Since Peyton Manning arrived in Denver four years ago, the Broncos have consistently been a Super Bowl contender. But unlike Denver's Super Bowl run two years ago, which was mainly orchestrated by Manning and a juggernaut offense, the Broncos are the AFC champions largely due to a suffocating defense and roster built with balance.
Can Big Ben and the Steelers keep pace with the division-leading Bengals? They'll have to get past the Seahawks -- in Seattle. Will Brock Osweiler give the Broncos a fighting chance against the 10-0 Patriots?
Brothers is the leading tackler in college football and centerpiece of the No. 3 scoring defense in the country, but that didn't impress the voters for the Butkus Award, who didn't include him Monday among 10 semifinalists. Perhaps a splashy performance Thursday night against Heisman hopeful Dak Prescott and the Bulldogs will inspire the most important evaluators -- NFL scouts -- to think twice before overlooking Missouri's latest star.
A look back at some of the great defenses since 1980 in the NFL shows several common threads with all of them, and a closer look at Denver's current unit shows they're following that same path to success.