Cleveland Browns vs. Denver Broncos: Broncos Proving to Be AFC's Team to Beat

DJ Siddiqi@@DJSiddiqiCorrespondent IIIDecember 24, 2012

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 23:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos directs the offense against the Cleveland Browns at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on December 23, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Browns 34-12.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Here we were, at the Week 16 mark of the NFL regular season, with the 11-3 Denver Broncos receiving a visit from the 5-9 Cleveland Browns at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Here we were again, with Peyton Manning dissecting the Cleveland Browns defense slowly but surely. Here we were with the Broncos up just 14-6 with under five minutes to go in the third quarter, with Manning and the Broncos offense about to finish off a six-and-a-half-minute drive with a touchdown to Eric Decker.

Here we were for yet another week of the Broncos defense absolutely pounding the opposing quarterback into the ground. Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden struggled all game long, throwing for just 104 yards on the day before leaving the game in the third quarter.

Colt McCoy didn't have it much easier, as he was sacked on the first play that he was in the game by Derek Wolfe. McCoy was sacked four times despite playing less than a half of football. 

Von Miller had another 1.5 sacks on the day to add to his total and break the franchise single-season sack record set by Elvis Dumervil. Von now has 17.5 sacks on the season.

Here we were for yet another win in convincing and dominating fashion. It was the Broncos' 10th straight victory as they stand at 12-3, tied for the best record in the AFC after Houston's 23-6 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

What is there to say about the Broncos after this victory?

We know that the Broncos are lined up with an opportunity for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs in Week 17. If the Broncos are to defeat the Chiefs with the Texans losing to the Colts, Denver would have the No. 1 seed locked up in the AFC.

We know Denver controls its own destiny as far as the No. 2 seed is concerned by simply defeating the 2-13 Chiefs in Week 17.

However, it becomes clearer and clearer with each passing week that this is the team to beat in the AFC.

Not the Patriots, not the Texans and not the Ravens.

Are there matchups in the playoffs are that appear unfavorable for the Broncos?

Sure. Certainly the Patriots would be a tough game. Tom Brady and the Pats offense is the one offense in the NFL that statistically ranks as better than Manning's Broncos.

The Texans have a top-flight defense and a balanced offense to go along with it. J.J. Watt is a Defensive Player of the Year candidate, and the 3-4 defense normally causes problems for rhythm quarterbacks such as Brady and Manning.

The Ravens were throttled by the Broncos in Week 15, 34-17. But maybe with Ray Lewis' injury, Baltimore can give a different game to Denver than what the NFL audience saw last Sunday.

It's not gonna be a cupcake walk—it never is in the NFL.

Having said that, Denver is the team to beat in the AFC.

10-game winning streak? Check.

Potential MVP winner in Manning? Check.

Potential Defensive Player of the Year in Von? Check.

Best record in the conference? Check.

30-plus points in 10 out of 15 games this year? Check

Most consistent team in all of football? Check.

There is no team that comes close in all of the NFL to the consistency that the Broncos have put up since that Week 6 game at San Diego.

Here we saw yet again, in Week 16, Manning quietly throwing for 339 yards and three touchdowns. Here the Broncos were yet again up just 14-6 more than halfway through the third quarter, and yet the game was never in doubt.

Hasn't that been the story of the season?

Consistency? A throttling defense that thrives off of the pass rush of their front seven and different base looks? A slow and methodical offense that chews up clock and gains yardage in short and medium spurts?

This team is something special. 

The 2012 Broncos are the team to beat in the AFC entering the postseason.

Will they be the team to beat in the Super Bowl on February 3rd, 2013?




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