Peyton Manning is back in the saddle for the Denver Broncos and will host the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in the Divisional round. With Manning’s playoff history being less-than-stellar, there’s reason to believe the Steelers could take this game – that is if Ben Roethlisberger is able to play. If not, it could be a tough one to watch if you’re a Pittsburgh fan. The point spread is currently favoring the Broncos at -8.
2015/16 NFL Playoffs: Denver Broncos vs. Pittsburgh Steelers
Point Spread: Broncos -8 Over/under: 40 Date: Saturday, January 17, 4:40pm ET Location: Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, CO
While the +8 underdog Steelers escaped Cincinnati after a bizarre sequence of events, they didn’t make it out unscathed. It sounds like Roethlisberger has extensive damage to his throwing shoulder, while Brown is still in concussion protocol. With Landry Jones next in line to be under center, the Steelers offense will need to be creative in their game planning to move the ball against Denver’s league leading defense.
With several key offensive players likely to be out, the defense will need to step it up. The secondary ranked near the bottom of the league in passing yards allowed, which doesn’t bode well against Manning. The defense may give up an alarming amount of yards through the air, but they’ve been good at keeping teams out of the end zone, allowing just under 20 points per game.
The -8 favored Broncos appear to have the advantage defensively in this game, especially with Brown and DeAngelo Williams being ruled out. With arguably the best secondary in the league, there’s reason to believe they could neutralize Martavis Bryant while consistently putting pressure on the quarterback. If Denver ends up facing Pittsburgh without the heart of their offense, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a truly lopsided final score.
With Manning making his first start in two months, there will be a bit of rust to knock off before the offense gets into a rhythm. With talented pass-catchers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, there’s no shortage of options for Manning to turn to for a few quick completions to get things moving. Finding balance on offense may be the difficult part, as the Steelers have one of the best run-stuffing defenses in the league.
Divisional Playoff Prediction
The Steelers beat the Broncos 34-27 in Week 15, but Brock Osweiler was starting quarterback for Denver. With Manning back, Pittsburgh finds itself defending a more playoff-experienced quarterback who is capable of picking secondaries apart. Especially secondaries that are already giving up big yardage.