The final two weeks of this NFL season are not necessarily gimme weeks that any of the 19 teams vying for playoff spots or seeding can take for granted. The Denver Broncos now sit in the number two seed on the AFC, but they are not sitting too comfortably. A loss in either week would be the difference between a bye week with a home game or the dreaded alternative.
Whether you are the still the hopeful New Orleans Saints or Miami Dolphins, who are still mathematically alive at 6-8, or the Atlanta Falcons or Houston Texans trying to clinch a number one seed, a loss would be huge. Broncos head coach John Fox has already stated his claim on the whole Peyton Manning “rest” scenario as his team gets ready for a Cleveland Browns team that has won three out of their last four.
“If we don’t play our best against Cleveland this week, it will be all for naught,” Fox said. “All our focus will be on the Cleveland Browns.”
It would not be a wise decision to rest Manning for two reasons: First, Manning has never done well historically in the playoffs while resting the final game or two at the end of the year when he was an Indianapolis Colt. And two, the offense is in such a rhythm and still needs to work out a few kinks in order to make a solid run.
Just keep in mind that this is not a team that has been together for years. Many of the pieces are new, and Manning still has to work on timing and the nuances that will make a difference moving forward. So what type of response do you give if you are the head coach of a team that has won nine in a row and now controls their own destiny for a number two seed and at least one home playoff game?
“That has not been an option, and not something that we’ll talk about,” coach John Fox told USA Today. “Right now, our main agenda is to get better and improve so we can be playing our best football in January.”
That is the only answer he could give. Manning is the heartbeat of this Broncos team. If somehow you skip any beats, there is always a greater chance of failure. I believe Fox’s understanding of the situation is right on target, and his Broncos will be ready and able come playoff time.
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