The weather is getting colder and the stakes are getting higher in the NFL.
The playoffs are set to begin on Saturday and the No. 1 seed Denver Broncos have a week to sit back and watch the action before taking the field on Jan. 12 against either the San Diego Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs or Indianapolis Colts.
Everybody knows about Peyton Manning and the potent passing attack in Denver. The team broke the scoring record with 606 points and Manning threw 55 touchdowns, which is also a record.
But there is something else that opponents should worry about and that is the Broncos running attack. It is built much better for the postseason than last year.
It is not the 1980s in the the NFL anymore. The running game is not an essential part of winning football. Teams pass the ball around like no other. But in the Broncos offense, the running threat has to be there and this year it is.
Knowshon Moreno has become a stud in the backfield. The former first-round pick was thought to be a bust but has really come into his own since Manning has come to Denver. He has stopped the dancing around that caused him to struggle early in his career. Now, he is head down and ready to go.
It’s a perfect style to win in the playoffs. He is also healthy this season, which is huge for a running back since Moreno has dealt with the injury bug his whole pro career.
Moreno doesn’t lose yards often. He is strong enough to make a little something out of nothing. Sometimes he just wills himself to a yard or two.
Moreno is not the only strong running back in the Broncos’ backfield. Montee Ball, who has really come into his own down the stretch of the regular season, is a tough, grind it out type of back. Another perfect style for playoff football.
Ball seems to be over his fumbling problem, which is good because a playoff game can change at the drop of a hat with a turnover. The Broncos suspect defense does not need that.
At some point on Jan. 12, the Broncos are going to need to come up with a big play in the running game. It could be short-yardage fourth down situation or a chance to run out the clock to win the game. Either way, the plays will need to be made.
Those plays were not made last season against the Baltimore Ravens. Head coach John Fox decided to run the ball three straight times to try and run the clock out with a touchdown lead. The problem was Ronnie Hillman was the back because Moreno was injured. Hillman is not made for that type of running, plain and simple. He is scat back but the Broncos had no choice.
This season is different. There are two backs that are tough, inside runners. The Broncos are better prepared for the playoffs.
All the talk for the week will be about Manning’s 9-11 playoff record or the failure last year in the cold or that this Denver team has never won a playoff game together. And all of those are valid points, but the improved running game will be overlooked.
Moreno and Ball’s job on the field is not the sexy one but it could be the most important. Manning can pass until he is blue in the face but the Broncos need to average a solid amount of yards on the ground. At least this postseason, the personnel is the right one.
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
Like this? Click here for more Denver Broncos news!