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And just like that, the NFL season is over. The Division-rival Kansas City Chiefs hoisted the Lombardi Trophy on Sunday after defeating the San Francisco 49ers 31-20 to win their first Super Bowl since man first walked on the moon in 1969. 

From the moment the Chiefs walked into Empower Field on a Thursday night last October, not only beating the Broncos without Patrick Mahomes for most of the game but thoroughly dominating the home team to a tune of 30-6, the potential of the 2019 Chiefs was never in doubt.

Of course, there are no guarantees in the NFL playoffs. Like any single-elimination tournament format, fortune smiles upon the last team standing. From holding off key injuries, 50/50 calls going one side’s way, and the ball simply bouncing one team’s way, anyone who will tell you there isn’t some randomness and ‘luck’ involved in winning the whole thing doesn’t appreciate the chaos in the machine. Still in the end, Kansas City stands on top as a deserved Super Bowl champion.

With the Chiefs still rostering arguably the most valuable player in the entire league in Mahomes, the best one-two punch in the pass game in Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce, one of the best offensive masterminds in the NFL with the ‘can’t win the big one’ monkey off of his back in Andy Reid, and a defense that was rather underrated and improving as the season went on, this Chiefs team is not going away any time soon. 

Will Mahomes and the Chiefs bring about the next NFL empire? Is there room for hope and rebellion going forward in the AFC West? Here's are five reasons you should keep your chin up. 

Why Kansas City won’t be the ‘next’ New England

The emergence of Mahomes as an elite all-world quarterback is certainly not great news for the Denver Broncos. Of course, it is very Chicken Little to expect Mahomes and the Chiefs to take the baton from the New England Patriots and become the next great NFL dynasty in the NFL. 

In this day and age, it’s easy to get swept away with recency bias while always looking for ‘the next big thing’, but the odds of the Chiefs coming anywhere near what the Patriots have accomplished over the last 20 years is, simply put, extremely and statistically unlikely.

Even if the Chiefs don’t become the next dynasty in the NFL, though, the fact that they have one of the best, toolsiest quarterbacks in the NFL in the 24-year old Mahomes means the road to the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl, is going to be a challenge for the Broncos so long as he sticks in Kansas City. He not only raises the Chiefs’ yearly ceiling, but raises their floor immensely. 

Even if the roster around Mahomes is simply ‘okay’, he can be good enough to make that team a contender. Such is the case in the NFL. From Peyton Manning to John Elway, Broncos Country should be well aware of just how much an elite quarterback can help mask deficiencies on the roster and coaching staff.

Yes, the Chiefs are going to have to pay Mahomes an unfathomable sum of money at some point in the very near future which will completely alter how the team can spend around him. After all, there is no greater advantage under the current Collective Bargaining Agreement than having a viable quarterback under a rookie contract, let alone one that has shown as good as quickly as Mahomes who is the youngest ever to have won an MVP, Super Bowl MVP, and Super Bowl. 

The Chiefs’ won’t fall off the map when Mahomes is taking up nearly 1/3 of their entire cap, but the roster’s overall talent will very likely sag around him once he signs the absolutely gigantic contract he has earned and will be given soon.

Furthermore, it is very unlikely that Reid will stick around for the duration of Mahomes’ career. Of course, anything is possible, but the brilliant West Coast passing game schemer is 61 years of age and has now finally achieved the pinnacle of his career in winning a Super Bowl. 

He could stick around for a good while longer, sure, but it is highly unlikely the NFL sees a Reid-Mahomes head coach/quarterback tandem that stands the test of time and sustaining a shelf life like that of Bill Bellichick and Tom Brady. Maybe the Chiefs find a head coach to replace Reid that is just as good, but the odds of replacing a future Hall-of-Fame coach with another of equal ability again, seems unlikely. Regression to the mean is an eventual inevitability.

Other Great HC/QB Combinations Face Challenges

The history of the Patriots’ dynasty cannot be written without also pointing at the key factor that was the complete and utter incompetence of their AFC East foes in the Buffalo Bills, New York Jets, and Miami Dolphins. These teams undoubtedly played a major role in the era defined by the Patriots. 

Yes, Brady is a Hall-of-Fame QB paired with Bellichick, a Hall-of-Fame coach, but can’t the same be said about the Pittsburgh Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger and both Bill Cowher and Mike Tomlin? Or the New Orleans Saints with Drew Brees and Sean Payton? Or the Seahawks with Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll? These teams undoubtedly won their Division more than they lost, but it wasn’t a cakewalk season-after-season like the Patriots were afforded.

With good organizations that haven’t been afforded elite quarterback play such as the Baltimore Ravens (with Joe Flacco… perhaps reigning MVP Lamar Jackson will flip that script), the yearly jumble that is who is competing and winning the highly contested NFC South, and the Seahawks seeing Division rivals win the NFC in back-to-back seasons, there is hope that even with the Broncos facing the next decade with Mahomes in Kansas City, Denver can build a contender to compete with the Chiefs.

Broncos Have Infrastructure in Place to Rebound Quickly

If there is any team in today’s NFL that could find themselves in a turnaround comparable to the one San Francisco experienced, going from earning the second overall pick to battling for the Super Bowl, the Broncos have to be high on that list. 

There are a multitude of reasons why Denver could wind up one of the biggest bounceback candidates next season. With Vic Fangio and his scheme in place another year, the Broncos will have less of a transition in knowing what kind of players they need and how those players are able to fit and execute the scheme. Schematic continuity on the defense will allow the Broncos to play better on defense earlier in the year than last season.

While the Broncos' offense cannot claim continuity after moving on from Rich Scangarello, it can boast prestige as many teams were hot after the services of Pat Shurmur to be their offensive coordinator, as well as experience as Shurmur has notably found success wherever he has been a coordinator despite less-than-great quarterback talent. 

