Following a devastating loss in Week 12 to the New England Patriots in which they squandered a 24-0 halftime lead, the Denver Broncos defeated the Kansas City Chiefs for the second time this season last Sunday.
So they're back near the top of Super Bowl favorites, right?
The Broncos are in a similar position to the one they were in one year ago. They sit at 10-2 with four very winnable games remaining on the schedule.
The AFC playoffs could very likely go through Denver.
But Denver had home-field advantage in the playoffs last season, and we all remember how that turned out.
This Broncos team, as good as it is, cannot afford another devastating loss like the one they had against Baltimore last year. This team is built to win—now.
The Ravens were in a similar situation last year: Once they reached the Super Bowl, talk of their Super Bowl window became more prevalent.
That's because the team had their long-time leader Ray Lewis announce his retirement during the season. They also had several key free agents they weren't going to be able to bring back.
The team had to win and they knew it.
After they knocked off San Francisco to win it all, they saw Anquan Boldin, Paul Kruger, Ed Reed, Cary Williams and Dannell Ellerbe all sign with other teams.
For Denver, the problems they'll face won't be related to free agency—their secondary and the age of their star quarterback will be questioned.
Champ Bailey is clearly not the player Denver fans have enjoyed watching since he arrived via trade in 2004.
On the season, Bailey has played in just three games and was eventually benched against Kansas City on Sunday.
He has been bothered by an ailing foot since the preseason, but he has lost a step in coverage as well.
But that is far from Denver's only issue in the secondary.
Tony Carter and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie are both free agents after the season, and Quentin Jammer turns 35 years old in June.
It's unlikely that all three will be back in Denver next season.
At the safety position, Quinton Carter has missed the better part of two seasons with injuries, and Mike Adams will also hit the free-agent market.
Still, with the inconsistent play and all the injuries in the defensive backfield, Denver has won 10 of 12 games this season.
That is largely due to the play of Peyton Manning, who is putting together a stellar season.
But Manning will be 38 years old next year, and he can't play forever. Behind him, the Broncos have the very inexperienced Brock Osweiler.
Every Denver fan can recall Brian Griese stepping in for a retired legend.
Manning signed a five-year contract in the 2012 offseason when he agreed to come to Denver, but if he plays it out, he'd finish his career at 40.
It's entirely possible that Manning will play that long, and if he can play at this level now, there is really no reason he won't be able to in the future.
But is his play enough? Can the ability of Manning overcome a defense that has been exposed at times? That never really worked for him in Indianapolis, did it?
Manning put together a great 2012 season, and he would have been league MVP if not for Adrian Peterson's incredible campaign.
That still wasn't good enough for Denver to win even one playoff game.
For Manning and the Broncos, the time to win is now. The mindset of the team has to be Super Bowl or bust, whether they admit it publicly or not.
After all, Manning didn't come to Denver to make his career stat line look better. He came here to win at least one more ring.
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