The Baltimore Ravens came to play Saturday night, beating the Pittsburgh Steelers 30-17. Pittsburgh missed Le’Veon Bell in a bad way, only able to muster 68 yards on the ground. Baltimore’s defense came up big pulling in 5 sacks, 2 interceptions and a forced fumble and recovery.
Today’s early Wildcard game will consist of the Cincinnati Bengals traveling to take on the Indianapolis Colts. The Bengals will be playing without Pro Bowl wide receiver A.J. Green. Green is still suffering from a concussion he sustained last week in the fourth quarter at Pittsburgh.
Tight end Jermaine Gresham has also been ruled out with a back injury. With Cincinnati not having these frequently used weapons in the lineup, they will be relying on Jeremy Hill to carry a bog load today.
Here is a quick breakdown of how Denver must prepare for Cincinnati and Indianapolis, respectively.
It was only 2 weeks ago that Denver went into Cincinnati and lost 37-28 on Monday Night Football. There is no question the Broncos will be looking for revenge. if these two teams meet up on January 11th. Jeremy Hill torched the Broncos for 147 yards on 22 rushes and a touchdown.
However, 85 of those yards were on one big play. The Bengals change-up running back, Giovani Bernard, also had a good game with 36 rushing yards, but more importantly, he had 5 receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown. It will be critical for Denver to a better job containing these two young running backs.
Although not healthy this week, Gresham had a good game against Denver with 9 receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. This is an area the Broncos have struggled with all year. Jack Del Rio needs to figure out his coverage issues with tight ends, because no matter whom the Broncos face, every team utilizes their tight end in their offense. Some more effectively than others.
Peyton Manning will have to do a better job of protecting the ball, if they draw the Bengals. In week 16 he threw 4 interceptions. Denver can and will score quickly, although with multiple turnovers on offense, it puts Denver’s defense in an awkward situation and will be the cause of a long day. Anything can happen when turnovers are given up.
Indianapolis is another opponent Denver is familiar with. To start off the season Indy came into Denver and lost 31-24. Although Denver won the game, they found out pretty fast what Andrew Luck is capable of, coming close to tying the game up, late in the 4th quarter.
Indianapolis is a very dangerous team and Denver knows it. The Colts are a pass-first offense racking up over 5,000 yards in the air, although as of late, Indy has handed the ball off to Daniel Herron more. Between Herron, and Trent Richardson, the Colts will try and open up their running game. Denver's defense will need to stop the run and make Luck force the ball down-field.
Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware will need to step up and force hurried, rushed throws and get to Luck on every down. This will make life a lot easier on the secondary. The receiving crew of T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne, Coby Fleener, Dwayne Allen, Donte Moncrief and Hakeem Nicks know how to keep the play alive and are a big reason Luck has been so successful.
Specials teams can play a big role in the playoffs and the Colts have an explosive player in Josh Cribbs. He has shown the NFL multiple times that he can change a game in a matter of a single play. Denver’s choice to keep Brandon McManus on the 53-man roster can pay huge dividends if Denver plays Indy, although on punt coverage, Britton Colquitt will need to be aware of Cribbs.
Regardless of whom Denver plays next week, Broncos Country believes they'll be ready.