I'm an absolute wreck. A shell of my former self. I feel like I've died several times in the past week, only to come around to the idea that I'm just barely alive.
According to the media, there is no way the Denver Broncos advance to Super Bowl XL. There is no chance the Broncos are able to stop the Pittsburgh juggernaut, which is only the greatest team ever assembled.
There are a few things in this world I know for a fact to be true. 1) Ben Folds' Songs for Silverman and Rockin' The Suburbs are two of the most well-written, best-conceived albums on the planet. 2) After my car's engine blew up on my way to the mountains for New Years Eve, I will never buy another GM vehicle (people wonder why GM is thisclose to bankruptcy, and I point to my constant problems with their vehicles and their God-awful customer service. Seriously, wanna stay in business? Build a good product and if something does go wrong, FIX IT. Now I'm getting mad. Back to the column). 3) Myself and romantic relationships go together like oil and water. 4) You cannot, under any circumstances, win three-straight emotionally charged games, on the road, against superior opponents. You can't.
The Steelers are a very, very good football team, and this will be a tight match up that will probably end with no more than a seven-point difference in the score. But there is no denying that they got some breaks on the way. They grabbed an early lead against Cincinnati, then knocked out the most important player on the Bengals' squad on their second offensive play from scrimmage, leading to an encore presentation of the Jon Kitna show.
(The amazing thing about Carson Palmer being knocked out? That absolutely nobody that roots for the Steelers believes that he would have made the slightest difference in that game. Odd, especially considering that Pittsburgh fans feel they were robbed of a 13-3 record by Turnover Tommy Maddox, who is in fact better than Kitna. I'm gonna buy some of that "reality" stuff on eBay and send it to our friends in the Steel City.)
Now everyone points to the game against Indianapolis, but the fact is that Indy was dying to give that game away. Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy are terrible in big games (and that's why I love gambling against them in the playoffs), and seem to make each other worse in important contests. Plus, the fact remains that good teams would not have let the game come down to that interception/non-interception call by the refs. Was that the worst call I've ever seen? It was damn close. BUT, the Steelers scored precisely ZERO points in the fourth quarter, when they should have been putting the game out of reach and ensuring a ticket to Denver. They didn't. They got by. They did the bare minimum.
If anyone knows about the bare minimum, it's me. I coasted through high school and college, barely doing enough to get by. Kinda like the Steelers. But honestly, is anyone expecting me to go into a hostile environment, in the toughest conditions imaginable, where I can't hear or think or breathe, and try to earn a trip to the Super Bowl? Of course not. I'd probably ask for a blanket, a hot dog and a seat on the bench.
While Pittsburgh was playing patty-cake in a dome, your own Denver Broncos were cleaning up, knocking out the two-time defending World Champs because of the crowd noise, the altitude, and the dedication to be a very special football team. They did everything they needed to do, forcing turnovers, scoring points, and doing what everyone thought was impossible: making Tom Brady look human. The Denver Broncos are an excellent football team. They won eight of nine down the stretch. They rolled the Patriots by 14. Yet no one believes.
Don't kid yourself. The Steelers looked great at the end of the season, even getting a few helping hands from AFC West opponents, when San Diego blew a game at home against Miami and Kansas City forgot how to tackle, or didn't feel like tackling Tiki Barber in the Meadowlands. But this "team of destiny" thing is nonsense. Don't get sucked in.
Denver will advance to the Super Bowl, where they'll face the Seattle Seahawks in an old-fashioned AFC West match up.
It's time for the Broncos to show what they're made of, and to expose the Steelers for what they are: pretenders.
Sam DeWitt is a sportswriter living in Denver with his dog, Bailey. He spends his time commuting between his home and his favorite coffee shops in Cherry Creek and Lowry. He can be reached via email at BUMoose@gmail.com or on his Scout.com handle, TheRealMoose.
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