Denver Broncos: Predictions for All Three Possible Divisional Round Matchups
The Denver Broncos get a few perks after having taken the number one seed in the AFC. Aside from home field advantage in the playoffs and a first round bye, the Broncos are guaranteed to play the lowest winning seed coming out of the wild card round.
Of those three teams Denver has already met two of them in the regular season. Denver defeated Cincinnati 31-23 at Paul Brown Stadium and the Ravens in Baltimore 34-17. If the Broncos play either of these two teams, they'll have the advantage of familiarity and the morale boost of having already won a game against them.
Probably the far more interesting matchup for Denver would be if they were to host the Colts for their first divisional round game. The Broncos have not played against Andrew Luck yet, and you would have the added emotion of Peyton Manning playing against his former team.
The Broncos have not fared well against the Colts in the playoffs in recent years. However those stats will mean next to nothing now that Manning is playing in a Denver uniform. For all intents and purposes these would be two entirely new teams meeting for the first time.
So how could these scenarios play out for the Broncos? Let's get one thing straight: I'd give Denver the edge in any of these three games, so at this point we are looking at specifics. Let's have some fun.
The Bengals have a top-six defense and are number seven when it comes to defending the pass. However Denver's defense has quietly taken the number two overall spot, and is third in the league against the pass.
If this becomes a game of wits at the quarterback position, you would have a hard time not giving the edge to Manning over the talented, yet inexperienced Andy Dalton.
Because of the defensive ability of both teams, I would peg this game as being more of a "nail bitter" than the other two, though look for the Broncos defense to make some big plays here, if and when Dalton makes a mistake.
It will make Denver fans nervous, but this game will not be as close as the score will suggest.
The score of Denver's week 15 game against the Ravens was generous to Baltimore, in that 14 of their 17 points came in the fourth quarter after Denver had essentially closed up shop.
This game was over with Denver leading 31-3 in the third quarter, as they controlled virtually every aspect of play.
Having Ray Lewis back could help, but in a game that was supposed to be one of Denver's last real tests late in the season, the Ravens looked absolutely terrible. At this point, believing things would be drastically different would not make a lot of sense.
Baltimore's defense has had an unusually weak year, and the Broncos defense has been a cut above.
At this point, the Ravens should be Denver's preferred matchup.
As I have already mentioned, a playoff game against the Colts would be a completely new idea for these two teams, and while Luck has had an incredible campaign to go along with a great season for Indianapolis, it is not going to be enough to unseat the Broncos.
While Luck's offense has been the primary focus of their success, the Colts defense has struggled landing 26th in the league overall. While anything can happen in the playoffs, giving them an edge against Denver's top-five passing attack wouldn't be prudent.
Given that this is an interesting matchup, it will not be close. I would suspect that we will be dealing with a higher scoring game with so much talent on each team's offense. Although I do not expect Luck to be able to push through Denver's defense the way Manning will be able to push through the Colts defense.
It might be a bit of a fire fight, but Manning will end his former team's Cinderella season.