Denver Broncos win AFC West for second time in a row


The Denver Broncos backed into the AFC West title last season while on a three-game losing streak. They didn't back in this time.

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The Broncos won their seventh consecutive game Sunday, overcoming a slow start in a 31-23 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to again claim the AFC West. The Broncos have won the division in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1986 and '87.

The 2-3 start and that ugly Monday night in Atlanta now are distant memories. The 9-3 Broncos remain in contention for the top seed in the AFC playoffs, two games behind the 11-1 Houston Texans. The New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens (both 9-3) also are in the hunt.

This was a game the Bucs actually led 10-7 entering the second half. That's when the Broncos took over, turning a close contest into a blowout with 21 unanswered points in the third quarter. The Bucs added some points late, but this was decided when Von Miller -- a serious contender for NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors -- picked off a Josh Freeman pass and returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.

"The hype these guys get, it's well-deserved," Freeman said, via The Associated Press. "They get after it."

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Peyton Manning threw three more touchdown passes, giving him 29 in 12 games. As he seems to do every week,  Manning made history Sunday. His 28th TD pass set a new Broncos single-season record, breaking a mark previously shared by John Elway and Jake Plummer. Manning now has thrown for at least three touchdowns in seven games this season.

The Broncos just seem to be a cut above most teams right now. If they can secure a bye and have their January opponents come to Denver, look out.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @DanHanzus.