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Guess what? Still the Year of the Horse

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The Chinese Zodiac sign for 2015 is the Wooden Sheep, but the Chinese year doesn't begin until Feb. 19, so that means it is still the Year of the Horse. Damn straight. (and if you think about it, that means it was still the Year of the Snake during last year's playoffs. Explains a lot). So I'm following the lead of Terrell Davis and I'm taking the Broncos all the way this year. Bring on 2015!

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Happy New Year, Broncos Country!

Hopefully you had a safe, happy and healthy ringing-in of 2015.

2014 was one heckuva a ride, but here's to an even better result in 2015.

It is THE YEAR OF THE HORSE after all. (yeah, we thought it was last year, but turns out that doesn't start until mid-February...which explains everything about that Feb. 2 game).

So as we finish the true year of the Bronco, I predict it's going to be a great January - and no better way to "bring it" than to talk Broncos, playoffs and touchdowns.

Party like you just scored your first touchdown

The Brock Osweiler/Virgil Green touchdown last Sunday is so 2014, but this fantastic moment to finish out the regular season also has a new story line.

The entire play was Peyton Manning's idea - not only to get a touchdown pass for the very deserving tight end, but also to allow a pass play toward the end zone.

"I had to plead my case a little bit to try to get a few passes," Osweiler said. "As soon as we got down in scoring position, obviously I was hoping that a pass play would come up, and sure enough, it did on third down and ‘Virg' made a great play."

Thanks to Manning, that touchdown play was designed just for Os and Green. Say what you want about Manning not scoring a TD in that last game, but I don't think he cares.

"We were all trying to get Virgil a score, and we were all talking on the sideline," Osweiler said. "Manning thought up the concept to get him in the end zone, so he was happy for the both of us. It was his kind of call on that touchdown."

We were all trying to get Virgil a score. Manning thought up the concept to get him in the end zone, so he was happy for the both of us. It was his kind of call on that touchdown.   -Brock Osweiler

Osweiler actually hit Green on two plays in that final drive - a seam route and a sprint-out play.

"Yeah, that was good," Manning said. "We've been trying like crazy for Virgil all season. ...so it was good that both those guys got their first touchdowns at the same time. I don't know what they did with the ball. I think there was a big argument or big discussion over that. But happy for both."

If you're wondering, Green got the ball.

"Virgil took it, and that's OK with me," said Osweiler. "He waited longer for it, so that's all his."

Bye Week Prep

It's a new year, a new "season" and that will mean a renewed attitude heading into the real week of work before the Broncos' divisional playoff game Jan. 11.

"It's real good for us. We've got a lot of guys that are nicked up, little bruises here and there," said linebacker Steven Johnson who's been called up to play because of an injured list the size of Pikes Peak. "This time is going to serve well for us just to be able to do our little treatments that we have to do and get back healthy and get ready for next Sunday."

Among those needing to get healthy is Julius Thomas, who started the season on fire and then was virtually a non-factor the second-half of the season.

"I definitely needed this bye. I'm looking forward to it. It'll just give me an opportunity to focus on rehab," Thomas said, adding that it's hard to rehab when needing to focus on practicing and getting ready for a game. "It's a long tough season, so it's definitely a great blessing to earn a bye."

Thomas also believes he'll be back in better form after this week.

"That is definitely the goal," he said, noting that he knew his ankle injury could linger and time off was the best remedy. "So get over that hump and get back to looking like the guy I used to be. So I'm looking forward to it and definitely anticipate being in better health."

The tight end is unfortunately not alone. Key players in all units are nursing some sort of injury, but while the bye week is a relief, it's also a huge energy boost.

Whether a rookie or a veteran player, the playoffs are exciting.

"Yeah, absolutely," said Manning, entering his 14th postseason. "This is the old cliché: This is why you worked hard all offseason, for this opportunity. But yeah, certainly we're excited. Glad to be playing at home. The crowd's going to be a big factor and be into it and hopefully we can have a good week of work next week and get ready."

Adding that you never want to take for granted being in the postseason because so many things happen to derail it, Manning noted that the key for winning in the playoffs is actually not a big secret.

