Everything else aside, here's what I see. What wins games? The following:
1. To be a contender, you cannot make mistakes. I don't have the stats here that I would like to have, but in years past, as I have followed the Eagles, I noticed that the team that wins an evenly-matched game is almost ALWAYS the team that is called on the least number of penalties. Other than some well-played forced offsides you see a lot fewer penalties in the post season than you do in the regular season.
As another example, going back to my friends, the Eagles, and good buddy Desean Jackson, we have possibly lost many a game - or at least contention - because of that wonderful 15- yarder known as the "personal foul."
2. A BETTER team will capitalize on the mistakes of their opponent.
When a team is doing badly, it is not the time to sit on your hunches and coast through the game. This is where you need to have good coaching. A good coach will see the whole picture and know that any team can rebound after a few bad plays. You never know when or if that will happen, but a good coach is always keeping his team at the highest level.
3. The BEST team FORCES mistakes from their opponent.
Give this one to the Bears so far this year, who have an amazing 11 forced fumbles and 6 INTs. Although the Bills only have 1 FF, they do lead the league in INTs with 9, and also have 13 sack on the year. (Chiefs win for sacks with 18).
Let's note that Denver has a decent number of INTs so far this year, with 6.
Also, when a team is pushed back 10 yards on an offsides, the best defense shows their stuff and keeps them back there. (Also providing a great chance for better field position, should the downs not convert.)
4. It isn't always a team that has an elite QB that wins. (Case in point from most recent games: Joe Flacco, Eli Manning.) But all other matters being equal, it sure helps.
When you have a QB who has stats like these, how can you worry?
*As I write this, Peyton Manning has 16 TD passes for the year. The next closest is Drew Brees with 10. And 10 is record-worthy. The season record is 50 in 2007 by Tom Brady (who is on pace for 30 this year). Peyton is on pace to hit 65 this year.
* 0 interceptions, 1 sack. So far for the whole season. (See above about "mistakes.") Brady, Brees, and Rodgers have 8 interceptions between them all. (And just because I really don't like the other Manning brother, I will point out that Eli has 9 already this year.)
* Yardage: (Because yardage converts to TDs.) Drew Brees has all kinds of passing records. But right now, he is behind both Rodgers and Manning. Manning is on pace to finish the regular season with 5,880.
Wait, you're thinking... and yes, you are correct. The record is 5,084 yards by Dan Marino in 1984. What's that crashing noise you hear? Records crumbling.
If you've ever watched Peyton at the line, you have an idea of the machine he has created of his offense. I have never seen a QB organize every single person on his line like he does. His audibles are his own language. The Trekkies have Klingon; the jocks have Peytonese.
Here is my listing of how I see QBs ranking in status (this year):
Elite: Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees
Very Good: Russell Wilson, RGIII
Good: Joe Flacco, Colin Kaepernick, Michael Vick, Andrew Luck, Cam Newton, Alex Smith, Jay Cutler
Forgettable: Tony Romo, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Ben Rothlesberger (would have been ranked higher before this year). Everyone else. I'm not going to waste your time by listing, because, hey, they're forgettable.
5. Your offensive weapons obtain yardage which give you touchdowns.
Last year, the Broncos had Knowshon Moreno. Fantastic player who was consistent throughout the year. This year, so far, he's only carried 42 times for 200 and change. But that's because Peyton is a passer. And Knowshon's carries have been split with Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman.
Brees has also been very accurate with his passes, but that is all the Saints have - a passing game. The Broncos also have an incredible running game. They don't use it as much, but when they do, it works.
So, as far as those passes, we have Decker with 340 yards (29 rec), Wes Welker (26 rec), and let's not forget our buddy Damaryius Thomas, who has nearly 400 yards with his 29 receptions. These men have put Denver in the #1 spot in total offense and passing yardage. (And just because I'm an Eagles fan, let's point out that the Eagles are #1 in rushing thanks to Shady McCoy.)
6. Your offensive line allows you to win.
The fact that Peyton has only been sacked one time and has made the number of completions speaks for his offensive line. I bet Big Ben would agree.
7. Defense does what?
The saying goes, "Offense gets the fans, defense gets the wins." Or something like that. Boloney. You don't score, you don't win. That being said, in order to win, you must score MORE than your opponent. So defense needs to beat up the other teams offense enough to keep them out of the red zone.
The Broncos are only # 1 in one aspect of defense - Least amount of yards allowed per game. And remember? You need yards to reach the end zone. Denver's defense is doing all they need to. (See #5)
8. Special Teams -
Holliday. Do I need to expound?
9. Fear Factor -
No one isn't worried about facing Peyton Manning. I don't even have to be in a single locker room to know that. Fear leads to mistakes. Mistakes lead to turn overs, turn overs lead to the Dark Side... wait, sorry. Wrong movie.
10. I read a status from either NFL or ESPN that said, "One day, we'll tell our grandchildren that we watched Peyton Manning play football." Are we going to say that he only won one Super Bowl? I don't think so.
Bonus: Drive. History shows Peyton Manning to remain consistent. He is on the move and clearly wants nothing more than everything he can get. Everything I read shows that the man is football in human form. I'm not sure why he does Buick commercials or owns a Papa John's. His pizza can't be as good his passes.
I'm welcome to rebuttal. Let's discuss!
T.C. Slonaker, Eagles fan
Sports Made Simple!