BRONCOS

The Broncos road to the Super Bowl isn’t as difficult as some might think

Mar 11, 2022, 6:41 AM | Updated: 9:41 am
Tom Brady...
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Denver Broncos are back in business. Somehow, someway, George Paton pulled off the miracle trade and brought Russell Wilson to Denver. Now that the Broncos have an elite quarterback, the expectation is once again Super Bowl.

Wilson arrives in Denver 10 years after Peyton Manning. Manning’s four-year run with the Broncos is arguably the most successful in franchise history. Once Manning was under center, anything less than playing in the Super Bowl was a failure. Manning held up his end and led the Broncos to two appearances.

Getting through the AFC looks to be a tall order for Wilson and the Broncos. The AFC boasts some of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Even with Wilson, the Broncos will have to face very tough competition just to make it out of the AFC.

However, as stacked as the AFC is, Wilson’s path to the Super Bowl is less challenging than the one Manning faced.

At the quarterback position, the AFC currently features Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson and to a lesser extent Derek Carr, Baker Mayfield, Ryan Tannehill, Mac Jones and Trevor Lawrence. Half of the AFC has above average to excellent quarterbacks.

With all that talent, why would Wilson’s road to the Super Bowl be less bumpy?

Easy, there’s one name missing from the above players – Tom Brady. To be more specific, Brady, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

As great as the AFC is right now, none of the teams are the caliber of the Patriots dynasty. From the 2001-18, the Patriots played in 13 AFC Championship Games, including eight straight from 2011-18 (games were played in 2012 and 2019).

During the Brady era in New England, the rest of the AFC didn’t build their teams to win a Super Bowl; they built their teams to beat the Patriots. If you couldn’t beat the Patriots, the Super Bowl wasn’t happening.

Brady destroyed Tim Tebow and the Broncos in the 2012 playoffs. Soon after, the Broncos signed Manning. Bringing in Manning was as much about beating Brady as it was winning the Super Bowl.

The Patriots were a monster in a horror movie. Every time you thought they were gone, they kept coming back.

The Bills and the Chiefs gave away games this past post season. The Patriots never gave away a playoff win.

Being led by Brady, the Patriots forced their opponent to beat them. There were no lucky breaks. There were no mental lapses. Sure, Brady and the Patriots got beat, but they were never knocked out. The Patriots were unfazed by postseason losses.

During Brady’s last 10 years in New England, the Patriots were almost guaranteed to play in the AFC Championship Game. If it wasn’t for Manning and the Broncos, the Patriots would have played in six straight Super Bowls.

The Boogie Man is gone. Tom Brady and the Patriots are no longer in the way. The AFC is wide open.

If you have a franchise quarterback, you can beat anybody. Home-field advantage isn’t what it once was. Neither of the top two seeds in the AFC, Titans and Chiefs, made it to the Super Bowl this past season

During the Manning era in Denver, having the No. 1 seed was crucial to a Super Bowl appearance. The Broncos didn’t need the top seed so much to play at home, but more so to not play Brady in Foxboro.

The Chiefs have played in four-straight AFC Championship Games, but only won one Super Bowl in that time period. As great as the Chiefs have been, their inability to secure more than one Lombardi Trophy is evidence that the AFC is there for the taking. It’s not that the Chiefs have choked, it’s that they’re not light years ahead of everybody else.

No one team is dominant in the AFC. And that’s great thing for the Broncos.

The AFC is loaded, but the path to the Super Bowl isn’t as daunting as it once was. Defeating the Chiefs, Bills or Bengals is not the challenge of the Patriots dynasty. Mahomes, Allen and Burrow are amazing, but they’re not Brady.

Russell Wilson has leveled the playing field for the Broncos. The separation between the Broncos and the rest of the AFC is minuscule. The Broncos are building to win a Super Bowl and for the first time in a long time, they don’t have to worry about Tom Brady while doing it.

***

Broncos

DENVER, COLORADO - NOVEMBER 28: Javonte Williams #33 of the Denver Broncos celebrates scoring a tou...
Cecil Lammey

Mile High Monday: Javonte Williams can make the second-year leap

The Broncos running back should have a big season in year No. 2, Arch Manning makes his decision and the Avalanche finish off Mission 16W
1 day ago
Landeskog with the Stanley Cup...
Andrew Mason

How Denver’s other teams celebrated the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup

Here's how Denver's teams and players reacted after the Avalanche finished off the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday night:
1 day ago
Ask Mase...
Andrew Mason

Ask Mase: How the Manning era can provide a guide for the Wilson years

At some point in the near future, the Broncos will have a higher percentage of their cap tied up in QB than ever before. But Peyton Manning's years offer a guide.
1 day ago
Baron Browning...
Andrew Mason

A player to know at Broncos training camp: Baron Browning

He moved from inside linebacker to edge rusher this spring. But he's caught the eyes of teammates like Bradley Chubb.
3 days ago
Russell Wilson...
Cecil Lammey

Russell Wilson’s presence makes the Broncos defense better

Ejiro Evero is putting together a defense that will be an improvement over recent years, in part because of the quarterback they'll face every day
3 days ago
Arch Manning...
Andrew Mason

The next generation of Manning QB made his college choice

Peyton Manning's nephew, No. 1 college recruit Arch Manning, will play college football at the University of Texas.
4 days ago
The Broncos road to the Super Bowl isn’t as difficult as some might think