Cold weather Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's been 14 years (SB 33, -7.5) since the Broncos entered a playoff game as heavy favorites, as they are today (-9).

That 1998 team was also favored by 13.5 points against Miami, 9 over the Jets, and covered all three postseason spreads with relative ease.

We can all worry that today will be a repeat of Jacksonville, but given the gulf between the quality of these Broncos and Ravens, it will likely take an extraordinary set of circumstances for the upset to occur. These Broncos scored 90 more points than the 1996 squad did, and are the most well-rounded team in football.

Of course, Bill Simmons is predicting a Baltimore victory, but relies upon stupid trivia to do so. That a heavy favorite has lost a divisional game in each of the past seven postseasons means absolutely nothing, and the silly part is that Simmons (naturally) dismisses out of hand the possibility of his Patriots keeping that string alive tomorrow.

No, I don't think that's going to happen either, but at the least, the Texans are a far more capable opponent than are the Ravens.

The other bit of meaningless trivia cited by Simmons is Peyton Manning's 0-3 record in playoff games with a kickoff temperature below 40 degrees.

We could brush that off by saying it's only three games, but let's go deeper. The first loss came with the 2002 Colts as six-point dogs to the host Jets, who thumped them 41-0. The next two came at the hands of the 2003 and 2004 Patriots at Foxboro, and both of those squads entered at 14-2 and emerged Super Bowl champs.

These Broncos are better than any of those three Colts teams, and are facing a medicre Ravens team which is no comparison to those Patriots. Maybe the Ravens are as good as those 2002 Jets, but those Colts weren't good either, and the game took place at the Meadowlands.

And there's the most important difference.

I heard talk all week at work about Peyton's record in cold weather. Sounds super insightful to the average schmuck, but it's important to realize that Manning never played a home game in the cold in his entire life, prior to the season finale against Kansas City two weeks ago. Indy has a dome, and I'll skip the surely fruitless research involved in checking whether Peyton ever played a cold weather home game in Louisiana or Tennessee.

If you're going to the game, know that you will have a part in turning Manning's record in cold weather playoff games around, because you're going to be part of the first home crowd to ever see him play in one.

So wear your orange, stay warm, make sure the person next to you is okay, be quiet when the Broncos have the ball, and scream like hell (which will help keep you warm) when they don't, and you'll be part of history on Peyton's behalf.

You'll be cheering him on for his first cold weather playoff win, and what will hopefully be the first of many as a Bronco.

Broncos

Videos: John Fox speaks after practice, from which BTV reports, plus a look at last night's pep rally at SAF@MH; NFLN recaps Denver's season, the Playbook crew considers the matchup, and a look at NFLN's chronicling of Manning's recovery with Duke coach David Cutcliffe.

Here's a terrific profile of Von Miller from Judy Battista of the Times which focuses on his interest in eyeglasses and raising chickens, and his relationship with linebackers coach Richard Smith.

In another excellent piece, this from Sam Farmer of the LA Times, and focusing on Peyton's operation of the no-huddle, John Elway says he thinks that 90% of the time, Manning knows where he's going with the ball prior to the snap

The Broncos laid off the smack talk this week, and all year, but it would be hard for a Manning-led team to do otherwise.

Two years ago, when John Elway took over the reins, Ozzie Newsome was held up as the only example of a great player-turned-great executive. Now, their teams will meet, with Elway having (so far) joined Newsome in excelling atop a franchise.

Mitch Unrein tells the DP he walked on at Wyoming at just 220 pounds and arrived in Denver at 285.

Andrew Mason predicts another Broncos blowout, while the DP pulls out all the stops in bringing back the scannerific game preview for today's matchup.

Prior to making his sixth All-Pro first team, Manning reached a huge collection of milestones this season.

In case you wanted to know how much Elvis Dumervil would weigh on each of the planets, or have been looking for a pair of Demaryius Thomas-signed unwashed (blech) panties, today's your lucky day.

Ravens

Terrell Suggs says the Ravens are desperate to make Ray Lewis's final playoff run a memorable one. They can start remembering it tonight...

A slimmed-down Bryant McKinnie went from spending the entire season in John Harbaugh's doghouse, to starting at left tackle last week against Indy.

News

Bizarrely, but expectedly, the Cowboys have hired Monte Kiffin to run their defense. This will not end well.

The Rams are reportedly targeting recently fired Cowboys DC Rob Ryan to run their defense.

Philly will interview Seahawks DC Gus Bradley today, and they'll talk with Jay Gruden on Monday. Gruden is also expected to sit for the Chargers head job.

Jacksonville will consider assistant head coach Mel Tucker, who had worked as the Jags interim coach last year following the dismissal of Jack Del Rio. Maurice Jones-Drew finds relief in new GM Dave Caldwell's statement that the Jags would not pursue Tim Tebow under any circumstances.

Bengals secondary coach Hue Jackson is a candidate for OC positions with the Panthers and LOLJets, with Sexy Rexy also considering Marty Mornhinweg and Cam Cameron for the position.

Analysis

Doug Farrrar and Greg Cosell (podcast), Chase Stuart (Saturday), Mike Lombardi, Shutdown Corner (HOU/NE, SEA/ATL), the Football Outsiders (NFC), Bill Barnwell (Sunday), Ashley FoxClark JudgePeter KingScott Kacsmar, and Drew Magary preview the weekend's games; Don Banks ranks potential SB matchups.

J.J. Cooper studies the play of Niners DE Aldon Smith and Packers tackle Marshall Newhouse, who will match up on Sunday.

Von Miller is the lone Bronco on Bucky Brooks's All-Pro team.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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