Let’s look at some of the big AFC West developments Sunday:
The Denver Broncos get top seed: The road to the Super Bowl goes through Denver.
This season keeps getting better for the Broncos. A few weeks ago, the Broncos looked like they were set to get the No. 3 seed and would have to play the maximum amount of playoff games. Now, the Broncos won’t travel unless it is to New Orleans for the Super Bowl.
Credit coach John Fox for keeping his troops so focused. This team hasn’t blinked since it trailed 24-0 at halftime in San Diego in Week 6. Denver is 13-3 and it is going into the playoffs on the steam of 11 straight wins. All 11 wins have been by at least seven points. The Broncos are rolling.
I have a difficult time thinking the Broncos will stumble in the divisional round. They will host the lowest seed of these three teams: Baltimore (No. 4 seed), Indianapolis (No. 5 seed) and Cincinnati (No. 6) on Saturday, Jan. 12 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Denver has road wins over the Ravens and the Bengals. They did not play the Colts. There would be significant hype if Peyton Manning faces his old team.
I think Denver and New England is on a collision course to meet in the AFC title game. The Patriots are the No. 2 seed. We may see another Manning-Tom Brady showdown with a new twist.
New England beat the Broncos in October. It was the last time Denver lost. The Patriots aren’t a great matchup for Denver, but playing at home would help the Broncos.
Did Manning do enough for MVP? Manning vs. Adrian Peterson in the MVP race will not be announced for another month.
Both players will likely get a lot of support for the award. Peterson finished nine yards shy of the NFL single-season rushing record and he led his team to the playoffs. For the record, Eric Dickerson, who holds the single-season rushing record, did not win the MVP award when he set the mark in 1984. I think Manning will win the award in a close race. It would be his fifth MVP award.
Pryor prove himself? I really liked what I saw from Terrelle Pryor on Sunday. He showed leadership, poise and heart.
He is not a finished product, but I think there is something Oakland can work with. There are a lot of young, dynamic quarterbacks in this league. I think Oakland had to make developing Pryor quickly a priority. Carson Palmer is 33, expensive, and not improving.
If Pryor makes big strides in the offseason, I don’t think it would be a terrible idea for Oakland to consider handing him the starting job. This team will be still rebuilding for the next couple of years. Might as well give the kid a chance.
Coaching change timelines: We could see big changes quickly in San Diego and Kansas City. And Oakland could dismiss some key assistants, starting with offensive coordinator Greg Knapp.
I think all of these moves will happen this week. I can see San Diego making a decision as early as Monday morning.
So, the regular season is over but in a lot of ways, we are just getting started in the AFC West.