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The sky is not falling, Broncos Country - Horse Tracks

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The Broncos need one more win to seal 12-4, which isn't so bad.

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A 28-37 shellacking by a fellow AFC playoff team can be a humbling experience, but all is not lost. It is not all doom and gloom around Denver Broncos Country - or, at least it shouldn't be.

"The sky is not falling," head coach John Fox said Tuesday. "We're not getting ready to give up our quarterback, he's fine. We're all going to get better."

Here are a handful of silver linings to hold onto as the Broncos make their final playoff push.

1. The Broncos are AFC West champions. Go ask Chargers or Chiefs fans if they'd like to trade places with us, and they'd say yes in a heartbeat.

2. A win against the Raiders at home on Sunday gives the Broncos a playoff bye and a 2nd round home game, and the Broncos have been sensational at home (7-0 this season and 23-3 in the Peyton Manning era).

3. Good things happen when teams get beaten late in the regular season. It was something Terrell Davis talked with us about a year ago.

"People underestimate that loss late in November or December," Davis said. "Not to say that you go out there and try to lose a game, but it's a chance for the team to refocus, recalibrate, look at the things that you've been sweeping under the rug because you've been winning games so many times."

He was right. The Broncos used the lessons they learned in their loss to the Chargers in 2013 to get all the way to the Super Bowl. Maybe this year, they can double-up on lessons learned against the Rams and the Bengals to go all the way.

4. In fact, in each of the seven years the Denver Broncos have made it to the Super Bowl, they lost in December -

In 1997, the Broncos were 11-2 and were cruising toward home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs. Then they lost at Pittsburgh, 35-24, and at San Francisco, 34-17, in Weeks 15 and 16. After stomping the San Diego Chargers, 38-3, to end the regular season. the Broncos then won three playoff games - two of them on the road - then upset the Green Bay Packers, 31-24, to win Super Bowl XXXII.

In 1998, the Broncos were 13-0 but lost at the New York Giants, 20-16, and at the Miami Dolphins, 31-21, in Weeks 15 and 16. They then romped through the playoffs and their second straight title.

In 2013, the Broncos lost to the San Diego Chargers, 27-20, in Week 15 and reached Super Bowl XLVIII.

In 1989, the Broncos lost three of four December games and reached Super Bowl XXIV.

In 1987, a 28-21 loss at Seattle on Dec. 13 didn't delay a run to Super Bowl XXII.

In 1986, the Broncos lost two of their last three regular-season games but still made Super Bowl XXI - in large part thanks to "The Drive."

In 1977, the Orange Crush Broncos lost to the Dallas Cowboys in the regular-season finale, but then won the first two playoff games in franchise history and made Super Bowl XII.

5. T.J. Ward is better than expected and is day-to-day.

"People underestimate that loss late in November or December... it's a chance for the team to refocus, recalibrate." - Terrell Davis

6. Pro Bowl rosters confirm: the Broncos are pretty good.

7. For the superstitious, the Broncos have never done that well when they've entered the playoffs with 13 wins.  They have done well with 12 wins, though.

8. For the superstitious part two, it also means the Broncos have already lost their fourth game of the season. In every Manning-led season, the Broncos lost exactly four games.

The sky isn't falling because the Broncos lost to the Bengals. Maybe it was the exact wake-up call this team needed.

Horse Tracks

Pro Bowl snubs abound, as usual | ProFootballTalk
Broncos receiver Emmanuel Sanders (95 catches, 1,331 yards), Lions receiver Golden Tate (96 catches, 1,286 yards) had better numbers than Dez Bryant, but Bryant has a much greater impact on the opposition and game planning.

QB snapshot: Peyton Manning - Denver Broncos Blog - ESPN
If you covered up the name, the quarterback with 39 touchdown passes, the same guy who is leading the league in that category, would likely to be said to be having a good year. But the guy is Peyton Manning and folks keep holding him to the 2013 standard when he threw a league-record 55 touchdown passes. And there is a rumbling in the league that defenses have cracked the code a bit on Manning and the Broncos' offense, and Monday night Manning had his first four-interception game since Dec. 5, 2010.

Day-after takeaways from Broncos-Bengals
In the last two weeks, running backs and tight ends have amassed 28 catches for 243 yards and three touchdowns against the Broncos -- including two scores Monday. Wide receivers gained just 135 yards on 13 receptions with no scores.

Monday Nightmare: This is Peyton Manning's place - NFL.com
Peyton Manning. He hurt the Broncos chances in the playoffs. He also ended the fantasy dreams of many. Our readers share their tales of woe.

Tom Brady wants to work out offense issues in Week 17 - NFL.com
With nothing to play for in Week 17, Bill Belichick could be tempted to rest his core players in Sunday's season finale against the Bills. If it was Tom Brady's decision, the Patriots would use Week 17 as a chance to get their offense back in a groove.

Jay Cutler, Doug Martin headline our All-Disappointment Team | SI.com
Other former Broncos to make the list: WR Eric Decker and LB Shaun Phillips.