The bottom line here, of course, is that somehow the Broncos are now the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoff picture, so they will enjoy a first-round bye week, and then all other playoff games must go through Denver.
It’s a scenario that I honestly didn’t think would become a reality. To have the Texans lose three out of their last four games in order to give up that No. 1 Seed seemed almost impossible, as the Texans, along with the Atlanta Falcons, were at one point one of the elite unbeaten teams in the NFL. Now, both the Texans and Atlanta are hobbling into the playoffs, and I wonder if they will even get through their first opponents.
But enough about those other teams – let’s discuss the Broncos for a moment. While the Chiefs ended their season on Sunday as the worst team in the NFL, the Broncos’ win against such a lousy team was monumental, if you ask me. Yes, Denver’s 38-3 win over the Chiefs was a big deal. It proved that Denver really is a new and improved organization.
Of course the acquisition of Peyton Manning prior to this season has changed the face of the Broncos significantly, but that’s not what I am talking about here. The Broncos are winning the games they are supposed to win, which is something that hasn’t always happened. The Broncos have had a tendency to play down to opponents they should simply beat handily.
A perfect example of this took place exactly one year ago, when the Broncos were again playing the Chiefs at home in the final game of the regular season. I know you can all remember the magic and excitement Tim Tebow brought to the Broncos last year, and despite not being an offensive powerhouse in the NFL, the Broncos were looking to make the playoffs. And to secure a playoff spot, all the Broncos needed to do was win a very winnable game at home. Instead, the Broncos brought a very lackluster performance to their home crowd and lost a yawner of a game 7-3.
Thanks to a Raiders’ loss, the Broncos made the playoffs anyway. The point here is that Denver controlled its destiny to make the playoffs, and yet it couldn’t find a way to do so on their own.
As a longstanding Broncos fan, I believe that’s always been a problem for Denver, and I admit I was nervous last Sunday following the Houston loss. Would Denver blow this opportunity to take the No. 1 Seed by losing to the dismal Chiefs?
As we all know now, not a chance. Denver rolled through Kansas City like they were a college team, and took the No. 1 Seed dominantly and confidently. It was a win that proved to me that Denver is a different organization. Yes, we have Peyton. Yes, we have Elvis Dumervile. Yes, we have Von Miller. Yes, Denver has some of the league’s best players playing well, but the culture with the organization has also changed for the better. Is this new winning culture a result of having so many good players? Or is it a result of Elway, John Fox and Co.’s leadership abilities? Either way, I like what Denver has right now.
Until Sunday, my biggest fear in the playoffs was the possibility of having to play Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. That offense can score some points and score them very, very fast. That’s why securing home-field advantage throughout the playoffs was so important. If Denver must play New England, it’s best to play them in Denver.
A new fear came to the forefront Sunday, though, while watching the rookie rock star Andrew Luck lead his Colts team to a dominant victory of the Texans, although it was hard to decipher whether it’s just that the Texans are just playing really, really bad right now, or if the Colts are playing really, really good.
So now, I don’t know who would be the best team to face in the playoffs. Brady and his offense can score the ball, yet the Patriots defense at times looks to be suspect. Manning, I think, will have a heyday against that secondary.
Manning could have a heyday against the Colts as well but the way that team is playing right now, who knows? Somehow the Colts defense was able to hold Houston to just 16 points on Sunday, while Luck went 14 of 28 for 191 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. The Colts are playing scary football right now, and they are united around coach Chuck Pagano, who was on the sideline for the first time last weekend since he began chemotherapy for leukemia in September.
With Pagano looking healthy and on the sideline, it is clear that Luck and the rest of the Colts want to go far into the postseason, and win for Pagano. You can look at all kinds of stats to judge a team, but when a team rallies around a coach recovering from leukemia, it is immeasurable and that’s why the Colts may now be the team to beat in the playoffs.
This isn’t to say that Denver doesn’t have a chance to make it to the Super Bowl; they still remain a heavy favorite. But the way the Colts are playing, the playoff picture certainly looks more interesting.