Two games, regular season games, left. Two very beatable teams. Both games are at home. Both games, ironically, will play a huge factors in how far the Denver Broncos will go into the post season.
The two home games against the Cleveland Browns and the Kansas City Chiefs are two of the most important games the Broncos will play this season. No resting Peyton Manning while we wait for the playoffs to begin. No boring 7-3 loss on the final game against Kansas City. We must have perfection now, if Denver is going to have perfection in the playoffs.
The only reason I really say this, other than I’d like the Broncos to rack up two more wins, is that I have the playoff game against the New England Patriots on my mind.
Of all the really, really good American Football Conference teams that will more than likely be making a run in the playoffs, it’s Pretty Boy Tom Brady and Scrubby Bill Belichick I fear the most. And it’s not that I fear the Patriots so much as I really don’t want Denver to have to go to Foxborough.
As it stands, the Houston Texans with a record of 12-2 have the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs, and our Denver Broncos are holding on to the No. 2 spot. Of course, we would all like the Broncos to have the No. 1 spot, but the only way for that to happen is if the Broncos win out and the Texans lose both of their final games against Minnesota and the Colts. It could happen, and it would be awesome if it did.
To hold onto its No. 2 seed, the 11-3 Broncos must win their final two games. If not, the Patriots at 10-4 Patriots could steal the No. 2 spot with wins against Jacksonville and Miami – two teams New England should have no trouble with.
Besides the Broncos, the Patriots are the most impressive team in the AFC right now. Yes, Houston has a better record, but I would imagine if you asked any coach right now who they would rather face in the AFC Championship game, most would say the Texans. Besides the fact that Houston was completely dismantled two weeks ago by the Patriots 42-14, it feels as if the Texans really haven’t proven that they are true Super Bowl contenders this year. They seem beatable.
Brady and the Patriots are better. Brady, as usual, can put up points and put them up fast. And what seemed to be a huge weakness in the early part of the season, the Patriots defense has improved steadily over the year, making them a damn good, well-rounded team.
The Patriots’ 41-34 loss on Sunday night to the 49ers should have put me at ease. Yes, they lost a game at home to a schizophrenic team that can be good one week and mediocre the next, but it was the way that the Patriots offense came back in that game that gives me some pause. In what looked like a complete 31-3 blowout in at half time, Brady brought the team back to tie the game in the second half. It was an impressive comeback that finally ended when Michael Crabtree broke a tackle and ran a modest reception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The lesson Sunday night is that Brady can put up some points and put them up very, very quickly. The other lesson, however, is that even though the Patriots’ defense has improved, there are still weaknesses that a good offense can exploit.
There’s no question that the Denver Broncos are a better team than they were at the beginning of the season. As any coach can only hope for, the Broncos have continued to improve every week. Yes, the Broncos had a rough start to a very tough first-half of the season, with losses to Houston, Atlanta and New England, but there’s no doubt that it’s the same team on the field now as it was then.
The Broncos proved last Sunday that they are an elite AFC team, if not the elite AFC team right now, when they went into Baltimore and trounced the Ravens 34-17. Even though the Ravens are a bit hobbled, the win was huge for Denver. It was the Broncos’ ninth straight win, and it contained everything positive you’d like to see in a team preparing for the playoffs. Running back Knowshon Moreno is starting to prove that he’s for real, running for 118 yards in Sunday’s game. Peyton’s passing was flawless and the defense was nearly perfect. For the Broncos to win and win in that impressive of a fashion in Baltimore was a huge. It proved that the Broncos really do control their destiny. Not in the sense that if they win the last two games they will hold on to the No. 2 seed, but rather that if they play near-perfection football, they can beat anyone.
Nobody wants to play against that speedy and suffocating defense. Nobody wants to get picked apart by the meticulous Manning. And no team wants to face the Broncos in Denver – especially not in the playoffs.
So that’s why it’s so important that the team keeps its focus on very important tasks at hand right now. Cleveland this week. Kansas City next week. And if Denver can do that, the Broncos will have the Patriots right where they want them: at Mile High.
“We all know what's ahead of us when we get to the playoffs, but at the same time, we have two big games coming up,” Broncos linebacker Keith Brooking told The Denver Post. We've got to worry about that first and foremost."
I have butterflies in my stomach already.