Following a 35-21 win over the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos head into November with little doubt that they are AFC’s best.

Manning completed 25-of-35 passes for 287 yards with three touchdowns (all to Emmanuel Sanders) and zero interceptions in the emphatic beatdown of the division-rival Chargers.

Meanwhile, Denver’s defense picked off two Philip Rivers passes and put consistent pressure on the Chargers signal caller throughout the night. Overall, Jack Del Rio’s unit allowed just over 300 yards and forced San Diego into a one-dimensional attack that saw Rivers throw 41 passes out of 58 offensive snaps.

It represented Denver’s fourth consecutive victory, all of which have been by a double-digit margin. Over the course of these four games, John Fox’s team has won by an average of 18.5 points per outing.

Manning added to a season total that has seen him throw 22 touchdowns compared to three interceptions for an utterly ridiculous 119.1 quarterback rating. He connected with Emmanuel Sanders on nine passes for 120 yards and three scores. Meanwhile, Demaryius Thomas put up another 100-plus yard receiving game, bringing his four-game total to 621 yards.

If that wasn’t enough, Manning was not sacked a single time and only hit the turf once in the game. Through seven games, the future Hall of Famer has been sacked a total of eight times. If he continues to get this type of protection moving forward, it’s pretty much over for the rest of the conference.

Heck, even backup running back Ronnie Hillman tallied 109 yards on 20 attempts. Since taking over for an injured Montee Ball back in Week 5, the San Diego State product has put up 393 total yards in four games. This just goes to show us that Manning can help any running back that is in the same backfield with him put up some impressive numbers.

These offensive statistics are one thing. And in reality, they might not mean a whole heck of a lot come the postseason. We saw evidence of this against the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl this past February.

What makes Denver so dangerous right now is its defense.

Including Thursday’s win, the Broncos are yielding an average of 259 total yards per outing in their last four games. Three of those games have come against the likes of the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers and San Diego Chargers, who are a combined 14-7 on the season. That’s mighty impressive.

While some had their reservations over Denver adding veteran free agents on defense this past offseason, the likes of DeMarcus Ware and Aqib Talib have come up big time. Ware has recorded seven sacks in as many games. He joins Von Miller (nine sacks) as the best pass-rushing tandem in the NFL thus far this season. Oh, and Talib has put up double-digit passes defended and ranks among the best cover corners in the league.

This has all led to a defense that came into Week 8 ranked sixth in the league in scoring and fifth in total defense. If this side of the ball keeps playing at such a high level moving forward, there is not a single team that will stop the Broncos from repeating as AFC champions.

And while a lot can change over the final nine weeks of the season, there is little doubt that Manning and Co. are the best team in the conference right now.

Photo: USA Today