Whether you like them or not, the Broncos represent the AFC's best chance in the Super Bowl because the rest of the conference is in such a mess. The Bills, practically everyone's preseason Super Bowl choice, have gone into a funk, losing four of their last six games. When the Bills' defense has the emotional burners turned up, they can beat anybody. But where has the intensity been for the last month and a half? The Dolphins are tied with Buffalo at 8-6 for the AFC East lead, but they seem capable of losing to anyone. The Oilers are 9-5 and are sprinting away from the AFC Central, but they're a dumb team that the Browns beat with a high school bag of tricks. The Browns (7-6-1) can't find an offense—or a win. The Bengals are 7-7 and fading, with four losses in their last six games. The Steelers are still in it at 7-7. In the AFC West, the Raiders are 8-6 with two games left on the road, where they're 1-5 this year, and the Chiefs are 7-6-1.
Now, there's an interesting team. Killer defense. The Chiefs gave Green Bay quarterback Don Majkowski all sorts of misery in their 21-3 win over the Packers on Sunday. He was reduced to a three-step drop toward the end of that game, and K.C. was still getting two and three guys in his face. The Chiefs barely lost to Denver 16-13, on Nov. 12. Since then they've been on a roll, going 3-0-1 and allowing 34 points total.
Yep, in the cold weather ahead a defensive team like the Chiefs could make a lot of people nervous. But they have to get into the playoffs first. And their last two games are against San Diego at home and Miami on the road.
So right now the Broncos are the AFC's hope. And Denver owner Pat Bowlen is ready for the challenge. "I'd feel a lot more confident going into the Super Bowl with this team," he says, "than I did in the last two."