Entering its Week 13 matchup at Minnesota, Denver is 6-5 and just one game out of the division lead and a playoff spot as a wild card.
The Broncos are entering on a four-game win streak recently capitalized by a 16-13 overtime victory over the San Diego Chargers for their fourth consecutive victory with Tim Tebow as the starting quarterback.
The Broncos are one of the hottest teams in the NFL at the moment, and although they aren't a lock to make it to the postseason as they don't even control their own destiny, they are every team's worst nightmare in the postseason.
Of all of the teams on the playoff bubble in the AFC, the Broncos are literally the dark horse when it comes to the impact they could make if they do make it to the postseason.
Let's look at the teams the Broncos are battling with for a playoff spot. These teams include the Bengals, Titans, Raiders, Steelers, Jets and Bills.
It's safe to eliminate Buffalo from this race. Although they are only a game back of the Broncos and a couple back of the Bengals for the last wild-card spot, the Bills are in an endless free fall.
They lost their best player, Fred Jackson, who was arguably the most productive back of the 2011 season at the time of his injury, to a season-ending injury.
They are currently on a four-game losing streak, which includes three losses to AFC East opponents.
The Titans are a decent team. Notice the key word decent. They are a team that has overachieved because of stellar quarterback play by Matt Hasselbeck and excellent coaching by Mike Munchak.
However, they won't make it to the playoffs.
Up until his most recent game, Chris Johnson had been one of the worst running backs in all of football this year, entering Week 12 with a 3.3 yards per game rushing average.
The Titans don't have any game breakers with the loss of Kenny Britt to an early season-ending injury.
Therefore, cross the Titans off of that list.
The Broncos have already beaten the Jets. Next.
The Broncos have beaten the Bengals also, but both teams were vastly different when they played each other in Week 2.
The Bengals are a very good team.
Having said that, if they make it to the playoffs, they will get eaten alive.
They are a team that thrives off of taking care of the ball and playing great defense.
That is a testament to the strides Andy Dalton has made in his rookie season and the coaching job of Marvin Lewis.
As good as Dalton and A.J. Green have been as rookies, the offense is mediocre. They rank 20th in rushing and 17th in passing. They are 18th overall in total offense.
Their defense is fifth overall in the league.
If they make it to the playoffs, they will get exposed for their lack of big-game experience against teams such as the Patriots, Steelers and Ravens.
Which leaves two more teams, the Raiders and the Steelers.
Both of those teams are dangerous.
The Raiders are dangerous because despite their lack of playoff experience, they have a quarterback who is quickly getting back into game shape and getting better with each passing week. Combine that with the fact that they have the fourth-best rushing offense in the NFL, and you can see why they are quite the wild card.
The Steelers are annual playoff contenders. Enough said.
With all of that said, the Broncos are still the most dangerous threat of all of those teams.
Why is that?
The first reason? Tim Tebow.
Laugh all you want—the guy is 5-1 as a starter and takes care of the football better than any other quarterback in the NFL. Yes, even better than guys like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Tom Brady.
His ability to pass and run the football makes it nearly impossible to stop the Broncos' offense.
Since Tebow stepped in vs. San Diego in Week 5, the Broncos have had the best rushing offense in the NFL. They are averaging 201 yards a game since that game.
How many times do you see teams in the NFL average over 200 yards a game?
That is simply a phenomenal number.
The second reason?
Yes, they rank 22nd overall in PPG given up.
However, that stat is misleading.
Take the 45-point explosion by the Detroit Lions in Week 8 out of the picture, and you have a defense that is allowing just 15 points per game since Tebow's first start against Miami.
The question is, can the Broncos take on elite teams in the AFC in the postseason?
Can they match up properly with the Patriots, Ravens, Steelers, Texans and possibly even the Raiders with Palmer shaking off the rust and McFadden likely healthy by that point?
The teams that the Broncos have beaten haven't been the worst, but they haven't been the best.
They beat a Chargers team in overtime that was on the heels of a five-game losing streak. They beat a Chiefs team that is just all around bad. They beat a Dolphins team that was winless at the time. They beat the Raiders in impressive fashion, but it was without their best player in Darren McFadden. They did beat a decent Jets team.
There is no arguing that the Broncos can beat decent teams; the question is, can they beat elite teams?
The answer is yes.
The question isn't "Will they beat these teams?"—it's simply, "Do they have to the potential to do so?"
And yes, they have the potential to do so.
They are excellent at controlling the clock, excellent at taking care of the football, and the defense is playing some of the best football over the past month of any defense in the NFL.
Where the Broncos will likely run into problems is against a high-powered offense such as the New England Patriots.
Tom Brady knows how to dissect just about every defense in the NFL, and if you're not running a 3-4 defense, you can just about forget shutting him down if you're a team like the Denver Broncos.
Factor in that Tebow isn't the best passer in the world and that the Broncos have a high dependency upon the read-option attack, and the Broncos' chances wouldn't bode well in an offensive shootout.
The Patriots would not be a good matchup for Denver.
However, every other team out of that list is a toss-up.
The Ravens have an inconsistent offense. They don't have a high-power passing attack. That's good for the Broncos.
What isn't good is the fact that the Ravens have one of the best defenses in the NFL, and here's the clincher: they run a 3-4 defense.
The read-option attack will struggle against a fast, athletic 3-4 defense. Hell, it's already had its worst game this year against the 3-4 defense New York Jets.
The Broncos forcefully ran the ball all game long on 34 carries for just 125 yards. When you simply look at 125 yards, that looks pretty good. When you look at the 3.6 rushing average and you actually watch the game, it looked absolutely terrible until the last offensive drive.
However, if the defense can shut down the Ravens' offensive attack, which is a possibility, the Broncos have a good chance of upsetting the Ravens.
Is that a very likely scenario considering the Ravens are the best team in the AFC? I'm not saying that it's very likely. I'm simply saying that it's easily possible when you consider the matchup.
Ditto goes for the Steelers, except the Steelers might pose more of a problem. Their rushing attack is very stagnant at times, however, the offense can be explosive because of the big-play ability of Mike Wallace.
If the Steelers get a couple of huge plays that lead to touchdowns by Wallace, it would be hard to envision the Broncos' offense matching the Steelers stride for stride.
As far as the Texans are concerned, they are the most vulnerable.
They have one of the best rushing attacks and quite possibly the best defense, but with a young quarterback under center, you don't know what to expect if he passes the football.
This isn't some first-round draft pick; this is T.J. Yates.
The Broncos have already beaten the Raiders with Palmer and a very good rushing game with Michael Bush. Provided that McFadden is to return in the playoffs, I'd envision the Broncos would still match up well with the Raiders.
So what was the point of all of this rambling?
The point in all of this rambling is that among the teams on the playoff bubble the Broncos pose the biggest threat to the current AFC division leaders.
The Broncos don't turn the ball over, they control the time of possession and they play stout defense.
When it comes to teams such as the Pats, Saints and Packers, the Broncos have no chance against those teams because their defense simply isn't good enough, and their offense is nowhere close to having a chance to compete with those types of offenses.
When it comes to teams such as the Steelers and Ravens who have bruising ground-and-pound attacks, the Broncos have a chance against those teams because they are the definition of ground-and-pound.
In a game of controlling the clock, if the defense prevents the big plays, the score likely remains close and within striking distance. We already know how good the Broncos are in those types of games.
If you're playing the Broncos in January in a close, low-scoring contest that is largely dictated by who has possession of the ball last, your odds simply aren't that good.