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Horse Tracks: The Denver Broncos today are not the team that took the field in 1997

Sure there are similarities, which we will look at this morning. However, the 2014 Denver Broncos are nothing like the 1997 Denver Broncos.

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

The homer in all of us want nothing more than to believe the recent struggles by the Denver Broncos mirror the late season struggles the eventual Super Bowl champion 1997 Denver Broncos experienced. Why? Well duh, the end result is a Lombardi Trophy and a third Super Bowl title. Who doesn't want their favorite team to win it all?

This comparison to the 1997 Denver Broncos is something I've been hearing over and over again on Facebook and elsewhere and it mostly draws from going 4-4 on the road and having to win on the road in the playoffs to get to the Super Bowl. Okay, I'll give you that, but that's where the similarities end.

Let's dig into that 4-4 record.

The 1997 Broncos began the season 9-1 before beginning a stretch of four road games in five weeks. They would lose a close game to the Kansas City Chiefs, then two straight at the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Francisco 49ers. Those three teams combined for a 38-10 records that season and each one of them enjoyed a bye week in the playoffs that year.

That is what I would call three quality road losses. Outside of that "bad" stretch, these 97 Broncos held four opponents to three points or less and held teams under fourteen points seven times that year on defense. While the offense put up 28 or more points ten times during the regular season. This was a complete team, probably the most complete team in the NFL that year, who just happened to have a couple of tough road games late in the season that they were unable to overcome.

Meanwhile, the 2014 Denver Broncos have had their own spate of road losses. However, they were less than quality. They fought for a close overtime loss on the road to the eventual #1 NFC seed in the Seattle Seahawks, but then were promptly curb stomped by the #1 AFC seed New England Patriots and the 6-10 St. Louis Rams to finish with a fairly average loss to the playoff-bound Cincinnati Bengals.

Silly worries to real worries.

As many of you may recall, heading into the playoffs the biggest worry about the 97 Broncos was whether or not Bill Romanowski was a racist for spitting in a 49er players face and if it would cause division within the locker room.

The biggest worry today is whether Peyton Manning has lost something having thrown 3 touchdowns to 6 interceptions over the last month of the season. If I had to decide which one would worry me more, it would be the one where Manning can't score in the red zone by passing the ball.

In 1997, John Elway had his best statistical season with 3635 yards, 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while relying on future Hall of Fame running back Terrell Davis who rushed for 1750 yards and 15 touchdowns. And While Peyton Manning had a better statistical season with 4727 yards, 39 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, the Broncos have no complement to the one of a kind Terrell Davis. C.J. Anderson has been stellar down the stretch, but he has just two 100 yards games and is usually good for about 80. I like the guy, but he is no Terrell Davis, yet.

Playoff road warriors?

I liked this comparison even less than the comparison to how each team finished their respective regular seasons. The 2014 Broncos have a first round bye and the only way they play on the road is if they win their first game and the New England Patriots win theirs as well. Nothing is a given once the tournament starts and there are a myriad of ways the Patriots could lose their first playoff game. Any given Sunday, as we all saw in 2012 with those pesky Baltimore Ravens.

The 97 Broncos had to dogfight their way through three teams just to have a chance to face the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers in the final game of the 1997 season. First they had to avenge their playoff loss from the year before against the Jacksonville Jaguars, then on the road against the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs and finally finishing up against Bill Cowher's Pittsburgh Steelers. No comparison. Those games were hard as hard could be.

This isn't a negative post.
Like the 1997 Broncos, they must prove their doubters wrong and seize the glory for themselves.

I am not trying to pee in people's koolaid-filled cheerios here. My point is that 2014 Broncos and the 1997 Broncos have little to nothing in common other than wearing the same logo on their helmets. The 1997 Broncos have proven their worth and seized the glory laid out for them.

The 2014 Broncos have proven nothing other than showing us all they are a playoff team. They had a shot at glory and crapped themselves on the world stage. I think this team is much better all around, but that still haven't beaten the Seattle Seahawks and their Legion of Boom. Like the 1997 Broncos, they must prove their doubters wrong and seize the glory for themselves. They have a chance to do just that and that's more than 20 other teams this season.

