September 23, 2013 Updated: September 24, 2013 at 1:37 pm
DENVER - It's OK. You have my permission to envision a Broncos journey to the Super Bowl and men and women dancing in the streets in celebration as a state rejoices after a brutal year of fires and floods.
Yes, I realize the season is young, but the Broncos are clearly the class of the AFC and Peyton Manning currently throws the football as well as anyone has ever thrown the football.
On the Broncos' first drive, Manning looked downfield and saw Demaryius Thomas surrounded by two Raiders. Didn't matter. Manning lofted a virtually perfect pass into Thomas' arms at Oakland's 4-yard line. The Broncos scored two plays later, and the rout was on.
Manning was close to his best at times last season, but never quite reached his pinnacle. He's now the same Manning who dominated the NFL from 2004-2010. A tattered offensive line and a mediocre rushing attack have done nothing to slow the Broncos, who are a threat to score 50 any time Manning steps on the field.
Champ Bailey watched from the sideline for the third straight game. This bothered him, but his injury has given Champ a chance to closely examine Manning.
"I'm not wow about how he puts it in there on any one throw," Bailey said in a surprisingly quiet Broncos locker room, "I'm wow about how consistent he is. I've seen quarterbacks make great throws, and he's one of them, but not on a consistent basis like he does. That's what's impressive."
Who can stop Manning and his Broncos? I don't see anyone in the AFC. The Patriots have won 25 regular-season games in the past two seasons and have rolled to a 3-0 record, but the Tom Brady-led offense is a shadow of the franchise's glory days. The Patriots have scored 59 points this season. The Broncos have scored 127.
The Chiefs have shown a remarkable revival under the direction of Andy Reid and boast a properly violent defense that has allowed only 34 points, but no serious NFL observer can believe the team can jump from a 2-14 record in 2012 to the Super Bowl in 2013.
Not far down the road, talking about the Patriots and Chiefs will end and the hitting will begin. The Broncos travel to New England and Kansas City on consecutive weeks, Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, in what appear to be the season's biggest roadblocks.
The 2013 Broncos have scored 127 points and defeated opponents by an average of 18 points.
They dropped 37 on the Raiders. They could have dropped many more.
"It's not easy to score 37 points in this league," said tight end Julius Thomas, "but we can still be better. We left a lot out there."
He's right. The Broncos are hovering above the rest of the AFC, and you get the feeling the team has yet to hit full stride.
Remember, Bailey and Von Miller, the team's defensive stars, have yet to play a down this season.
How powerful will these Broncos become when Bailey and Miller join the defense?
Bailey smiled at the question. It's a smile any Broncos fan can understand.
"We'll see," he said. "We'll find out soon."
And so will the rest of the AFC.