"I think it's the team that executes better. It's kind of a simple answer," said the quarterback known for executing one of the more complicated offenses.

Experience with a lot of different things during the season is also helpful, he added. And we all know the Broncos have had that this year. "I think the more experience you have, the more different types of games you've been through, those things can certainly help you. But usually it comes down to kind of who executes better."

For Terrance Knighton, the Broncos are exactly where they expected - in the playoffs after a tough season.

"We expected to be where we are right now," said Knighton. "So we're just looking forward to getting out there and playing again. It would be good this week to get some rest and get some key guys back that are a little banged up, and the guys that played a lot of football get a chance to rest."

No argument from his teammates, many whom plan to enjoy the time with family and football. After all, they are fans too.

But watching football games on a bye week before the playoffs has a little more meaning.

"We've got to stay focused, and we've still got a lot of work to do. Three big games and we've still got to get the one big game out of the way," said Chris Harris, Jr. "You've got to stay zoned in and look forward to the games this weekend. I'll be watching, definitely."

Emmanuel Sanders will be watching, of course, and even wondering if he'll be playing the team he used to suit up with - the Pittsburgh Steelers.

"It's kind of hard not to think about it," Sanders said, adding he hasn't talked to any of his former teammates about it. "It's definitely in the back of my head."

But what's in the front is playing with his new team that Sanders believes is more than capable of beating anybody.

"Our identity is just to beat the man across from you no matter what the play is," he said, adding that the ups and downs of the season have only made the team stronger. "There are going to be wins, there are going to be losses. To finish 12-4 with one of the best records of the National Football League and you get a playoff bye, it's not an easy task and I tell you what, we have fun doing it."

So if he faces his former team?

"That would be fun to play against them," said the wide receiver who definitely looks like he has fun on the field. "I know a majority of those guys over there, and to go out and compete against them again, here in Denver, that would be really fun."

Overall, as a defense I think we're playing our best ball right now and playing at a championship level.   -Terrance Knighton

Fun.

And a pretty tough assignment for the Broncos' D.

Ben Roethlisberger has been a beast again this season, throwing 32 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Le'Veon Bellhas been one of the best running backs in the game, and Antonio Brown has racked up nearly 1,700 yards this season. A big assignment for any defense to stop.

But Knighton, Harris Jr. and the rest of the defense believe they are ready for any opponent.

"I think we're playing our best ball right now," said Knighton, admitting a few "spurts" in the Cincinnati game. "But overall I think as a defense we're playing our best right now and playing at a championship level."

Knighton pointed out again that the Broncos' goal of getting back to the Super Bowl - and winning it this time - has been the plan ever since the free-agent signings of DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward. Having those guys on the roster heading into the playoffs gives everyone on the defense that much more confidence this year.

"That is what they're here for," the 330-pound lineman said. "They came here to win, obviously, and we don't want to let them down, and they don't want to let us down. We all had the same goal in mind and it won't be a satisfying season unless we win the Super Bowl."

So does this postseason feel different than last, Pot Roast?

"I'll let you know after the Super Bowl."

Love that guy.

The case for Bradley Roby

Rookie corner Bradley Roby has certainly had a first-class group of mentors at his position.

Chris Harris Jr.  - just named to his first Pro Bowl -  was recently touted as Pro Football Focus' top cornerback in the NFL.

Though Roby doesn't have Harris Jr.'s numbers or reputation on the field just yet, he has shown some impressive play at a tough position.

"I think I did OK. It's just been a year of learning for me," said the Broncos' No. 1 draft pick in 2014. "Learning from my mistakes, trying to keep getting better every week. I'm still working to keep getting better and hopefully play my best football when we're in the playoffs. It's been fun, a lot of ups and downs, but like I said, it's been a learning experience the whole time, so I'm enjoying it."

Roby has one sack, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries on his rookie resumé. He also has 13 passes defensed. Not too shabby.

Then again, he has some great examples to learn from, including Harris Jr., Talib and Ward.

"Those are three Pro Bowl guys I'm learning from every day. Just to be a rookie and see that my first year, in an organization like this, is only going to help me in my future," Roby said, adding that he expected to be in the playoffs as soon as he was drafted by the Broncos in May. "I'm very excited for my first playoff experience because a lot of guys go their whole career in order to play a lot of playoff games. So being a rookie and having my first one coming up is pretty big."

