The Tigers sit safely in mid-table after their 1-0 win over Sunderland on Saturday - but Bruce is still measuring his results against the teams he expects to be competing with towards the business end of the season.
With 14 points from 10 games, they are comfortably better off than their weekend opponents and well ahead of bottom-placed Crystal Palace, who have only one win so far.
"We've got three more points and that is the most important thing because we've now gone 10 points above Sunderland and 11 points above Crystal Palace," Bruce said.
"With a quarter of the season gone, that's huge. We have a big couple of games coming up - Southampton away and Crystal Palace at home - and it's like I've said to the players, the big games for us are the ones who are around us.
"Certainly the likes of Sunderland and Crystal Palace, in my thoughts, will be around us.
"This was a big weekend for us. We were favourites, the first time expectation has really been on us, and we got through in the end."