It’s hard to believe that Broncos Country is gearing up for a home playoff game when you consider the state of the franchise at the beginning of the season. It has been an absolutely wild ride. There have been a lot of ups and a lot of downs, a ton of intriguing storylines, and at the end of the day the Denver Broncos won the AFC West. What a great season to write and talk about the Broncos! And if this playoff game unfolds a certain way, I don’t see why this wild ride can’t continue for at least another week.
Here is the recipe for a Wild Card Playoff win over the visiting Pittsburgh Steelers:
- The Broncos need to win the turnover battle by +2 or more. It’s no secret that Denver has struggled taking the ball away from their opponents this season, and the stats back that up. They are ranked 14th in the AFC with 18 total takeaways. The only solace here is that Pittsburgh is actually ranked 16th in the AFC which puts them at dead last. There are not many teams that take the ball away less than the Broncos, but Pittsburgh is one of them. I’ve been harping on it for weeks; Denver has to win the turnover battle in this game to have any chance. Turnovers are the great equalizer in the NFL. It all starts and ends for the Broncos on this front.
- The vaunted Broncos pass rush needs to make a comeback. Was there anything more fun to watch than the Broncos defensive front punishing the quarterback during their 6 game winning streak? Lately their production has slowed. You can blame that on Von Miller’s hand injury, the fact the front 7 are wearing down, or simply that they are not executing anymore. Whatever the reason, Denver needs to figure it out and turn it around. They need multiple sacks in this game to slow down the Pittsburgh attack and keep them playing from behind the chains. And since Ben Roethlisberger is hobbled with a leg injury, it definitely won’t hurt to hit him early and often to make him think twice about breaking a run or stepping into his throws. We need Von Doom to dominate!
- John Fox and Mike McCoy need to coach aggressively. I don’t think you could have found 5 people in the country who would have picked Denver to be in this position at the beginning of the year. Most every member of Broncos Country already considers this season a huge success. Because of all that, the Denver Broncos find themselves in a very unique position this weekend. They have absolutely nothing to lose. That is a huge advantage, and the coaching staff needs to use it. The ultra-conservative style they employed during the 3-game losing streak should be tossed out the window. There is no reason not to loosen it up and get creative. Throw the ball more. Use some formations that we haven’t seen in a while. Fake a punt. Throw it on first down for a change. Now is the time to mix it up. The last thing in the world they need in this game is to go down without swinging like they did against the Chiefs. No more punting in the 4th quarter if they are losing and no more waiting until the final 5 minutes to start being aggressive.
- The Broncos special teams need to keep being special. The entire special teams have had a great year, and Britton Colquitt and Matt Prater may be the biggest unsung heroes on the squad. In order to win this game, Colquitt is going to have to force Pittsburgh to start their drives with long fields ahead of them. Forcing Roethlisberger to drive the entire field every time they get the ball will help the Broncos in the end. Denver will also most likely need to drill a couple of long field goals to stay in the game, and I can’t think of a better long range kicker or a better venue to get that done. John Fox can’t be afraid to send Prater out there and let him rip it.
- Denver needs 1 huge game-changing play. I don’t care if it’s a kick return, a pick 6 by Champ Bailey, a blocked punt, or a long offensive touchdown. Someone needs to make a big play in a big situation. This is the element that has been missing for the Broncos during their losses.
- The veterans need to keep the team together and make them believe. Bailey, Brian Dawkins, Elvis Dumervil, and Ryan Clady need to will this team to the victory. Playoff appearances are valuable in this league and these veterans need to cherish the opportunity and do everything they can to put the team over the top.
- Tim Tebow needs to play better. He doesn’t need to have a stupendous game where he throws for 300 yards, he just needs to have a decent game where he moves the ball more consistently and converts a few 3rd downs. Most of all, he needs to play loose and let it go like he did previously in the season. He has to throw the ball when the receivers aren’t completely wide open, he needs to run for the first down when the opportunity is there, and he needs to play to win and not worry about making mistakes. If he plays the way I know he can, Denver will be in this game and will have a shot to win it at the end. Maybe Tebow time will show itself one more time before all is said and done.
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Topics: Afc West, AFC Wild Card Playoff, Ben Roethlisberger, Brian Dawkins, Britton Colquitt, Broncos Country, Champ Bailey, Denver Broncos, Elvis Dumervil, John Fox, Matt Prater, Mike Mccoy, Pittsburgh Steelers, Ryan Clady, Tim Tebow, Von Doom, Von Miller