It's the kind of news the rest of the NFL would rather not hear.
Already boasting a quarterback destined for the Hall of Fame, the league's top running back and a dynamic young coach, the Denver Broncos are starting to carry the swagger befitting a Super Bowl champion.
"The whole attitude is different than any attitude I've seen before," Broncos owner Pat Bowlen said as he evaluated his team's 6-0 start. "I sort of saw this going into the playoffs last year. I've seen this with other teams -- the Cowboys, 49ers. They have an attitude ... and it's not a braggadocio thing so much as, 'Hey, we're going to win.'"
The Broncos, who have a bye this week before their Oct. 25 game against Jacksonville (5-0), have not lost since Dec. 15 at San Francisco, reeling off 11 straight victories that include three playoff games and the Super Bowl.
While Denver's perfect start is not surprising, there is an element of intrigue to the unblemished six weeks.
With John Elway sidelined by a strained right hamstring and a sore lower back, veteran backup Bubby Brister led the Broncos to victories over Oakland, Washington and Philadelphia. Brister got plenty of support from Terrell Davis, who is on pace to run for 2,307 yards despite preseason changes along the offensive line.
"We were hoping to be there," Elway said. "We just took it one week at a time, and Bubby stepped in and did a great job, and we've had other guys step in and do a great job. I think the best thing about this team is the depth that we do have."
Bowlen passes all the credit to Mike Shanahan, whom he rewarded in August with a seven-year contract that includes a clause ensuring Shanahan's salary always will be among the NFL's five highest for coaches.
can guarantee you, whatever happens, Mike will have a plan that could be a solution, because he's already thought that far ahead," Bowlen said. "If we lose Elway, we're going to be OK. Are we as good of a football team? Probably not. But are we good enough to win? Yeah. We've showed that."
John Elway and Mike Shanahan have taken the Broncos to new heights. (AP)
Shanahan has surrounded Elway with an array of talent that starts with Davis and extends to wideouts Ed McCaffrey and Rod Smith. Just for good measure, perennial Pro Bowl tight end Shannon Sharpe continues to torment linebackers who try to cover him in the secondary.
Trying to focus on one player is like keeping tabs on the blades of a ceiling fan.
"This team is a heavyweight fighter and we come at you with different combinations every single game," linebacker Glenn Cadrez said. "Imagine you're a middle linebacker. Who are you going to key on? Terrell? Here comes Shannon. Here comes Rod. Oh, and don't forget John, the 38-year-old miracle man. It's intimidating."
Though not as prolific, Denver also has developed a dependable defense. The Broncos have forced nine turnovers, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns and one by Cadrez that deflated Seattle last week.
More help is on the way: Denver is expecting defensive end Alfred Williams back for the Jacksonville game. Williams, an All-Pro selection in 1996, has 21.5 sacks over the past two seasons, but has noplayed this year because of off-season surgery to repair a torn triceps muscle.
The bye week gives Williams, Elway and several other starters more time to get healthy. Linebacker John Mobley is nursing a strained right hamstring and offensive lineman Tony Jones sprained his ankle last week at Seattle.
The injuries have helped the Broncos keep things in perspective as pundits begin talking about Denver joining the 1972 Miami Dolphins (14-0) as the only teams to finish the season perfect.
"You get all this talk about being 16-0. If that happens, it happens, but to me it's just nonsense," Bowlen said. "To me, the only thing that matters is to be 4-0 or 3-0 in the postseason. That's the number that counts."
The Broncos, who won four postseason games en route to the Lombardi Trophy last year, never have gone 7-0 to start the season. They were 6-0 last year before a 28-25 loss at Oakland.
"I go into every game with high anxiety," Bowlen said. "It hasn't got that good where I'm sauntering into the stadium thinking, 'Oh, this is another ho-hum game.' I think that this might be the best team in football, but there's a long way to go."
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