AFC West Week 13: Denver Looks to Clinch
Currently riding high on a six-game winning streak, the Denver Broncos are now just one win away from clinching the AFC West division and they could do it today at home against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Broncos have simply dominating their opponents during the streak, but considering only one of their wins came against a team currently over .500, their hotness could also be a product of a soft spot in the schedule. Nevertheless, Denver continues to impress with Peyton Manning leading the way under center and having one of the best years of all already fantastic career.
Tampa Bay has just as much to play for. At 6-5, the Bucs are currently tied for that coveted second wild card spot in the NFC with Seattle and Minnesota and are just one game back of Green Bay for the first spot. Tampa Bay fans were certainly not thinking playoffs before the season began, but rookie sensation Doug Martin has helped breathe new life into an offense that is now scoring more than 28 points per game.
However, where Tampa is weak, Denver is strong. The Bucs rank dead last in the NFL when it comes to pass defense and the Broncos rank 5th in pass offense. Needless to say, Peyton Manning and his bevy of targets should have no problem picking apart the Tampa secondary and finding open areas to covert third downs.
On offense, the Bucs will look for running room with their star Martin, but they may not find much, as Denver is ranked 9th in run defense. The Broncos also excel at getting after the quarterback and may create third down and long situations, which will certainly make Tampa Bay and young QB Josh Freeman uncomfortable.
When you add in Denver’s home field advantage at Mile High, where they are 4-1 this season, it looks like the Broncos should clinch the West today, but will they cover -9 points? I think not. Since they have put up these kinds of numbers against inferior foes, I think Tampa will be more of a challenge, but not enough of one to pull the upset. Take TB to cover +9 in a close loss today.
Even if the Buccaneers do upset the Broncos, Denver can still clinch the division with a San Diego loss. The 4-7 Chargers are at home today against another surging team, the Cincinnati Bengals. With the Bengals hungry for their own playoff berth and with them playing so well on both sides of the ball at the moment, things are not looking good for the Chargers, but they are looking very good for the Broncos. Look for the young and talented offense of Cincinnati to take advantage of the turnover-prone San Diego’s miscues and turn them into points and the win. I like the Bengals to cover -1 on the road, so bottom line is, Denver will wrap up the West today. Look out for Peyton and Co. come playoff time because they are sure to make some noise.