Being able to maximize the quarterback is something Shurmur has built a reputation on, and that can very likely only spell good things for the Broncos. Having offensive line coach Mike Munchak back for a second season also cannot be overstated for the Broncos’ offense going forward.

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On top of assembling a very good and renowned coaching staff, the Broncos also roster one of the youngest offenses in the NFL. With such key cogs on their rookie contracts such as Phillip Lindsay, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Dalton Risner, and Drew Lock, the potential for the Broncos’ offense is as high as it has been since Manning was under center. 

Furthermore, with Bradley Chubb set to return from an ACL injury, he, along with Von Miller, guarantees at least some ability to win with pass rush along the defensive line. The Broncos haven’t finished above .500 in three consecutive seasons, but the arrow is definitively pointing ‘up’ steaming into the offseason.

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Cap and Capital

Over the past few seasons, the Broncos have assembled one of the better young cores this franchise has seen since the early 2010s thanks in large part to back-to-back solid drafts. Perhaps getting away with signing players with injury concerns such as Wes Welker, Aqib Talib, and even Manning himself and to have them work spectacularly only to see such signings as Bryce Callahan and Ja’Wuan James fail as spectacularly as they did last season can only be seen as payback to the Football Gods. While John Elway's free-agent signings of late have not worked out as they did during the Manning era, things have turned around for the Broncos in terms of attacking the NFL Draft. 

That’s great news for the Broncos entering this offseason as Denver is flush with early draft capital. Currently holding five selections in the top-100 and seven picks in the top-175, if Denver can continue their recent hit rate in the draft that young core will only get better. With this being considered one of the more talented draft classes in a few seasons top to bottom, Denver could walk away with some long-term difference makers.

Before going too far down the rabbit hole of the draft, and despite the Broncos’ recent struggles in free agency, the team is projected to have ample cap room this offseason to be aggressive and make some moves on the open market. Currently projected to have nearly $60 million in cap space, the Broncos can do some finagling with the likes of Flacco and Ronald Leary (and perhaps Todd Davis and Jeff Heuerman) to reach approximately $80 million in cap space this offseason. 

A good chunk of that will go straight to the pocketbook of Justin Simmons when the Broncos either sign or tag him, but Denver can be aggressive to try and close the gap on the Chiefs. The issue is, Denver can’t be short-sighted in doing so.

Building the Broncos

Eventually, the Broncos are going to have to somehow and someway overcome the likes of Mahomes and company, but Elway and company cannot get too fixated on building a team strictly designed to beat the Chiefs. Yes, the Broncos are going to have to surpass the Chiefs if they want to win the AFC West and have realistic hopes for a first-round bye and a shot at the Super Bowl, but in reality, the Broncos’ only face their Division foe twice out of 16 games every season. 

The Broncos should be building a better team within the scope of the entire league, rather than just one that can defeat the Chiefs.

Furthermore, as was revealed after being throttled by Kansas City twice this season, a 30-6 home loss in Week 7 and 23-3 road drubbing in Week 15, the Broncos are probably not simply one fantastic offseason away from dethroning the reigning Super Bowl champions. Denver's interior defensive line is going to be completely reshuffled given the unit is set to lose many key contributors. 

The secondary, specifically at cornerback, is a complete unknown going into next season, the offensive line, while improving, still needs work and growth, and the receiving unit as it currently stands is nowhere near the talent level it needs to be to execute this offense at a high enough level.

Trying to fix every single issue on this roster in just one offseason, even with the resources Denver has, is improbable. Instead, the Broncos should be opportunistic in their approach, assembling the best they can when the opportunity is presented. 

That may mean the offensive line or secondary isn’t addressed as adequately as some will hope because of how available talent on the defensive line or at wide receiver might be, or vise versa. It’s about taking steps forward rather than trying to completely jump Kansas City in one fell swoop. It could happen, but a lot would have to break right for Denver (and wrong for Kansas City).

Rebellions are Built on Hope

The Broncos are going to have a hard time overcoming Mahomes and the Chiefs over the next decade. Nothing is guaranteed, as players can come and go in an instant in the NFL, but even with inevitable roster turnover, changes in coaching staff, and how things evolve rapidly in the landscape of the NFL, as long as Mahomes is in Kansas City, the Chiefs will be a team to be reckoned with in the Division and Conference.

This is not a death sentence for the Broncos as many teams have had incredible quarterbacks as Division rivals and have overcome and defeated them multiple times. Still, the task to win the Super Bowl will be that much harder given how important it is to play at home and earn a first-round bye in the NFL playoffs.

Overall, it likely will come down to the two biggest factors on any team, the head coach and the starting quarterback. The Broncos possess a head coach in Fangio whose upside and ability as the leader in clubhouse is still a relative unknown. 

How great of a head coach Fangio can be will remain a mystery until more data is gathered but early signs are at least promising. Perhaps even more encouraging, the Broncos believe they may have finally found the answer at quarterback in Lock. 

Flashing a live arm, solid athleticism, and a personality that draws in fans and teammates alike, Lock just might have ‘it’. A five-game sample size is not much to draw upon, but the highlights over his brief starting stint were enough to hope on going into next season in the very least.

It won’t be easy for the Broncos to overcome the Kansas City Chiefs going forward, but that doesn’t mean things are hopeless in Dove Valley going forward. With an exciting emerging young core, a quarterback the city and team can believe in, a no-nonsense head coach demanding structure and personal responsibility, a bounty of capital, and just a bit of luck, there is no reason Denver cannot close the gap and rebel against the Chiefs’ hopes of AFC West dominance going forward. 

Sure, it will require an optimistic outlook, but rebellions are built on hope.

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickKendellMHH and @MileHighHuddle