We’ve come a long, long way Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Hard to believe it, but the end of the regular season is already here today.

We've all understandably had our eyes to the future - on playoff seeds and scenarios, and dreams of a Broncos trip to New Orleans. And incredibly, after years of mediocrity or worse, last week brought a 34-12 home blowout that was, for all intents and purposes, boring.

It's amazing how drastically things have changed in the nine months since Peyton Manning showed up, and the two-and-a-half months since the team trailed 24-0 at halftime in San Diego. We're already taking blowouts for granted, after having endured, almost exactly a year ago, an excruciating 7-3 home loss to Kansas City in a win-and-they're-in scenario.

364 days later, the Broncos again will host the Chiefs to close out the regular season, and once again, the game has significant playoff implications.

Win today, and Denver is assured of a first-round bye and a home game in the divisional round, potentially against the Patriots (who will have Rob Gronkowski back from injury), who can move up to either the one or two seed if the Broncos and/or Texans falter. A Patriots loss to the visiting Dolphins would also ensure the Broncos of a bye, but that would only come into play with a Denver loss or tie.

Should the Colts - who are locked into the number-five seed, but will be bolstered by the emotional return of leukemia-beater Chuck Pagano - tie or defeat the visiting Texans, then a Broncos win would mean the AFC road to the Super Bowl goes through Denver.

Obviously, we're all expecting a Broncos win today, and perhaps by a (ridiculously) large margin.

But let's not lose sight of how far this franchise has come since the last Week 17 game against Kansas City, when Denver's quarterback was 6 of 22 for 50 net passing yards, and two turnovers against, obviously, no touchdowns.

Appreciate the pre-snap gesticulations we've come to enjoy, the educated calls at the line, the active footwork, the multiple reads, the quick releases, the anticipation, the pinpoint throws, the glimpses of sideline debriefing sessions.

Although Peyton just got here, we don't know how much longer he's ours.

So, savor today, Broncos fans. Besides, if everything goes according to plan, there won't be Broncos football again for another two weeks.

Broncos/Chiefs

We've loved the hiring of Luke Richesson since Day 1, and as Dan Pompei points out, the small sample offered by one season shows no starts lost to muscle pulls so far this season. As much as we criticize John Fox's conservative handling of fourth downs, we heartily applaud his decision to bring Richesson aboard.

Long snapper Aaron Brewer is another 2012 addition whose lack of in-season mention is a clear positive; Brewer says he started seeing a snapping coach during high school so he could get a scholarship.

Andrew Mason reminds us that Peyton is 7-2 in Houston, and he predicts a 31-10 Denver win; Jeff Legwold goes over some keys and gives the Chiefs the edge when they run the ball.

Mike Klis looks back at the Broncos' remarkable 2012, and takes a cue from his buddy Legwold in consulting the Rolodex to learn that NFL writers are leaning toward Manning as MVP.

Buried in Woody Paige's drivel for today is the interesting fact that Keith Bishop is the Broncos' VP in charge of security and accompanies John Elway to games.

Adam Teicher says there were indications as early as the preseason that the Chiefs had a dreadful season ahead of them, and he predicts a 34-10 Denver win.

Coaching Carousel

Expectations in Oakland are that Dennis Allen's job is safe; of course, that's not the case in San Diego, where Norv Turner is prepping for his final game.

The Chargers will definitely be joined by the Browns - who are reportedly not interested in Josh McDaniels - among teams clearing out both their GM and coach, while the Bills may do the same.

Incredibly, the talk in league circles is that Scott Pioli will get to stick around in Kansas City, and we can all thank Clark Hunt for that one.

As in Allen's case, it appears Mike Munchak is going to hang onto his job coaching the Titans.

Bruce Arians has to be a top coaching candidate, right? At the least, Doug Farrar thinks he's a shoo-in for Coach of the Year.

Anyone shocked to learn that LOLJets OC Tony Sparano is about to get the boot?

Sean Payton's new five-year deal with the Saints will make him the league's highest paid coach, at more than $8M annually.

Analysis

Here are the rest of the day's playoff scenarios, laid out in black and white and explained by Deadspin.

As we'd alluded to the other day, Pro Bowls do unfortunately matter in terms of player compensation and players' legacies. We'll be reminded of this in a few weeks, when the clowns who participate in the highly flawed process that is HOF voting, cite the highly flawed process that is Pro Bowl voting, when explaining why certain players did or did not pass muster for immortality in their eyes.

Matt Bowen explains what Dallas must do to limit the damage of RG3 in Sprint action tonight.

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

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