The Denver Broncos are 5-0 and the Jacksonville Jaguars are 0-5.
The undefeated team scored 51 points in their last game while the winless team has scored 51 points all season. Some consider Denver the best team in the NFL while most consider Jacksonville the worst.
It is a mismatch of epic proportions. The line of 27.5 points has a college football feel to it. Like when a big bad SEC school plays a directional school in the first week of the season. It is the largest spread in NFL history.
No one expects the Jags to come into Denver and win this game.
But can they win? Of course they can.
Jacksonville has well paid NFL players on its team. Justin Blackmon is a top-notch receiver and Maurice Jones-Drew can run the rock pretty well. Their quarterback play is suspect, at best, with Chad Henne.
Even with some talent on the Jaguars, the Broncos are supposed to win this game. No matter the opponent, the Broncos treat every game the same.
They will not lose their focus on this game because quarterback Peyton Manning won’t let this team waiver. He is a pro’s pro and he honestly takes it one game at time. He just doesn’t say that to say it. Manning prepares for the Jaguars like he would prepare to play Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. This week’s game is always the most important.
But with a lesser opponent coming in, it has to be tough for the Broncos not to look forward to the next week. Denver travels to Indianapolis the following Sunday for Manning’s big homecoming. The Colts and Broncos are two of the top teams in the AFC. The game is on Sunday Night Football so the whole nation can watch. It is a big game no doubt about it.
But first comes the Jaguars.
The Broncos have been in this kind of situation before and come up with a loss.
2013 vs. Baltimore Ravens
The Broncos were heavy favorites going into the AFC Divisional playoff game in January. Denver felt like it was guaranteed a spot in the AFC Championship game just by showing up. The Ravens came into Sports Authority Field at Mile High and sent the Broncos home ending the Super Bowl dream.
2005 vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
The Broncos had homefield advantage for the AFC Championship against the Steelers. Denver was the No. 2 seed while Pittsburgh was the No. 6 and getting set to play its third straight road game. All signs pointed to a trip to the Super Bowl. The Steelers came in, blitzed the Broncos and got to celebrate a conference title in Denver.
1998 at New York Giants
Denver was defending Super Bowl champs and 13-0 when they traveled to play the Giants. New York was a 5-8 team that had Kent Graham at quarterback. The Broncos also had a big game the next week against Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football. The Broncos lost a close game to the Giants ending their perfect season. Denver went on to lose to Miami the next week but still won its second straight title.
1996 vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
Before the Broncos won back-to-back Super Bowls they were the No. 1 seed in 1996 after finishing the season 13-3. Sound a little like 2013? Denver was a double-digit favorite over the Mark Brunell-led Jaguars. Jacksonville came into the old Mile High Stadium and shocked Denver. One of the biggest upsets in NFL playoff history.
All four of those losses were to teams considered to be better than the Jaguars team that is coming in on Sunday. But bad losses can happen and have happened to the Broncos in the past.
Manning will have the Broncos’ eyes on the prize which beating the Jaguars and moving on to the next game. The Broncos are not going to lose to the Jaguars and Manning may not even need to play the fourth quarter.
There is always a chance for a letdown even if it is the slimmest of chance.
Chris Schmaedeke is currently the Assistant Sports Editor at the Daily Camera in Boulder. He has worked in sports journalism in Colorado since 2001 when he started at the Rocky Mountain News. He has covered the Denver Broncos for several websites over the past two years.
Follow Chris on Twitter at @ChrisSchmaedeke