If the Denver Broncos manage to not shoot themselves in the foot this Sunday they'll be heading into their first playoff appearance since 2006.
The road to Indianapolis is different for every team. It seems that Denver's road may be the toughest.
They'll have the luxury of hosting one game during the wild card round if they seal up the division this week.
But after that, they'll most likely be playing on the road the next week if they're not all sitting at home.
Believe it or not, there are some favorable matchups for Denver in these 2011 playoffs if they manage to get them.
Pittsburgh, Not Baltimore, is Denver's Best Wild Card Matchup
If the playoffs started today, the Pittsburgh Steelers would be traveling to Denver for the first week.
No team facing Denver is a great matchup for the Broncos. Simply put, the Broncos appear to be the weakest team in the playoffs for either conference.
But if I were to pick one team for Denver to play at home, it would be the Steelers.
Watching the Steelers get beaten by the San Francisco 49ers was a good indication for Denver.
Denver isn't nearly as potent as the 49ers as far as defense goes, but there are some similarities.
San Francisco boasts a tremendous run defense and didn't allow a rushing touchdown in 2011 until Marshawn Lynch ruined their streak just last week.
Denver's strength is in their rush defense—unless of course C.J. Spiller is playing against them.
What interested me the most during the San Fran-Pittsburgh matchup was Alex Smith.
Smith played the role of game manager for the 49ers.
He handed the ball off to Frank Gore and allowed San Fran to control the clock.
Of course, Smith does possess far greater skills passing the ball than Denver's Tim Tebow. He was able to get the ball down field when necessary to keep the chains moving—something Tebow will need to improve on immediately if Denver wants a chance in this game.
The one thing that does look promising if Denver has to take the field against Baltimore instead of the Steelers is the Ravens' lackluster play against weaker teams.
Baltimore beats good and great teams, and loses to bad ones.
I would count on the decent matchups Denver has against Pittsburgh before I would count on the chances of the Ravens' dropping another one to a lesser team.
And let's not forget Big Ben Roethlisberger has a bit of a limp right now. That may work in Denver's favor in a couple of weeks.
Do Some Praying (or Tebowing) for the Sixth Seed to Knock Off the Texans
Denver would be grateful if they don't have to travel into New England in January.
Houston is getting flat-out knocked around right now.
They've lost Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart, and are losing games efficiently with T.J. Yates.
Andre Johnson has been off the field for longer than I or my last place fantasy football team can remember.
Arian Foster and Ben Tate are Houston's only saving grace, but they can't win games all by themselves—which has been proved the last two weeks.
This is where the sixth seed comes in.
The Bengals look like a lock for the seed, and look like a lock to take Houston out of their first playoff appearance in franchise history.
But at this point, it wouldn't be far-fetched to imagine either the Titans or Raiders getting the job done either. Both teams have limped through the second half of the season, but both seem to be more potent than the Texans right now.
Time for Baltimore to Fall Victim to the Tebow Trap
Trap games don't really exist in the playoffs. But one could make a cameo this year.
As stated earlier, the Ravens seem to drop games that they really shouldn't.
A divisional round matchup with the Denver Broncos could be another one of those games.
And let's face it, playing the Ravens looks a lot better than playing the Patriots again.
Coming off of a first-round bye, the Ravens will be rested and ready to take on all comers. The Broncos would need to play the same type of defense they played during their six-game win streak in order to take out this juggernaut and Super Bowl-favorite.
Broncos Need a Lot of Help to Reach Indianapolis
Enter the sixth seed again.
This cannot be stressed enough. The Broncos can not travel to New England if they plan on playing in Indy in February.
The stats were flying through in favor of the Broncos before their matchup with the Patriots two weeks ago.
Tom Brady was 1-5 against the Broncos in his career entering this game.
And in true Brady fashion, he showed the world that these are not the same Broncos that he had struggled against in the past.
Sure, anything can happen. It's not referred to as "any given Sunday" for no reason.
But it's so hard to believe that Denver could enter a game with the Patriots—an AFC title game—in January, with a playoff-rookie quarterback and expect to keep their season rolling.
Denver needs the sixth seed to mimic the 2010 Green Bay Packers and knock out the first seed in the divisional round.
With a lot of help from the 2011 AFC playoff class, Denver could host the AFC championship and avoid a second dismantling by Brady and Aaron Hernandez.
The Odds Are Against Them, Just the Way They Like It
As it stands, even if Denver earns their playoff berth, they still appear to be on the outside looking in this year.
They'll require either a whole lot of luck or a decent amount of help in order to make this season one of championship honors.
The good news is that this is exactly how Tebow and company love to be—the underdogs.
Tebow and his band of merry men play best when the cards are against them, and when most hope seems lost.
The playoffs represent the fourth quarter of the season, and it will need to be Tebow Time again in order for Denver to earn a great comeback finish.