While four AFC teams are preparing to play this weekend, the Denver Broncos are on the bye; it’s an advatage, right?
Consider this: The last time both No. 1 seeds advanced to the Super Bowl was 2009. Although, Peyton Manning was the quarterback of one of those teams – the Indianapolis Colts – they lost to the Drew Brees-led New Orleans Saints. And over the last five years, six of 10 No. 1 seeds lost in the Divisional round.
In fact, 2009 was the only time a Manning-led team won after having the WildCard round off; the Colts lost in 1999, 2005 and 2007 in the Divisional round, and all Broncos fans remember their team losing last year.
Manning’s playoff record is 9-11 overall and a shocking 1-4 after earning a first round bye week.
What’s the deal?
Sports are all about finding a rhythm, building chemistry and staying at “game speed” from week to week. Routines are common and needed; breaking them can result in a breakdown at even the strongest points or positions.
Take 2012 for instance; the Broncos won 11 straight games heading into the playoffs and took the No. 1 seed, but instead of beating the Baltimore Ravens handily – as some thought they would in the week leading up to the game – uncharacteristic mistakes defined the Denver loss.
Everyone remembers Rahim Moore’s silly play on the hail mary, but don’t forget about Manning’s two interceptions. After watching Trindon Holliday take the Broncos first possession – a punt – to the house, Manning stood on the frigid sidelines for extra time. His second pass of the day was an interception returned for a touchdown to give the Ravens a 14-7 lead in the first quarter. The second was even more damning, a throw-back across his body to a covered Brandon Stokley, setting Baltimore up with the game-winning field goal in double overtime.
In 2007, he sat the second half of his Week 17 game and lost to the San Diego Chargers in the Divisional round, throwing two picks along the way.
2005 was similar, as Manning played only one series before sitting the rest of the game in Week 17, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in the second round of the playoffs while performing only so-so (22-38, 290 yards, 1 touchdown).
Go all the way back in 1999 to see the trend continue. Manning played most – but not all – of Indy’s Week 17 game, but after the bye week, led his team to a Divisional round playoff loss to the Tennessee Titans. Even in only his second season, the 45.2 completion percentage seems cazy-low for the ever-accurate Manning.
Practices are one thing, playing in actual games – against teams doing everything in their power to not get sent home – is another. While Manning and his teams were allowed to rest and heal for a week, other teams stayed with their routines and kept playing football. Advantage, those without a bye.
Something encouraging for Broncos fans, though, is a buck in the trend. In 2009, Manning sat the second half of the Colts’ Week 17 loss to the Bills, then had the first round bye, only to go on and win the next two games and advance to the Super Bowl.
So, what will we see this time around?
Will the bye week be a boon to the Broncos’ chances, giving so many wounded players a chance to rest, or will it spell doom for Denver?
Like this? Click here to see the new record Peyton Manning earned Thursday.