The Denver Broncos are flying high at the moment, but can they continue their perfect record through the final 12 games?
The Denver Broncos have opened the season with four consecutive victories with very little drama. They're scoring at will and have enough on defense to never really allow their opposition into the game.
They're playing so well, it begins to raise questions as to whether or not they can go undefeated. There are few milestones in sports with the rarity of an undefeated NFL season, so do Peyton Manning and this Denver roster have what it takes to win their remaining 12 games and run the table?
They Have the Offense to Beat Any NFL Defense
The Broncos will have no problems this season scoring enough points to win football games. Peyton Manning has started the season with some record-setting numbers, as his 16 touchdowns with no interceptions through four games stand out in the history of the NFL.
According to Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports, Manning's 16 scores through the air are the most through four games in NFL history, and starting a season with 16 touchdowns without an interception has only happened once before. The last man to accomplish that feat was Milt Plum of the Cleveland Browns, and it took him 10 games to do it.
But more important than historic facts are the numbers of how dominant Manning and the Broncos have been so far this season compared to other NFL teams. In the same article, Katzowitz mentions that Manning's 16 touchdowns were more than any other team in the NFL's combined total touchdowns through four weeks.
Wes Welker has immediately involved himself in the offense, along with rising star Julius Thomas at tight end, creating an unfair assembly of options for Manning to throw to. And with three viable (but not spectacular) options at running back, the Broncos will never be without a back to help run the clock down.
Manning has always been virtually unstoppable, but with the incredible players surrounding him this season in Denver, the "virtually" can be dropped from that statement. The Broncos have the best offense in football, and it's not even close.
There's Hope for the Defense to Improve
The Denver defense has not been spectacular this season, but that's partly because they haven't had to be. Leading by multiple scores allows a defense to sit back and play it safe.
But even with that taken into consideration, the Broncos are below average in the NFL according to Football Outsiders' defensive efficiency rankings. And their overall numbers are weighed down by a defensive pass efficiency in the bottom 10 of the league.
But that will change in a big way with the returns of cornerback Champ Bailey and pass rusher Von Miller in the coming weeks. Bailey has been dealing with injury and is slowly working his way back into the team. Miller was suspended for the first six games of the season, and will return to continue rushing the passer and disrupting the passing game.
The Broncos have started to find ways to cope without these star players, which will only make things better when they're back in the lineup at full speed.
The Schedule is Just Too Difficult
College football fans know how frustrating it can be to evaluate and compare teams who play weak competition every week. From the Boise State teams of the 2000s to this year's Louisville Cardinals, there are programs every year that get by with cupcake slates of games.
But for the Broncos, even though they seem like a dominant team, there are no NFL cupcakes. That means even the Jacksonville Jaguars are not a lock to lose to Denver, because they are professional football players who are capable of winning on any occasion.
It gets a lot more difficult for head coach John Fox than just dealing with the Jags, however. The Broncos have a bye week in Week 9, and after that they spend five of the remaining eight weeks on the road, including trips to San Diego, Kansas City, New England and Houston.
What will be the final record for the 2013 Denver Broncos?
There aren't any breaks in the action for the Broncos during the final two months of the season, as even the Titans and Raiders have shown they can be competitive and have the talent to topple Denver.
So while the Broncos have the offense and defense to beat any team in the NFL, they just have too tough of a schedule to confidently predict perfection.
Are they good enough to finish 16-0? Absolutely. I just don't think they can be expected to hold up to such a grueling schedule and maintain perfection all the way through until the end.