The Denver Broncos. They are good. Very good. They are one of, if not the, most dominant team in the AFC. They have an elite quarterback. They are one of the favourites to win the Super Bowl. And they wear orange.
Doesn't that all sound familiar? Of course I am talking about the 2013 Denver Broncos but you could easily apply that first paragraph to the Broncos of the '80s under John Elway. The Hall of Fame quarterback was the lynchpin then and he is now. He has built the current team from his position as vice president of football operations to once again challenge for a Super Bowl. But what Denver Broncos team has he built? Is it the one he won two Lombardi Trophy's with? Or is it the one that lost three title games?
Let us start with the latter. It was clear for all to see that he was never in love with Tim Tebow. Whether you love or hate Tebow, he won games as a Bronco. The fans loved him, his players certainly responded to him and he won a play-off game. But Elway didn't want a quarterback like Tebow. He wanted a quarterback much like himself. Step forward Peyton Manning, one of the best quarterbacks to play the game. A true pocket-passer. To complete the throwback to a team more akin to the one he played in, Elway was instrumental in bringing back the 'Orange Crush' jerseys, after around a decade of wearing blue as their home uniform.
So the Broncos team has a certain '80s feel to it, but what about the rest of the league? The Broncos worst loss in a Super Bowl was against the San Francisco 49ers (55-10), who are now back in the hunt for another Lombardi after losing to the Baltimore Ravens last year. The 49ers have built a team that could challenge for years and it wouldn't surprise many people if they went back and won the big one more than once. I actually predicted before the season started that the 49ers would win the Super Bowl, over the Broncos. As for the other two teams Elway lost to, both could cause trouble again. The Redskins returned to the play-offs last year and have an exciting new quarterback in Robert Griffin III who, if he can stay fit, could lead Washington to a Super Bowl challenge. The New York Giants have started this season very poorly, but with Eli Manning at the helm you write them off at your peril as they are always capable of an unbelievable run when they make the post-season.
Ok, so the Cleveland Browns won't be challenging in the AFC Championship game anytime soon, even if they draft a star QB in 2014, but maybe a new challenger in Houston will try to stop Denver in multiple AFC title games.
Of course, there are many other factors that disprove any of what you have just read. Manning does have a team around him that are capable of winning. Elway did not. He dragged his team kicking and screaming to three Super Bowls, only to be let down by the lack of talent around him against top sides. The current Broncos are stacked with talent, just like the team Elway had when he won those two Super Bowls.
The NFC East may have some threat like they used to, but it would be a huge shock if any of them made the Super Bowl, let alone win one, especially if they play the Broncos. There are still plenty of teams in the NFC that could win it, but gone are the days where the NFC teams dominate, like they did for so many years till the Broncos beat the Green Bay Packers in 1998.
Another big difference between the two is that Elway lost those games when he was young and won when he was old. Manning's Bronco career may only be in its infancy but he has the experience needed to win. His days of losing important big games may well be behind him.
We can also look at some of those big games under Elway. In 1997 the top seeded Broncos lost in their first game in the play-offs to the Jacksonvile Jaguars. One year later they gained revenge over that side as the number four seed. They then went on the road to win two play-off games. Just like in then, Denver were the No.1 seed in 2012 and fell at the first hurdle.
Yes the Broncos have started extremely well and should get the top seed again, but their division is tougher than last year and Houston will be the main challenger for the No. 1 seed after having a bad spell at the end of last season. You can also never rule out the Patriots from doing what they do best and win the division with a healthy record.
Surely it would not be a surprise if the Broncos beat the Ravens in the play-offs, gaining revenge like Elway did against the Jaguars, and going on to win in New York.
Whether you believe in history repeating or think that there is a higher being creating these circumstances or even if you think it is just a coincidence, the similarities are unusual.
But it leaves us with the question, which Denver Broncos are we watching? The AFC top dogs who in orange who always lose the big one? Or the great team that wins one for its aging QB? Only time will tell.