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Denver Broncos Are Surrendering AFC To The New England Patriots

By James Dudko - Posted: 12/13/13 11:44AM EST
Peyton Manning frustrated

Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos are risking losing top spot in the AFC. (Photo: Reuters / James Dudko)

The Denver Broncos are surrendering the AFC to the New England Patriots. They have already let a win over the Patriots slip away and were stunned at home by the San Diego Chargers to begin Week 15 of the 2013 NFL season.

The Chargers went into Denver and frustrated quarterback Peyton Manning with the blitz. They also exposed the soft underbelly of the Denver defense with 44 rushes for 177 yards.

It was another costly defeat for a talented team that appears to be doing all it can to stop itself representing the AFC in Super Bowl XLVIII.

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Led by a future Hall of Fame quarterback and his record-setting offense, along with a big-play defense, the Broncos have everything they need to contest their seventh Super Bowl.

The only thing that will prevent them is letting top spot in the conference fall to the Patriots. That would mean a playoff return to New England, the last place Manning wants to be in January.

He has been bounced out of the postseason there on more than one occasion. He has also lost his last three regular season visits to the home of Tom Brady and the Patriots.

The most recent occurred in Week 12 this season. That's when Manning and company blew a commanding 24-0 halftime lead.

They let Brady back in, and he outdueled Manning, amassing 34 points after the break. It was a devastating missed opportunity for a team that should be Super Bowl favorites at this stage.

But instead, the Broncos could find themselves as the second seed in the conference if the Patriots beat the Dolphins in Miami this Sunday.

NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal has pointed out that the Patriots could run the table and enjoy the comforts of home in the postseason.

Not many would give Manning a chance at the lair of the team that has been his Achilles heel during an otherwise brilliant career. If the Broncos do have to head to New England in January, they will hope to enjoy one home game before they do.

But the Kansas City Chiefs can set nerves shredding in Denver if they win on the road against the Oakland Raiders this Sunday. That would draw them level with Broncos atop the AFC West at 11-3.

Of course, as Rosenthal points out, Manning and the Broncos still retain the advantage. They have beaten Andy Reid's men twice this season and would take the division crown if the team's finish even.

But it is home-field advantage for the playoffs that Manning and the Broncos really want and need. They have a definite edge thanks to the altitude and tough atmosphere at Sports Authority Field.

If this team of apparent destiny blows it chance, Manning could once again find himself humbled in the chill in New England. Then one of the greatest quarterback's of his generation will be left to rue  this season's missed opportunities.

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