The Denver Broncos are rolling into their first playoff game on Jan. 12. The Broncos have home field throughout the playoffs, have the chance to host the New England Patriots for the AFC title, and only have to beat a low seeded team that was lucky to reach the postseason in the first place. However, history indicates that the San Diego Chargers now have the Broncos right where they want them.
Not only did the Chargers already beat the Broncos in Denver exactly one month ago to the day, Peyton Manning and company face constant reminders of their last playoff game. One year ago to the day, the Broncos were expected to breeze past the lowly regarded Baltimore Ravens in the second round -- yet one late miracle catch and two overtimes later, Manning suffered his biggest postseason upset loss to date.
Once again, Denver is facing a low seeded divisional playoff foe that is peaking at the right time, has absolutely nothing to lose and doesn't have a quarterback weighted by constant postseason failure. Of course, Philip Rivers and the Chargers have suffered their own past playoff upsets and missed Super Bowl opportunities, yet it has nothing compared to Manning's 9-11 postseason resume.
Despite the Broncos' 13-3 mark and Manning's various touchdown and passing yards records, this is really their first meaningful game of the 2013-14 season. Another upset loss -- with virtually the same circumstances and setup as the last one -- would be even harder to come back from for Manning and the Broncos, who don't exactly have all the time in the world for redemption.
The Chargers have taken a harder route than last year's Ravens to get here, considering their 5-7 start and how they needed various breaks to make the playoffs. In fact, if the Broncos had beaten them in Denver the first time, the Chargers never would have made it. Therefore, if Denver loses to San Diego again, it really only has itself to blame for setting the stage a month ago.
Even if the Broncos win and erase last year's second round demons, Manning will just be reminded over and over of his past playoff losses to Tom Brady and the Patriots next week. However, Manning and Denver can only erase one January demon at a time.
The quest to erase this one begins at 4:40 p.m. est on CBS.