The Denver Broncos won their tenth straight game by pounding the Cleveland Browns, but that’s not the story. The Broncos beat everyone these days by 14+ points but still get criticized in many corners, and that’s not the story either. The story is all about next Sunday, and it involves four teams.
The Broncos will conclude their season by hosting the Kansas City Chiefs, but that’s not where the real drama lies. Of course, if the Broncos win that game as expected, they will clinch the second seed in the AFC and a first-round bye. The real drama, however, takes place earlier in the day. If the Indianapolis Colts beat the Houston Texans at home, then a Broncos win would give them the top overall seed, and any playoff game involving them would be in Denver. How likely is a Colts win? There are a few factors to consider.
The Colts are locked in to the fifth seed so there’s not a lot for them to play for and that works against the Broncos’ hopes for the top seed. However, there is a huge intangible working in the Colts’ and Broncos’ favor. Chuck Pagano, the Colts’ head coach, returns to the team this week after defeating cancer. His fight has been a source of inspiration to the Colts and everyone else this season, and the team will want to win in his return. The crowd will also feed off the energy and the Texans could be walking into a hornet’s nest. It should also be noted that the Texans are not playing well at all.
The big question is will the Colts play their starters and try to win the game, or will they rest their key players in an effort to get ready for the playoffs? If they rest their starters, then the Texans probably win. If they play to win, then the Broncos have a real shot at that top seed.
Barring an upset by the Miami Dolphins over the New England Patriots, the Broncos will have to beat the Chiefs to clinch the second seed. If things go right in Indianapolis earlier in the day, however, the Broncos could be playing for the right to sleep in their own beds until a certain game in New Orleans.
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