September 30 2012; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) and executive vice president of football operations John Elway talk near the end of the game against the Oakland Raiders. The Broncos defeated the Raiders 37-6. (Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

The Denver Broncos Fear the Number 13

I am not a psychologist, but I’ll play one here on Predominantly Orange. After 36 seasons of studying the Denver Broncos with the ferocity of a honey badger (not so subliminal message here, John Elway), I have come to the conclusion that the subject matter in question suffers from a severe case of Triskaidekaphobia; In laypersons terms, the fear of the #13.

You see, four times in Broncos’ history have they finished with 13 wins: 1984, 1996, 2005, and this most recent season of 2012. In all four of those 13-win seasons, the Broncos failed to advance to the Super Bowl. In two of those years (1996 and 2012) they were the #1 seed and failed to make it out of the divisional round of the playoffs. In 1984, only the 14-2 Miami Dolphins had a better record in the AFC. However, no marquee meeting in the AFC title game between future Hall of Famers John Elway and Dan Marino took place because the Broncos were upset in Mile High Stadium by Mark Malone and the 9-7 Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2005 they were a #2 seed. However, as a result of being handed a gift by Peyton Manning and the 14 -2 Indianapolis Colts by losing to 11-5 Pittsburgh, the Broncos hosted the AFC title game. They were subsequently boat-raced by the eventual Super Bowl Champions, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I was curious to see if this Triskaidekaphobia diagnosis had a more broad affect in the annuls of the Super Bowl era. So I did a little research and this is what I found:

*Eight times has a 13-win team won Vince Lombardi’s Holy Grail.
*Only once prior to the 16-game schedule was this accomplished (1976 Oakland Raiders, 13-1).
*The San Francisco 49ers are the only team to accomplish this twice (1981 and 1994).
*The 2009 New Orleans Saints were the most recent team to win it all with a 13-3 regular season record.

So you ask, “What does this all mean?”

It means that if the Broncos go into week 17 next year with 12 wins, they might want to rest Peyton. I mean, after all if Brock Osweiler is the Quarterback of the future, wouldn’t it be a perfect time to get him some meaningful reps in a meaningful game? Just askin’.

Actually, I kid. I am a kidder. I would never condone sand-bagging a game at any level of competition. It is not fair to those who work hard to put themselves in that position to compete. It is also not fair to the hard-working folks who earmark a good chunk of their disposable income to come to Sports Authority Field at Mile High to support their beloved Broncos. Also, as an orange-bleeding Broncoholic, I NEVER want to see my guys lose…EVER!!!!

Realistically there is no way that the guys who strap on the helmets and pads every Sunday (or Monday, or Wednesday, or Thursday, or Saturday) would ever take the field with the intent or expectation of anything other than giving maximum effort and doing everything in their power to win. Superstitions aside, the inability to advance to the Super Bowl after finishing 13-3 is a result of many variables: preparation, matching intensity of the opposition after a bye week, the play calling chess game, and in some cases, just not being better on that particular day. Additionally, I’m sure there are variables that we who watch from afar could never understand.

Remember way back in 2010, when the Broncos were 4-12 and had hit rock bottom? Remember when how stupefied most of us were having never experienced anything like that before? Remember when a certain hoddie-wearing, precocious, young, wunderkind head coach managed our team with that deer-in-the-headlights look; almost single-handedly undoing nearly 35 years of NFL exceptionalism? Yeah, me neither.

Any way you slice it, we’ve come a long way in two years and a 13-3 season in the NFL ain’t too shabby; even if the ultimate goal was not attained.

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Tags: Denver Broncos John Elway Peyton Manning

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