By Rich Kurtzman
The Broncos worked and won their way into the No. 1 seed in the AFC, it’s a sweet thing.
Denver can sit back this weekend and enjoy the show like the rest of us football fans, and they’ll likely be pulling for one team or another. With the No. 1 seed comes not only the first round bye, but home field advantage. It also means the Broncos will face the lowest remaining seed at the end of the weekend.
If six seed Cincinnati defeats Houston – which would be a tall task on the road – the Broncos would host the Bengals. While Denver won by only eight points in the teams’ first meeting, they would likely be able to win by much more this time around. That’s because the Denver D allowed 17 straight points and fell behind in the third quarter. Lately, that defense has been stout, giving up only 32 points in their last three games combined. Odds are against the matchup though, because Cincy is 0-5 all-time in road playoff games, last winning a playoff contest in 1990.
That leaves the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, who play one another Saturday at 11 a.m. MT on CBS. NFL historians know the Colts – who moved to Indy from Baltimore under the cover of darkness – and the Ravens – who moved to town from Cleveland – have a special kind of rivalry.
The Colts, led by rookie sensation Andrew Luck, are the only in the AFC playoff race Denver hasn’t faced this year. Indy is also the biggest question mark, with numerous young players capable of either lighting it up or laying an egg. Vick Ballard is the starting running back with 814 yards and two touchdowns, while T.Y. Hilton is the rookie receiver that leads with seven scores. Of course, veteran Reggie Wayne is still a renowned receiver and the Colts’ 258 pass yards per game is seventh-best in the NFL. But, besides Wayne, hardly anyone else from Indianapolis has participated in the postseason, giving the Broncos the advantage.
If the Texans beat the Bengals and the Ravens win over the Colts, Denver would face Baltimore – the scariest team of the four playing this Wildcard weekend. Baltimore would be looking for revenge against the Broncos for the 34-17 blowout three weeks ago, and Ray Rice will want to prove he’s one of the league’s best by gaining much more than the 38 yards he rushed for the first matchup. Everyone knows the Ravens are known for their physical defense, led by Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs and Ed Reed. And with Lewis announcing he’ll retire at the end of this year’s playoff run, Baltimore would be even more juiced to play in Denver a week from today.
So, while the Broncos should be able to beat any of the four AFC teams going to battle this weekend, it seems the Bengals, Colts and Ravens – in that order – are the teams to pull for.
Denver’s Divisional round playoff game is scheduled for Saturday January 12, at 2:30 p.m. MT.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.