It's been a while since the Broncos were in a big game. Some would say they haven't since they were in Super Bowl 50. A more measured take would skip ahead some months to the 2016 campaign when Denver opened the season 4-0 and were involved in a multiple marquee matchups before spiraling down the stretch.
But the point still stands, and it's not lost on the best player from those teams. Von Miller, in the midst of yet another comeback year, knows Sunday's showdown with the 2-1 Ravens carries more weight than Denver's first three contests against the Giants, Jaguars and Jets.
"It's really like a playoff game early in the season," Miller told reporters Thursday. "A lot of these guys haven't even played in a playoff game before. That's kind of been my message to these guys."
The Broncos find themselves in a lot of new conversations these days. They're one of just five teams still unbeaten after only three games. They've also allowed the fewest points in the league (26) and are tied for the biggest scoring margin (50). The caveat, and it's a big one, is that their opponents are a combined 0-9 on the season.
No team was more dominant than Denver in September. October, which also includes games against Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Cleveland and Washington, will reveal whether the Broncos are for real. The gauntlet begins Sunday in Denver, with its top-ranked defense taking on the biggest offensive outlier in the NFL.
"This is time for us to show what we've got against a worthy opponent," Miller said. "They're a unique team. They have a unique style. A very effective style. But it is unique and it's led by Lamar Jackson."
Week 4 will mark the first meeting between Baltimore's former league MVP and Denver's former Super Bowl MVP. It's the kind of battle both are very familiar with. How Miller's teammates handle this unfamiliar stage, though, could determine how often they return to it.