Playoff Bound -Robert Volpe

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It has been a most tumultuous season of NFL football this year. Quarterbacks dropped like flies on many teams, including our beloved Denver Broncos.

After suffering a nagging foot injury and sore ribs Peyton Manning threw 5 interceptions against the Chiefs in week 4 of the regular season and was replaced by second string quarterback Brock Osweiler.

Osweiler at times showed signs of brilliance and at times struggled to lead the team consistently through 4 quarters of play. Brock lead the Broncos to 4 wins in the 6 games he started. It wasn’t always pretty but the team scratched and clawed its way along to stay in playoff contention. The NFL leading Denver defense kept the team in every game.

So how did the Broncos ultimately get to be the number 1 seed in the AFC and clinch home field advantage throughout the playoffs? It wasn’t easy and it took some help from other teams to do it.

With two games left to play the Broncos faced off against the Cincinnati Bengals who held the number 2 seed behind the number 1 seed New England Patriots. It wasn’t a must win but a loss would knock the Broncos from the number three seed to number 6 if the Chiefs won, which they did. Denver prevailed against the Bengals and slipped into the number 2 seed.

The Kansas City Chiefs went on a 9 game winning streak and kept hanging around threatening to steal the AFC West championship. Having beat the Broncos in the debacle of week 4 the Chiefs held the tie breaker if both teams finished the season with the same winning record. If the Broncos lost to the Chargers in the last game of the season, the Chiefs would win the AFC West and knock the Broncos down to the 6th seed.

To add to the drama, the Broncos beat New England during the regular season which gave Denver the tie breaker if both teams finished with identical winning records. In order for the Broncos to capture the number 1 seed the Patriots had to lose to the Miami Dolphins in their last regular season game. Miami sent the Broncos a nice Christmas gift by upsetting the Patriots 20-10.

It all came down to the final game of the season to sort out who gets what for the AFC Playoffs. The Bronco/Charger game held the fate of Kansas City, New England, Cincinnati and Denver.

With the Dolphins beating the Patriots and the Chiefs beating the Raiders, the Broncos had to beat the Chargers or they would be knocked down to the number 6 and a wildcard seed.

The Chargers Wouldn’t Go Quietly

The Broncos had a serious string of bad luck Sunday that resulted in 5 turnovers against the Chargers. Osweiler threw 2 picks and lost one fumble, Anderson lost a fumble and Emmanuel Sanders had a ball taken out of his hands after a nice catch and run. After the 5th turnover coach Kubiak elected to pull Brock and put the old man in the game.

When Manning trotted out onto the field the fans went nuts. His return sparked the team into high gear and they took control of the game from that point on.

Manning threw 5/9 for 69 yards, but the run game exploded. Ronnie Hillman ended up with 117 yards on 15 carries and 1 TD. Anderson racked up 95 yards on 15 carries and 1 TD. The Broncos chalked up over 500 yards of offense in the win.

The Broncos ended the regular season last Sunday with a win over the San Diego Chargers 20-27, beat the odds and claimed the number 1 seed in the AFC.

The Playoff picture as it stands right now is:
Next week the Chiefs will travel to Houston to play the Texans and Cincinnati will host the Steelers for Wildcard Weekend. The lowest winning seed of those games will travel to Denver to play the Broncos, the highest seed winner will travel to New England to play the Patriots.

After that the winner of those two games go on to the Division Championship game in a yet to be determined location.