Broncos fans are typically worry warts. However, when it comes to tomorrow’s Baltimore game, there’s less legitimate concern among them than I can remember seeing before any playoff game ever. Confidence runs high in Broncos Country.
Denver is heavily favored to topple the Ravens. Vegas has stuck by the 9.5 point spread that emerged early in the week. The overwhelming majority of prognosticators have the Broncos covering those points, too. Setting aside the line, the National consensus is that the Broncos will win the game. Even in the Ravens home city, every single member of the Baltimore Sun sports staff predicted a victory for Denver.
Locally, even people known for their skepticism see little chance of the Broncos suffering a loss at the hands of the Ravens – despite their improved health, despite the Broncos struggles against Dennis Pitta – despite the weather, Manning’s gloved hand and the likelihood of the ball being hard and frozen. Even the staid Sandy Clough of 104.3 the Fan has made no effort to hide his optimism.
It’s a foregone conclusion that the Denver Broncos will host the AFC Championship game. It will be a classic Manning / Brady battle when the Patriots, who are as heavily favored over the Texans as the Broncos are over the Ravens in the divisional round, come to Mile High next weekend. The Broncos themselves may not be overlooking Baltimore … but everyone else seems to be.
Circumstances like this are enough to cause cynics to work overtime looking for causes of worry. Even the most pessimistic among them, however, are hard pressed to identify any specific thing that should make Broncos County nervous. There’s only the basic idea that we are Broncos fans … so we should be worried because that’s what comes naturally.
The feeling we have this week, this Manning-fueled confidence, is something we have only experienced once before – in 1999 – before Denver won it’s second straight Super Bowl. That win, along with the one before it, came at a cost. We paid our emotional dues when Jacksonville killed our playoff dreams, entering their clash with the confident Broncos as a Wild Card and emerging victorious.
No Broncos fan will ever forget what that loss to Jacksonville felt like. It was a traumatic experience.
A loss to the Ravens would be every bit the tragedy that the Jacksonville loss was. Our own hubris will make it so. Therein lays the value of doubt. It’s an insurance policy against calamity. If there’s a sense that the Broncos might lose a game we are at least somewhat prepared to cope. With the Ravens coming to town, however, there is so little worry among the fans that, if they were to somehow win, it would be devastating.
If there’s any reason to look upon the upcoming Divisional round playoff game with skepticism it is self-preservation. Any fan that can synthesize some cause for alarm is doing his or her self a favor. It’s a way of insulating one’s self from the crushing blow that a loss to an opponent we were almost certain to beat would deliver.
So, go ahead. Be frightened by Ray Rice, by Joe Flacco and by Dennis Pitta. Worry about the cold, about our aging QB, the sensation in his fingers, the glove, the ice cold football and the difficulty our receivers will have catching it. Wonder if Knowshon will fumble, if Peyton will go back to tossing “wobblers”. Treat yourself to a dose of humility, of worry and concern. Be skeptical. It’s healthier that way. And, afterwards, when the Broncos have beaten the Ravens, you can say you knew all along that they would.