7 Players the Denver Broncos Don't Want to Face in the Playoffs
A free pass to the divisional round of the playoffs doesn't assure victory, however. The Broncos fell to the Baltimore Ravens 38-35 after earning a first-round bye in last year's playoffs.
No team in the NFL is perfect, and Denver is no exception. Here are seven players who could exploit Denver's flaws and help their teams tackle the Broncos.
All stats courtesy of NFL.com.
Julian Edelman, WR, New England Patriots
Julian Edelman tore it up when the Broncos lost to the New England Patriots in Week 12 this year.
The backup receiver played 100 percent like a starter, racking up nine receptions for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
Clearly, Edelman knows how to exploit the Denver defense, so the Broncos best prepare for a potential rematch against the 5'10" receiver.
Ryan Mathews, RB, San Diego Chargers
The Broncos' run defense has been consistently solid this season, although some of this has been due to the fact that opposing teams have needed to pass so much against Denver.
Nonetheless, stats are stats, and Denver allows only 101.6 yards per game, good for seventh-best in the NFL.
San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews, however, has been able to have solid games in both meetings with Denver this season.
Matthews has two touchdowns and 186 yards against the Broncos, and the Chargers will play the Broncos if they beat the Cincinnati Bengals in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs.
Robert Mathis, DE, Indianapolis Colts
Indianapolis Colts defensive end Robert Mathis is the league's sack leader with 19.5, so naturally, he had a strong game when the Colts beat the Broncos this season.
Mathis sacked Manning twice and also forced a fumble. The Broncos have struggled at times this season to keep Manning upright, so a rematch against Mathis would really put the offensive line to the test.
If the Colts beat the Kansas City Chiefs and the Bengals beat the Chargers this weekend, the Broncos will take on the Colts in the divisional round.
Chandler Jones, DE, New England Patriots
New England Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones hasn't had a season to the caliber of that of Robert Mathis, but the second-year pro has put together a very respectable resume.
Jones has 79 tackles and 11.5 sacks this season, and at 6'5", 265 pounds, he's very physically imposing.
When you combine Jones' speed with his size and natural athleticism, he could very well be an X-factor for the Patriots this postseason. The Denver offensive line could struggle with Jones if the Broncos play the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
Jamaal Charles, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles didn't have his best games of the season against the Broncos, yet the superstar running back is always a matchup nightmare for any opponent.
Charles had a stellar season, rushing for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns and catching 70 balls for 693 yards and seven more touchdowns.
Given that the Chiefs have lost to Denver twice already this year, many people may be discounting them as a threat to the Broncos. It's never wise, however, to disregard a division foe.
If the Chiefs beat the Colts this weekend and the Bengals top the Chargers, the Broncos will see the Chiefs in Denver for a third showdown of the season.
LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
Does any team want to face LeSean "Shady" McCoy?
The answer is obviously no, and the Broncos are no exception.
McCoy has been superb all season, racking up 1,607 yards on the ground en route to becoming the league's top rusher of 2013.
McCoy is the rock of the Philadelphia Eagles offense, and while the unit hasn't been consistent this season, it is entering the postseason rife with confidence and momentum.
As we have seen in recent history, (cough, cough Baltimore Ravens) the Super Bowl winner is not always the team with a great regular-season record.
If the Broncos and the Eagles square off in the Super Bowl, you can bet your money that Shady will be a handful for the Denver defense.
Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
Should the Broncos and the New England Patriots meet in the AFC Championship Game, it would truly be one for the ages. Not only will the two top-ranked teams in the AFC be fighting for a Super Bowl bid in Denver, but it will be yet another edition of Brady vs. Manning.
Brady seems to be Manning's kryptonite; his Patriots have won 10 of the 14 meetings between the two quarterbacks, including both of the games since Manning has been with the Denver Broncos.
Brady is certainly at his best at home in Gillette Stadium, where he is 7-2 against Manning, yet if the two meet this postseason, the game would be played on Manning's turf in Denver.
All in all, this game would be amazing for NFL fans across the globe, yet the Broncos are hoping to face a less daunting quarterback should they make it to the AFC Championship Game.
Andy Dalton, anybody?