The Denver Broncos had a Super Bowl-caliber defense going into the 2012 NFL season, but the addition of a Hall of Fame quarterback in Peyton Manning has made Denver the AFC's most dangerous team heading into the playoffs.
Tim Tebow played well for the Broncos at quarterback last season when he led the team to an unexpected run to the AFC Divisional Round, but the season came crashing down when he couldn't beat Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on the road.
Manning gives the Broncos a quarterback with Super Bowl experience and someone who not only enjoys the challenge of playing a Tom Brady in the playoffs, but can win those types of games too.
His amazing performances this season have created an impressive amount of confidence among the Broncos players. The defense is more comfortable because Manning and the offense can score 30-plus points and give the team a chance to win when the defense plays terribly.
This wasn't the case last year with Tebow at quarterback. There was no way he could keep up with the Patriots offense, or the Houston Texans offense at full strength.
Manning's 4,016 passing yards and 31 touchdowns have bolstered the Broncos offense tremendously, but the biggest impact from his arrival has been felt by the running game.
Opposing defenses know they have to prepare for Manning, because he can throw for 300 yards against anyone, but the Broncos' running game is also capable of dominating defenses.
Running back Knowshon Moreno has played well since taking over the starting job after Willis McGahee suffered a season-ending knee injury. He has averaged 97.75 rush yards over the last four games, including two straight games of 100-plus yards rushing.
The balance that the Broncos have on offense because of Manning makes them the most dangerous team in the AFC. They can beat you in any way and can come back from any deficit.
The Broncos have just as good of a chance to win the Super Bowl as any other team in the league.
Very few (if any) teams have an elite quarterback and an elite defense. You could make a case that Houston does, but their pass defense has struggled recently. A case could also be made for San Francisco, but Colin Kaepernick is not an elite quarterback yet.
Denver is the one team that nobody in the AFC will want to play during the playoffs, whether it's at home or on the road. With Manning at quarterback, the Broncos could win their first Super Bowl since 1998 this season.