The 1997 Broncos may have been the franchise's first championship team, but it's hard to argue that the 1998 team wasn't the franchise's best — not to mention one of the best in league history.
Just on the sheer strength of that group's record — a 14-2 mark that still stands as the organization's best — and a second consecutive run to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, the '98 Broncos cannot be matched by any other team in franchise history for the caliber of season they achieved.
The '97 team was more balanced, with a defense that ranked sixth in scoring and fifth in yards allowed to go with a top-of-the-pack offense, but the Broncos that followed the next year improved in pretty much every offensive statistic.
It was behind that dominant offense that Denver marched to a second Super Bowl title with little resistance, and it is that offense that CBS Sports’ Bryan DeArdo ranks as the third best Super Bowl offense in history.
"Fresh off the franchise's first-ever Super Bowl win, the '98 Broncos featured an explosive offensive attack led by Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis, who claimed league MVP honors after becoming only the fourth player in history to rush for over 2,000 yards in a season," DeArdo wrote. "Davis set an NFL record for the most yards ever gained by a running back during the regular season and postseason, rushing for 2,476 yards that included 199-, 167- and 102-yard rushing performances during the playoffs."
Though Davis paced the team throughout a historic season, the offense was a balanced and well-oiled machine. Denver ranked second in the league in rushing yards, and they ranked seventh in passing yards. Even with John Elway missing four starts, the Broncos wouldn't slow down with Bubby Brister taking the reins.
"The '98 Broncos' offense included two 1,000-yard receivers in Smith and McCaffrey," DeArdo wrote. "It also featured Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe, who is second in franchise history in career receptions and third in touchdown catches. Denver's offense also boasted a vastly underrated offense line, led by left guard Mark "Stink" Schlereth, center Tom Nalen, left tackle Tony Jones, right guard Dan Neil and right tackle Henry Swyane."
But as good as the Broncos were in the regular season, they were even more dominant in the playoffs. After beating teams in the regular season by an average of 12 points, the Broncos smashed their postseason opponents by an average of three touchdowns, culminating in a 34-19 Super Bowl win over the Falcons.
"In Super Bowl XXXIII, with the Falcons' defense watching Davis' every move, Elway took full advantage, hitting Pro Bowl receiver Rod Smith for an 80-yard touchdown that gave the Broncos a 17-3 second quarter lead," DeArdo wrote. "Elway, who threw for 336 yards in his final NFL game, also rushed for a touchdown while earning MVP honors."
In the years since, it's been hard to top that team's list of accomplishments. In 2019, the 1998 Broncos were ranked the 14th-best team in NFL history as part of a series celebrating the league’s centennial season.
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What will be the toughest four-game stretch of the 2021 season for the Broncos? NFL.com’s Cynthia Frelund says to expect it fairly early in the season, beginning with a Week 4 game against the Ravens. With three AFC North opponents over four games, including two on the road, Frelund has Denver favored only in a matchup with the Raiders in Week 6. Whether the Broncos can come out at .500 or above in that stretch could prove crucial to their playoff hopes.