No. 1 Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos, led by long-time Patriots nemesis Peyton Manning, are on an 11-game winning streak. The last team they lost to? The Patriots in Week 5.
Manning is having a freakishly good year. He's in contention for the NFL's comeback player of the year award and the league's MVP award, throwing for 4,659 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions with a 105.8 quarterback rating. At 13-3, with all three of the Broncos' losses coming in the first five weeks of the season, Denver is arguably the hottest team in the NFL right now.
The Broncos sport the No. 4 overall offense and No. 2 overall defense. Their defense features a trio of Pro Bowl players. Linebacker Von Miller finished the season with 18.5 sacks while Elvis Dumervil (11 sacks) helps anchor the team's defensive line. Cornerback Champ Bailey, in his 14th season, earned his 12th Pro Bowl nod, the most in NFL history by a defensive back.
They're nicked up in a couple of key areas. Cornerback Tracy Porter missed the team's Week 17 matchup with Kansas City Chiefs after suffering a concussion against the Cleveland Browns the prior week. Starting right guard Chris Kuper has been suffering from ankle and injuries. Kick returner Trinden Holiday has a lingering ankle injury.
In Week 5, the Broncos didn't have their act together when they rolled into Gillette Stadium to face the Patriots. They fumbled three times, including running back Willis McGahee coughing it up with 3:48 left in the game. Wes Welker had 13 catches for 104 yards and a touchdown, but it was the Patriots' running game that led to the win. The team finished with 251 yards rushing (18 first downs on the ground) and Stevan Ridley led the way on 28 carries for 151 yards and one touchdown. Tom Brady threw for 223 yards and one touchdown, and ran for another.