Here we go, the Wildcard games are all behind us and it is on to the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. Teams like the New England Patriots and Denver Broncos have earned their right to rest last week in preparation for home games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Pittsburgh Steelers respectively.
What will come next? Will the week of rest help the Broncos or will the week off show in a bit of rust at kickoff? How will the Steelers offense respond with the injuries received last week against the Bengals? Let’s not waste any more time and let’s get right to the 2015-2016 NFL AFC Divisional Round Predictions, Picks Steelers vs Broncos
Denver Broncos over Pittsburgh Steelers
This is a game I would have drooled over a few weeks ago but now this is a game riddled with a level of question more fitting for week one than the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. Where do we begin? Peyton Manning will be making his first start in two months. He did come in during week 17 and was able to manage the offense. There was nothing special from an arm perspective but he was able to better manage shifts in the running game. Even before his injury Manning was having the worst year of his professional career. You could almost argue that the Broncos were winning despite him rather than because of him. Let’s not forget, Peyton at his best is a mere 11-13 all-time in the playoffs.
On the other side, you have a Steelers team that could be hit with too many injuries to make the game competitive. Antonio Brown is currently going through concussion protocol after the vile and illegal hit that he took last week. DeAngelo Williams has a foot injury that is more than likely going to keep him out and remember, he is the backup to Le’Veon Bell, who has been out for many weeks. Then there is Ben Roethlisberger, who was injured by the man who shall remain nameless, and left the Wildcard match-up against the Bengals before gutting out the final drive of the game. He has an injury to his throwing shoulder that means one of two things. Either he will not go and the team will be handed to Landry Jones or he will go and will clearly be nowhere near 100 percent. The vertical attack might have to take a pause in that respect.
The deciding factor in this game could very well be each defense. You have a Steelers defense that was holding the Bengals in check for 45 minutes last week before being exposed a bit in the fourth quarter. Overall they are a good but not great defense. They are more than capable to holding a team down. Especially one that could be a bit offensively challenged.
Meanwhile, you have a Denver defense that has given up the fewest yards of any team in the NFL this year. They are also known for getting after the quarterback, leading the NFL in sacks with 52. That could be the biggest two points of this match-up.
When you factor in a Steelers team that looks to be riddled on the offensive side of the ball and add in a defense that will be after Jones or Big Ben on every snap and it looks like it could be a very long day. A healthy and loaded Big Ben got after the Broncos a few weeks ago but this is another time and a much different scenario. Peyton will not need to win this game and you can expect the team to run it 30 plus times this weekend. This could be an ugly game that ends in a Broncos victory.