confident after getting a win on the road over Washington, and this game could be closer than it appears on paper. The Broncos will have the challenge of slowing Cam Newton down, and that is a task that will surely keep the defense busy.
Week 11—San Diego: The turning point of this Broncos season will be that fateful second half on Monday Night Football in San Diego, where the Broncos overcame a 24-point deficit to come back and win. The Chargers are the only real competition the Broncos have within the division, and it's not that much, either.
Week 12—At Kansas City: The Broncos have historically struggled in their annual trip to Arrowhead, but have you watched this Chiefs team this year?
Week 13—Tampa Bay: To the surprise of almost everyone, the Buccaneers suddenly seem to be impossible to stop on offense. With Josh Freeman throwing to Vincent Jackson and Doug Martin making a push for Rookie of the Year, what many figured to be an easy win several weeks ago may now turn into a highly-contested game in Denver.
Week 14—At Oakland: The Broncos beat this team by 31 points in the first meeting, and while it probably won't be that much of a rout the second time around, the Raiders won't offer much of a challenge.
Week 15—At Baltimore: This is probably the most difficult game left on the schedule, but it won't be as hard as it could have been. The Ravens have been hampered by injuries this year and don't appear to be the same team when the season started. Still, it will be a tough road test for the Broncos.
Week 16—Cleveland: The Browns will bring to town an impressive rookie duo of Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson, but they aren't much of a contender and unless the Broncos are resting players, this should be a win.
Week 17—Kansas City: Even if the Broncos were resting players, they could probably beat this team. The Chiefs may end up with the No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft after Denver polishes them off to finish the season.
Having the AFC playoffs come through Sports Authority Field would be a major advantage for the Broncos, but it's going to be tough considering the losses they've already taken.
Houston has only lost one game, and it has a 31-25 win over the Broncos back in Week 3. It will be hard, and unlikely, for Denver to overcome that.
Its best best will be grabbing the No. 2 seed by finishing ahead of New England and Baltimore (or whoever wins the AFC North). With the way Denver has been playing, that is very plausible.
1. Houston Texans: 7-1
2. Baltimore Ravens: 6-2
3. New England Patriots: 5-3
4. Denver Broncos: 5-3
5. Indianapolis Colts: 5-3
6. Pittsburgh Steelers: 5-3
If the season were to end today, the Broncos would be hosting a Wild Card game against the surprise Indianapolis Colts. However, of course, a lot can, and probably will change between now and then.
The Patriots and the Texans will be the biggest hurdles in the Broncos' quest for a championship, but a rematch with the Pats doesn't seem that daunting with the way the Broncos have been playing since that second half in San Diego.
The Broncos' first year with Manning will end up being a tremendous success with plenty of hope going forward. They will get to the AFC Championship game against the Texans, but that game will be played at Reliant Stadium.
Who wins? Time will tell. The Texans are solid on both sides of the ball, but if it hadn't been for the big plays given up by the secondary in the first meeting, it was a game Denver could have won and nearly did anyway. A rematch with a ticket to the Super Bowl would be fitting.