The Denver Broncos tied for the best record in the NFL and, understandably, are the favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl in February.

Just as understandably, nobody is guaranteeing that Peyton Manning and his record-breaking teammates will make it to the Meadowlands. They were in the same position a year ago … and it was the first team in their way, the Baltimore Ravens, wild-card weekend survivors, who took them out in the divisional round in Denver 38-35 in double overtime, and won the Lombardi Trophy instead.

So, of course, history could repeat itself. Of the three teams the Broncos could face in their first playoff game—Indianapolis, San Diego and Kansas City—the first two already have beaten them, and the third, while losing to them twice, was no pushover.

All three share similarities with last year’s Ravens teams, strengths that benefit them and the ability to capitalize on possible Broncos’ weaknesses. The Broncos have a suspect and shorthanded defense, questionable special teams, and Manning’s history of underwhelming postseason performances.

More important, if the Colts, Chargers or Chiefs have an opportunity to make one play late in the game to pull the upset, their quarterbacks are more than up to the task. The Ravens’ Joe Flacco was up to it last January, when he hit Jacoby Jones on the 70-yard bomb with 31 seconds left in regulation and forced overtime.

Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers and Alex Smith could see themselves in the same spot. Luck and Rivers handed the Broncos two of their three regular-season losses. In Indianapolis in October, Luck threw for three touchdowns, ran for another and generated 257 of the Colts’ 334 yards in their 38-33 win, the gem of their regular-season resume.