'Tis the season to lay it all on the line. Win or go home. That is what the playoffs are all about, right? When the Denver Broncos face the Indianapolis Colts later today, there will be no tomorrow for the loser.
The NFL Divisional Round games on Saturday turned out to be very good and showed us what the Broncos will have waiting for them come next weekend if they can take care of business today. The Carolina Panthers played a strong game against the Seattle Seahawks, only to lose 31-17.
In the AFC game (more importantly to Denver), the New England Patriots came from behind, beating the Baltimore Ravens 35-31 and secured a spot in the AFC Championship game. Baltimore gave the Patriots everything they could handle, and then some, with a chance to go ahead within the final two minutes of the game.
Ultimately, a late interception did Joe Flacco and the Ravens in. There is a lot to take away from this game. For the Broncos, they aren't worried about those insights now because first thing's first. They have to contend with one Andrew Luck
This year, the Broncos come into the Divisional Round a lot healthier than they were a year ago, especially on defense. Von Miller, Derek Wolfe and Rahim Moore were all out at this time last season. Chris Harris, Jr. went on to partially tear his ACL in the Divisional Round vs. the San Diego Chargers.
On offense, Peyton Manning didn’t have his starting left tackle last year, Ryan Clady, but was still able to get the Broncos to move on to the Super Bowl. Danny Trevathan was the major casualty this year, although Brandon Marshall has stepped in and played very well. Marshall might not be 100% today, but he will play.
This season, the Broncos are they only team in the top-5 in total offense and defense. Manning and company ranked No. 4 on offense and the defense ranked No. 3. The Broncos are a complete team and if they can continue that efficiency today, Indianapolis can potentially be in for a long day.
Since these two teams' last meeting back in Week 1 in Denver, the Broncos have redefined themselves on offense. C.J. Anderson has taken the opportunity to be the starter and ran with it, literally. He has rushed for 849 yards and 8 touchdowns, averaging 4.7 YPC. This forces the Colts to dig deeper in their game-planning.
In the Broncos 31-24 Week 1 win, Manning threw for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns (all to Julius Thomas), on 36 passing attempts and the Broncos rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown. Expect less passing attempts this Sunday and for the Broncos to control the clock by having Anderson grind it out between the tackles.
Defensively, expect Jack Del Rio to keep Andrew Luck guessing; calling different blitz packages, having Harris matched up on T.Y. Hilton a majority of the game and unleashing Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware.
Expect Denver to prevail in this matchup and head to New England for the AFC Championship everyone has been waiting for.
Broncos 34 Colts 24