After 17 long weeks, the postseason is finally amongst us. All four Wild Card matchups seem promising, but the one matchup that has everyone abuzz would be between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Denver Broncos.
I know that many people will think I’m crazy for even suggesting that the Broncos will do the unthinkable and upset the heavily favored Steelers, but stranger things have happened.
It is hard to imagine Denver coming out of Sunday’s game victorious, but in all seriousness, Denver has beaten the odds more than once this season, and I see no reason why they cannot do it once more.
The Broncos started off the season with a dismal record of 1-4, and the team was in such disarray that head coach John Fox decided to bench QB Kyle Orton in favor of Tim Tebow. Early on the switch proved to be genius, Tebow Mania ensued and the Broncos went 7-1 over their next eight games with one last-minute victory after another.
Lately, though, the magic has started to wear off, as the Broncos ended up losing their final three games, backing into the playoffs with a record of 8-8. Luckily for Denver, the Raiders ended up losing to the Chargers the final week of the season, and the Broncos held the tiebreaker over both Oakland and San Diego to win the AFC West and earn the fourth seed in the playoffs.
The Broncos have looked terrible as of late, mostly because of the poor quarterback play by Tim Tebow. During Denver’s three-game losing streak, Tebow has turned the ball over far too many times.
Back when the Broncos were on their magical run in the middle of the season, turnovers were at a minimum, and Tebow was successful in leading late-game heroics because he kept possession of the football.
Who will Win this Matchup?
In order for the Broncos to be successful against the Pittsburgh Steelers, they must first keep possession of the ball because turnovers have killed Denver towards the end of the season.
This will be a huge challenge for Tebow and the Broncos because Pittsburgh, once again, has the top-ranked defense in the league. The Steelers lead the league in averaging opponents to 14.2 points per game, 171.9 yards passing per game and 271.8 total yards allowed per game.
These statistics seem troubling for Denver, but passing has not been a strong suit for Tebow and the Broncos thus far this season. Denver has relied heavily on its rushing attack, in which they lead the league, averaging 164.5 yards per game.
This game plan has been very effective for Denver throughout the season as it has allowed the pressure to be taken off Tebow. This has allowed Tebow, who is a very dangerous runner, to make plays with his feet instead of his arm.
However, the pressure has gotten extreme recently due to Tebow’s poor play and Denver’s three-game losing streak. In order for Denver to move the ball efficiently against the Steelers, they must have an element of surprise and allow Tebow to throw the ball downfield as compared to running the ball every single down.
Pittsburgh is well aware of Denver’s rushing attack, and they understand that if they stop the run they will end up victorious.
Something tells me that is not going to be the case on Sunday, as Denver will come out with formations and plays that the Steelers have not studied nor seen before. John Fox will come out with some trick plays to fool the Steelers defense and get them guessing, which will play right into Tebow’s hands.
The Steelers do not have only Tebow to worry about, either, considering that their star QB, Ben Roethlisberger, has been hurt the past few weeks with a bad ankle. In Roethlisberger’s last two starts against San Francisco and Cleveland, he threw for a total of 551 yards but he also threw three interceptions and was sacked five times.
The Steelers will also be without two starting players in running back Rashard Mendenhall and safety Ryan Clark. Both players have accounted for huge production throughout the season, with Mendenhall rushing for 928 yards and nine touchdowns while Clark leads the team with 71 total tackles.
Pittsburgh has problems of their own that need to be addressed, and I do not see them moving the ball effectively against the Broncos defense. Roethlisberger is not the same QB with that bad ankle because he cannot move around and get outside of the pocket which is the key to Big Ben’s success.
Denver’s defense will keep the Broncos in this game, and I believe that Tebow Magic will be back after taking a three-week hiatus. The game should be low scoring and in the final minutes, Tebow will do what he does best and find a way to win with another last minute, come-from-behind victory over the Steelers.