The Broncos have clinched the division with another home victory yesterday. As I said in the preview, Tampa’s secondary is abominable, and although they played better than I expected, Peyton Manning took advantage of their defense and was able to throw three touchdowns. Denver went on to win 31-23, but the game was much more one sided, than that score dictates. Tampa took advantage late and scored a couple of touchdowns for cosmetic reasons.
On the other end of many of those passes by Manning, was the explosive Demaryius Thomas. Thomas finished the game with eight receptions for 99 yards and two touchdowns. Earlier this season Thomas was having problems holding on to the ball, but since he has cleaned that up, he has been one of the most consistent and explosive receivers in the NFL. His counterpart Eric Decker did not have as great of a game, but both receivers have given Manning excellent and reliable targets to throw to all season long.
The most important part of yesterday’s game was how effective the Denver defense was against the phenom, Doug Martin. Martin had been on a tear over the past six weeks, but the Broncos’ defense limited him to only 56 yards on 18 carries. Martin’s longest run of the game was only nine yards. A lot of credit must go to the way John Fox prepared this defense to take on this very talented Buccaneers offense.
The Bronco’s running game was not great, but it had a presence throughout the game. As long as the Broncos force the opposing defense to honor the running game, they will have a lot of success through the air. Denver has to look no further than last year’s Super Bowl Champions. The New York Giants had awful run production last season, but they continued to try to run the ball. What that did was keep teams off balance and allowed the passing game to make big plays.
Quite possibly the best player on the field yesterday was Von Miller. Miller who has followed up his great rookie season, with another terrific season. He finished the game with a sack, an interception and a forced fumble. All he needed was a touchdown for a perfect game by a linebacker. On the season he has 15 sacks and has remained a menace for opposing quarterbacks.
With the division in hand, the Broncos are now playing for the opportunity to have a bye in the first week of the playoffs. The Houston Texans have pretty much sealed the conference up with their 11-1 record. Denver is competing with the Ravens and the Patriots for that second seed in the playoffs. All three teams sit at 9-3. At this point I think the Broncos have the best chance of achieving that two seed. The Patriots have a difficult schedule to finish the season and the winner between Baltimore and Denver in week 15 will probably decide the two seed in the conference. Baltimore is too inconsistent and can be very susceptible to the pass. One thing to remember is that the Patriots do have a game in hand, when they defeated Denver earlier this season.