But the young corner doesn't think he's done enough to earn Rookie Defensive Player of the Year.

"I don't think I have. That was definitely a goal of mine going in," Roby said, adding it's a tough position to excel at right away. He named Ravens LB C.J. Mosely and Rams DT Aaron Donald as two peers ahead of him.  "Those are the guys that I know have been doing their thing this year. I've been playing well, but I don't think I've been playing better than those guys at their respective positions. I'm not even worried about it. I'm just going to try keep getting these wins for my team and keep getting better."

Nothing like the playoffs to improve that education.

New Year's Broncos Resolutions

I could bore you with all my resolutions, but I'll stick to the ones that matter to you (it may matter to you that I resolve to eater fewer rainbow-sprinkled donuts in 2015, but it shouldn't. In fact, you should talk me out of that one because those donuts ROCK my world. And, it would also be both irrelevant and a waste of your time because that will surely be one I resolutely plan to break anyway).

So here are my Broncos Resolutions. Feel free to grab some Advil, Orange and Blue Kool-Aid and resolve away!

  • Wear only Orange and Blue for the next 32 days...at a minimum!
  • Engage in zero conspiracy theories about Manning, the Broncos, the coaching staff, etc.
  • Be happy with 12-4, No. 2 seed and all the media attention on the Patriots (Personally, I like being the underdog for the whole Super Bowl discussion)
  • Fill free time watching Broncos highlights. Obviously the 1998 Super Bowl is a must, as is the 2011 playoff win against Pittsburgh. After that, anything on YouTube for Terrell Davis, Eddie Mac, Steve Atwater and John Elway for vintage clips. Manning and DT also mandatory.
  • Create and practice a Lombardi Dance. Could be similar to a FunkyVonSackDance but will not allow any waddling or the wearing of dead animals on my head.

Horse Tracks

Denver Broncos Should Open Up Aerial Attack, Peyton Manning in Playoffs | Bleacher Report
Denver Broncos news, rumors, scores, schedules, predictions, picks against the spread, free agent updates, power rankings, mock drafts and more

Adam Gase to Interview with Bears Saturday
Denver Broncos news, rumors, scores, schedules, predictions, picks against the spread, free agent updates, power rankings, mock drafts and more

Peyton Manning of Denver Broncos backs Adam Gase for jobs - ESPN
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning believes offensive coordinator Adam Gase would make a quality NFL head coach. Manning said Wednesday following the team's practice that he's told NFL teams as much when they've asked and is ready to do so again.

Gase remains focused on postseason
Offensive Coordinator Adam Gase remains focused on the Broncos postseason, despite being "excited" about interviews.

Gase on why offense is ready for postseason
Offensive coordinator Adam Gase talks about the state of the offense before the playoffs.

Del Rio likes state of D heading into postseason
Defensive coordinator Del Rio talks about why the defense is in good shape heading into the postseason.

How Brock Osweiler, Virgil Green each got their first touchdown - Denver Broncos Blog - ESPN
How did Brock Osweiler and Virgil Green get on the scoreboard for the first time? With an assist fro Peyton Manning.

Chargers plan to address Philip Rivers contract - NFL.com
General manager Tom Telesco said Wednesday the team is "definitely" working on a long-term deal with Philip Rivers, who they would like see retire as a Charger, according to U-T San Diego.

NFL Playoff Predictions 2015: B/R's Wild Card Projections
Denver Broncos news, rumors, scores, schedules, predictions, picks against the spread, free agent updates, power rankings, mock drafts and more

Six rookies to watch during Wild Card Weekend - NFL.com
Steelers wide receiver Martavis Bryant and Bengals running back Jeremy Hill will play key roles for their teams during Wild Card Weekend. What other first-year players made our list?

Marrone exit represents substantial setback for Bills - NFL.com
The Buffalo Bills just finished with a winning record for the first time in a decade. Things seemed to be moving in the right direction -- until Doug Marrone took the money and ran on New Year's Eve.