There is one similarity to these two teams that I really like. They both curb stomped an AFC West doormat to close out their season. The 97 Broncos closed their regular season out with a 38-3 obliteration of the 4-12 San Diego Chargers, while the 14 Broncos destroyed the 3-13 Oakland Raiders 47-14. So there is that!

Horse Tracks

'14 Broncos Share A Super Stat With '98 Squad - Mile High Huddle
The 2014 Broncos share a "super" stat with the 1998 World Champion squad. Could it be a harbinger of things to come?

Why the Packers and Broncos could suffer NFL playoff upsets | The MMQB
Every postseason for the past decade, at least one team with a first-round bye has lost its first playoff game. This January, two teams who earned a week off are ripe for a one-and-done postseason.

Injury update |
Two Broncos will go through the post-concussion protocol, while TE Julius Thomas hopes the bye week gets him back up to speed.

First round bye 'coming at the right time' |
With Sunday's 47-14 victory over the Raiders, the Broncos secured the AFC's No. 2 seed and a much needed first round bye.

Broncos believe they can win even without Peyton Manning's best - ESPN
If you were to make a list of the things that would have to happen for the Denver Broncos to score 47 points, a Peyton Manning touchdown pass would be at, or near, the top.

'Real season' begins now |
After finishing the season 12-4, the Broncos head into the playoffs ready to make a run.

Broncos Newsreel vs Raiders |
A Newsreel look at the Broncos win over the Raiders

Fox on bye week schedule, benefits |
Head Coach John Fox talks to the press Monday at Dove Valley.

Healthy Hillman another offensive weapon |
Running back Ronnie Hillman on how it felt to play for the first time since week 10.

Broncos defense wraps up regular season in dominant fashion |
As the offense piled on points, Denver's defense played a complete game only allowing one touchdown and rolled on all cylinders with the playoffs on the horizon.

Who should the Broncos want first in the playoffs? Not the Steelers - Denver Post
Sports, man. They break your heart, and then a few years later, you find yourself rooting for the same fellows who broke your heart.

Broncos' John Fox welcomes bye week as a 'chance to heal up' - Denver Post
Getting under the velvet rope represents the start. And then anything, at least coaches believe, can happen once in the party. The Broncos earned their third consecutive playoff bye under coach John Fox. They have learned from each experience, and Fox said he will make slight tweaks to fit this year's group.

Inside Jim Harbaugh leaving the 49ers, Watt vs. Rodgers for MVP | The MMQB
Jim Harbaugh and San Francisco went from three straight NFC title games to 'doomed from the start' in 2014. A source explains what went wrong. Plus, a breakdown of the playoff field, an MVP vote explanation and more from Week 17.

Marcus Mariota or Jameis Winston for the Buccaneers? -
The Broncos have been playing Louis Vasquez out of position at right tackle and could look for a true tackle in the draft. Drango is the best one left and there’s a considerable drop off after him.

Ndamukong Suh suspended for stepping on Aaron Rodgers -
The Lions defensive tackle appeared to intentionally step on the ankle of the Packers quarterback during Sunday's battle for the NFC North title.

Jim Harbaugh's greatest hits, NFL edition -
Cheap pants, sideline freakouts and whole bunch of a winning ... Jim Harbaugh's four years as the 49ers head coach have been fun.

The Dallas Cowboys 'fixed December' -
A 4-0 record in the last month of the season, undefeated on the road all year -- the Dallas Cowboys are cruising into the playoffs, and even Jerry Jones is a little surprised by their success.

Browns owner threatens Johnny Manziel, Josh Gordon -
Quarterback Johnny Manziel's future with the Cleveland Browns was reportedly in doubt on Sunday after he hosted a Friday night house party that may have led to the rookie and wide receiver Josh Gordon being late to team events on Saturday.

Johnny Manziel says he has to stop acting like a jackass -
The Browns quarterback said he didn't throw a party that caused him and teammates to miss team activities.