Because the Broncos will either play the Ravens, Bengals or Colts, and all of their playoff games will be at home. However, it's going to take a good game from the Broncos to get to the AFC Championship game, even if they are considered locks to win their first playoff game.
Cincinnati has won six of seven (and three straight), Baltimore won the AFC North and the Colts are 11-5. Even though Indy specialized in winning close games against poor teams with an easy schedule, they are talented, and they closed the season with momentum after a win over Houston.
The Broncos beat the Bengals and Ravens, both on the road, by eight and 17 points. Peyton Manning was intercepted twice against the Bengals, but one was a bonehead play and one was a play that wouldn't happen again. There were tons of mistakes on Denver's part, and Cincinnati did well.
While the Bengals would challenge Denver, the Bengals have played every week since November 4 and might be tired against Denver in the altitude, against an energized team.
Baltimore's defense, especially the run defense, has been horrible. If Denver can establish the run and open up passing lanes for Manning, or if they can take Ray Rice out of the picture by forcing the Ravens to play from behind, Denver should be alright. They pounded Baltimore on the road, and I would expect the same thing again.
It would be very interesting to watch a Broncos-Colts game, with Manning looking to beat his former team. Indianapolis has the league's 26th-best defense, and they haven't faced good offenses. Luck is interception-prone, and it's likely that he will try and do too much when playing from behind.
Denver seems to match up well with all three teams, but we have seen upsets before. Baltimore is very experienced, Cincinnati has a great defense and is talented and the Colts have potential.
Unfortunately for those teams, none of them stack up to the Broncos.
I attended the Denver-Kansas City game on Sunday and experienced first-hand how loud the crowd was, and how everyone went crazy when seeing the final score of the Colts-Texans game. They were rocking and will be way louder for the playoffs, and the altitude also helps for home-field advantage. But Denver doesn't even need home-field.
Andy Dalton isn't an elite quarterback, but he is good, and A.J Green is a great receiver. However, Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil have been finding the quarterback, and if they and the crowd can rattle Dalton from the start and make him play from behind, the Bengals will be in trouble. But it will take a quick score against a decent Bengal D.
Cincinnati may be seeded sixth, but they won't be easy to beat. It would be a huge upset if Denver lost to Cincinnati, but they can't be taken lightly.
However, John Fox and the veterans have done a great job keeping the team focused, and I think they would handle the Bengals by a good amount.
Baltimore has some extra motivation, considering Ray Lewis, their fiery star middle linebacker, said he is going to retire at the end of the season. However, Baltimore doesn't have a very strong defense, as Lardarius Webb has gone, Terrell Suggs has been horrible and the defense as a unit isn't playing well enough.
Joe Flacco is a strong-armed quarterback who likes to go deep, and he has a good deep target in Torrey Smith. But I think Miller and Dumervil can put and end to that, and I think Denver can harass Flacco, put points up early and cruise.
The Colts are a very young team, and I think this year will just be used as experience for next year. They don't have the talent to get to the Super Bowl, and they don't have a strong enough defense or running game. Luck is also prone to picks, and the pressure of playing from behind in the Mile High (after 14 straight weeks of football) will hurt the team's chances.
Overall, the Broncos are a better football team than all three of these teams.
All three are talented and have some great players, but they don't match up to the Broncos. Factor in the home-field advantage and Denver should feel pretty good about the second round.
But who would they want? They thrashed the Ravens, but Baltimore is motivated and still dangerous with all their talent. They beat the Bengals, but Cincinnati is hot and has a good defense. So, the inexperienced Colts, with their no-name defense and no-name running back, will be the most favorable opponent.
However, the way the Broncos are going right now, it seems like it doesn't matter who the opponent is.
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