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Horse Tracks: Can you hear that music now?

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Those are championship tunes, and it's blaring from the Denver Broncos locker room. Our boys are pumped and ready to play in a rematch against the Colts that will be anything but the same game as Week 1.

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Good morning, Broncos Country - Are you ready for some playoffs?

Put on some orange and blue face paint and let's get this Broncos jam started because the championship energy out of Dove Valley is so palpable, I'm doing my #FunkyVonSackDance all the way out here on the Eastern shores. (It's even possible the energy might win over BigPete!)

If you lose you're done. We don't want to be that team that's going home this weekend.    -Terrance Knighton

Following a bye week with three days off, players say they feel energized and ready to rock it with the best fans in the NFL on Sunday.

"Everybody was locked in, lasered in," said Terrance Knighton of Monday's practice. "The postseason is a different season. In each different season, the intensity raises. Now it's a one-and-done. If you lose, you're done. So we don't want to be that team that's going home this weekend."

Neither do we.

And don't think our players aren't counting on the fans' #United In Orange vibe to be their 12th man this weekend. There's magic in Mile High for a reason.

"It's huge," Coach John Fox said of having the game at Mile High. "We arguably have one of the best home field advantages in the league, in my opinion, between our fans, the altitude and the shock of that when teams first come out there. I think it's going to be huge. That's why you fight so hard to get that home game."

Truth, coach. (And don't you dare let me down, Broncos Country... I can't handle another postseason listening to that horse puckey from Seattle - show them how REAL fans cheer on their team, will you?)

And if you're worried about our guys being rusty after the bye, Pot Roast has some more truth for you.

"We won't be rusty. We practiced three days before we took three days off. We came back an extra day ahead of time, got a good lift in yesterday, got an extra practice in today," said every fan's favorite no-nonsense lineman. "So being rusty won't be a problem. I'm not worried about that."

Me either. This Broncos team has weathered a long, tough season, following the biggest letdown in the history of (...ok, arguably a bit dramatic there). But the 12-4 showing during a brutal schedule and some hard lessons means this team - and specifically this defense - really is ready ... not just for a game but for a battle.

It's something we've developed throughout the season - a killer instinct to put teams away and not giving them any hope.   -Terrance Knighton

Knighton promises there will be no fourth-quarter meltdown - or even a softening.

"It's something we've developed throughout the season - having that killer instinct to put teams away and not giving them any hope," Knighton said, referring to Week 1 when Andrew Luck nearly brought the Colts back.

And T-Knight added that no matter the score, the mentality will be to keep fighting. "Regardless of what the scoreboard is, we'll continue to play hard for four quarters," he said.

If that's not music to your ears, then you have no rhythm. I hate sports clichés (and will deny using one without coercion), but I do have to agree with Pot Roast on this one.

"It's just about who wants in more," Knighton said, admitting that the Broncos have a challenge ahead with the Colts' offense. "I can't really comment on how their team has changed, but as far as ours and on the defensive side of the ball, I think we're gelling and I think we're peaking at the right time."

Did you hear that music? I thought so.

But the Colts are listening too, and they know what they have to do in a rough atmosphere with a tough crowd.

"We've seen how talented [the Broncos] are up front," said Colts offensive lineman Khaled Holmes. "They have guys on the interior of their line, their defensive ends, linebackers, everywhere. So yeah, there's talent all over the field for them."

Thank goodness much of that talent should be back on the field as reports indicate Brandon Marshall and T.J. Ward say they are ready to play.

And the Colts have a lot to feel confident about. Despite having 11 different O-Line configurations this season, quarterback Andrew Luck has still been the elite QB everyone thought he would be. Starting the season 0-2, Luck didn't panic and instead has led the Colts to 12 wins in the last 15 games, including last week's solid victory over the Bengals.

"I think we were all prepared, and I think with that comes a sense of confidence," Holmes said. "It gives you a calm demeanor on the field and allows you to perform at your best."

And that's going to present a tough test for the Broncos, but one T.J. Ward says they are ready to face.

"We've grown so much as a unit, not only just as a secondary but as a defense total," said Ward, who will be suiting up for the first playoff game of his career. "I think you're going to see two different teams completely from the first game of the season, us and them."

Cornerback Aqib Talib is looking forward to facing Luck and his offense again.

