Want to beat the Denver Broncos? You better hope and pray the Broncos don't get off the bus.
Just score a lot of points, they said! You can't stop quarterback Peyton Manning, they said! An elite offense is the only chance, they said! Guess what? They were wrong. It doesn't matter who is at quarterback for the opposing team, and it doesn't matter how great the offense is—Manning is that much better.
The Broncos are the best team in football, and it's not even close.
After the 51-point offensive explosion against the Dallas Cowboys, it's time to quiet the whispers that maybe an elite offense can handle outscoring and defeating the Broncos. You really want a better offense than the one quarterbacked by Tony Romo in which he gets to throw to receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten?
I'm not saying that the Cowboys are the best offense this side of the Broncos, but don't pretend that there are many squads that could put up 48 points, even on a Von Miller-less defense.
It starts with Manning—the cool, calm, collected leader. The insinuation behind the "you have to outscore Manning" meme is the ridiculously absurd idea that Manning isn't going to come right back and do what he does best: put crooked numbers up on the scoreboard.
In a vacuum, if the prop bet is "Can Peyton Manning score a touchdown right now," the only response is to double-check that it didn't just say "Eli" and then put all of your money on the affirmative.
Outscore Manning...are you daft, man? He just made a 50-burger with as little effort as the punk at McDonald's makes your Quarter Pounder.
Today was the 5th time in @NFL history that a QB has thrown for 400 yds & 4 TDs & also rushed for a TD. Manning is only one to do it twice.— Denver Broncos (@DenverBroncos) October 7, 2013
Of course, he has some help. Before that, though, let's take a moment and remember what Peyton Manning doesn't have. Lost in the discussion of Manning's receiving corps is the fact that there's 11 players on the offensive side of the ball, and the Broncos have some pretty clear holes that defenses should, theoretically, be able to exploit.
Quick quiz: Who is the starting left tackle for the Broncos right now? If you guessed Chris Clark, or even know who in the world Chris Clark is, you're either a great Broncos fan or just a football junkie who should probably click on the "write for Bleacher Report" link after you finish this column.
How about at running back? Knowshon Moreno has a ton of natural talent, and his performance in Dallas Sunday (150 total yards and a touchdown) contributed as much to the win as anyone not named Manning. Still, though, hold up a second and remember who Moreno is. Former first-round pick? Yes, but also the guy for whom whispers percolated in the offseason about the possibility of being cut.
Can the Broncos run the table?
Manning also lacks that elite defense across from him—a dynamic that led to some of those silly theories about outscoring him. Danny Trevathan? Duke Ihenacho? Derek Wolfe? These aren't just "not household names," these are important and productive pieces of the Broncos defense that Manning couldn't have picked out of a lineup before this season with all three lifelines.
As if Manning is going to get rattled because an opponent forces him to put up 50 points? No, he's just going to dust off his shoulders and get right back to work as if putting up 50 is what he intended to do all along.
Again, though, even if the Broncos have some key holes that should be able to be exploited, there's also plenty of talent around Manning. By "plenty," I mean a ridiculous wealth of riches New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady would kill for right now.
Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Wes Welker combine to form the greatest receiving corps the NFL has to offer. Not only do they have a ton of talent, but they also work together with tight end Julius Thomas and all fit their various roles perfectly.
The offensive line, even without stud left tackle Ryan Clady, is playing lights out.
I made fun of Chris Clark's anonymity earlier, but Bleacher Report's Cecil Lammey (who covers the Broncos for ESPN Radio in Denver) tells me that the team trusts him and loved what he brought to the table while Clady rehabbed earlier this year. Manny Ramirez has made the switch to center well, and Louis Vasquez looks like an inspired signing at guard.
Know what else makes an offensive line look good? A quarterback's quick release and effective decision-making. It's not as if Manning is doing it alone, but it's important to realize that it's a symbiotic relationship here. The O-line has stepped up for Manning, and he's made life awfully easy on them.
The @DenverBroncos have won a regular season's worth of consecutive games...— Andrew Siciliano (@AndrewSiciliano) October 6, 2013
Can the Broncos be beaten? Sure. Going 16-0 is insanely difficult, and lots of teams have tried and failed. That said, each week that passes with a more impressive Broncos win adds fuel to the fire. As difficult as it is, it's also not absurd to say the Broncos have the talent to go undefeated. It's feasible as long as Manning is under center.
The Kansas City Chiefs might have the best chance to beat the Broncos—especially in their Dec. 1 meeting at Arrowhead Stadium. Going to Foxborough and beating Brady and the Patriots isn't going to be taken lightly, but who knows where that team will be or what their receiving group will look like?
When it comes to great teams, we love to talk about blueprints. Every team has a weakness—even if it is minute. Hypothetically speaking, no one is perfect, and someone out there has to be able to dismantle everything the Broncos have put together, right?
With this Denver Broncos team, there is no blueprint. Hoping for them to misstep isn't a blueprint, neither is dreaming that Peyton Manning gets whisked away. The Broncos have seen good offenses, good defenses, good pass-rushers, fast-paced offenses, good running games, good passing games—they've seen it all, home and away.
The rest of the NFL just needs to settle in for a season in which the most they can probably hope for is second-best.