By Rich Kurtzman
Win and go home. Usually, it’s “lose and go home” in the single-game elimination playoffs of the National Football League. But to end the season, it was “win and go home” for the Denver Broncos.
Denver took care of business, not only winning but completely dismantling the rival Oakland Raiders in their Week 17 blowout 47-14. Not only was it the most points scored by the Broncos this season, it was also the largest margin of victory (33 points) as all three phases of the team played some of their best football. It was a great way to end the regular season, on a high note, with a confidence-boosting victory fresh in their minds as they try to heal the body.
During the win, multiple Broncos were injured. Special teams captain David Bruton, Jr. sustained a concussion and a sprained neck during a dirty block in the back penalty that was unnecessary. Bruton was starting for the injured T.J. Ward, who sprained his neck while making a tackle in the loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 16. Orlando Franklin also sustained a concussion and the bye will help to allow their brains to heal and hopefully pass protocols pregame.
Other, obvious but less serious injuries in the game were Emmanuel Sanders’ hurting hip which forced him to limp a bit, as well as Demaryius Thomas’ sprained ankle and his hurt hand which caused multiple drops including a should’ve-been touchdown.
“Oh yeah, I definitely needed this bye. I’m looking forward to it,” tight end Julius Thomas said following the win in Week 17. “When you’re practicing and playing, it’s kind of hard. It’s a little bit of give and take.”
Thomas started the season on fire, scoring all 12 of his touchdowns in the first nine weeks. Since injuring his ankle, “Orange Julius” has a mere five receptions, missing three games along the way. He’s on his way back to healthy, but still not where he was to begin the grueling campaign.
The bye week will allow all the Broncos to heal, giving them a better chance of playing in the team’s first playoff game, January 11. Linebacker Brandon Marshall and Ward are expected to return, and each are important to the defense due to their sure tackling, hard hitting and physical nature they bring. Thomas will play and he may be able to utilize his incredible athleticism to give the offense the x-factor they’ve been missing for weeks. Valuable targets Sanders and Demaryius Thomas have a chance to get right, as speed is key at receiver. And even Peyton Manning can rest his hurting thigh while watching the Indianapolis Colts versus the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens at the Pittsburgh Steelers, this weekend.
The highest remaining seed will face Denver in the Mile High City, with Pittsburgh the No. 3 seed and hosting the No. 6 Ravens and No. 4 Indy hosting No. 5 Cincy.
For more Broncos news and updates, visit Broncos Central.
Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Rich is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.