"He is one of the top-tier quarterbacks in the league. We know that," Talib said. "We're going to have to do a good job of bringing him to the ground when we get our hands on him, and we're going to have to do a good job of staying with our receivers as he extends plays."

Staying with the receivers will be crucial since Luck is more than capable of stepping up in - or out of - the pocket and making a big play. But the Broncos have been facing that all season.

"We've played a lot of quarterbacks like that this year. We just put more emphasis on staying with your guy - plastering, as we call it," Talib added. "Just plastering your receivers."

But before it comes to "plastering," Chris Harris Jr. believes the defensive line is going to work its magic.

"Andrew Luck's a great quarterback. He's very mobile; he has the arm strength to throw deep. He can make all the throws and also he can make all the throws on the run," Harris Jr. said, adding that means covering receivers longer. "But our D-Line, they did a great job of getting after him the first time, so I don't expect anything different from the D-Line. I really expect even more pressure."

There's more of that music again.

Respect for the quarterback, though, comes from both teams. Despite the tiresome conversation in the media about Manning's ability (or inability) at age 38, you won't find a team preparing to play the Broncos that will engage in such foolishness.

"Peyton is still Peyton," said former Broncos' safety Mike Adams. "I don't know about all these rumors that he's not the same because he's not throwing for 300 yards or whatever. Peyton is Peyton. They're winning games over there, and that's all that matters."

While many of the Colts players remember Manning as their teammate, Adams remembers being a Bronco with him during the Super Bowl run.

"In all the media, you hear about his work ethic all the time. Well, it's true. He's a workhorse," Adams said of his former QB. "He studies, but at the same time he's loose. He makes jokes. He cracks jokes with the defense and offense, but at the end of the day when he goes on the field, it's business. He knows that and he understands that. He wants to win. He's going to give it his all. He's going to study, he's going to make sure he does everything he can do, everything he needs to, to win the game."

In all the media, you hear about [Manning's] work ethic. Well, it's true. He's a workhorse. I don't know about all these rumors that he's not the same because he's not throwing 300 yards. Peyton is Peyton. He's going to make sure he does everything he can do to win the game.   -Mike Adams, Colts safety

Even Colts' owner Jim Irsay weighed in on the Manning effect.

"Peyton plays at such a high level and plays so great that people put expectations that are unrealistic because I really think whether you get one, two, three championships, a lot more is involved," said Irsay, whose had a checkered past with his former star quarterback.

But the Colts' owner acknowledged that it takes a lot more than one guy to win that championship and there should be no knock on Manning for not winning in the playoffs.

"I've heard it mentioned when you guys talk about it that you get someone like Peyton or Andrew, it's an instant 10 wins. That's not the way it is. You guys were here in 2001. Peyton was young, healthy and in his prime; we won six games. That's because it's a team game," Irsay added.  "You can't expect to just get a quarterback and then your problems are over. You have to combine getting that quarterback with wise decisions and great coaching and a great surrounding cast because you need that all to get to the top."

As if that weren't enough preaching to the choir, Irsay had more that will make Broncos fans swoon.

"I think he's one of the greatest players ever to play the game at his position," Irsay said. "He's going to be in that conversation when you talk about it."

But all the praise and respect aside, you can bet not one player in that Colts locker room isn't going to be gunning for Manning and the rest of the Broncos.

Defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois was one of the few Colts to remind the press that the game is not about Manning v. Luck, but it will start with the Colts defense versus Manning.

"We have a slim margin of error. You've got to give him that different look. You've got to trick him. You've got to get him off his point. We've got to do everything, but the thing you can't do is you cannot be out of position," Francois said. "Anybody on that field that doesn't do their assignment, believe me, Peyton will show. But we know we've got to lock up against the Denver Broncos, not just one individual player."

Luckily that game plan is being prepared in both locker rooms, and both teams are preparing for an epic battle between not just two great quarterbacks, but two playoff teams hungry for another chance at a championship.

"It really just comes down to, experience or not, who executes best on Sunday," said Coach John Fox. "In the playoff, or the real season, you can't have a bad day. Otherwise you go home. So a lot is put into the preparation and every guy doing his job to the maximum of his ability."

Hear that music now?

Horse Tracks - 'Hear that Music' edition

Horse Tracks - 'Old School Print' edition

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