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December 29, 2003
In The Backfield: Watching the AFC
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com

Denver Broncos vs. Indianapolis

For the Denver Broncos they're heading into the postseason after a 10-6 season despite a 31-3 loss to Green Bay over the weekend after head coach Mike Shanahan held out Jake Plummer, Clinton Portis and other stars knowing that the outcome wouldn't change their #6 seed.

The move was wise as they looked to protect their stars heading into the playoffs, but unfortunately the one thing the Broncos did do was give Indianapolis a reason to hand the ball off frequently to Edgerrin James. Packers runningback Ahman Green rushed for a team record 218-yards and two touchdowns and did a number against a Denver defense that will be in big trouble if they don't play better this weekend against the Colts.

However if you ask Denver defensive endTrevor Pryce, he'll tell you his team isn't worried.

"Nope," Pryce told the Daily Camera when asked if Denver's defensive struggles meant anything. "Absolutely not, because they were not the Colts, they were the Packers. That's done and gone, it's over with."

Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe is also pretty confident heading into the postseason.

"With the weapons that we have on offense and knowing that our defense can go out there and shut anybody down," Sharpe told the paper. "We're going to be difficult to beat. We'll be ready."

Meanwhile in Indianapolis Tony Dungy's team is looking to avoid another early exit from the postseason. Heading into their showdown against the Broncos they're likely remembering their 31-17 defeat at the RCA Dome back on December 21st, their worst loss of the season.

Denver held the Colts to 183-yards, the fewest by an Indy team since 1998 and Peyton Manning and company couldn't handle Denver's blitzes and defensive schemes.

They'll now be looking to get even.

"What could be more incentive than that?" Colts tight end Marcus Pollard told the Rocky Mountain News on Sunday.

Unfortunately part of what the Colts will be battling is themselves when they take the field this weekend. They have lost all three playoff games since Manning took over at quarterback in 1998.

"A lot of people are probably saying, 'They don't want to play Denver,' because they pretty much handed it to us the first time," Colts quarterback Peyton Manning told the newspaper. "We have to play better. We have to have a good week of practice, change some things and play better."

The team will also look to do something they have never done, and that's win on the road, in the same city, twice in the same season.

Denver has had three other chances. In 1983, it lost twice at Seattle, the second time in a wild-card rematch.

In 1993, it lost in back-to-back weeks vs. the Raiders, the second time in a wild-card showdown.

And in 1997, Denver split games at Kansas City, losing during the regular season but winning the division playoff.

"We're on the road the whole playoffs, and we need three wins on the road,' said Portis, who reports he is fully recovered from the high-ankle sprain he suffered Dec. 14 during Denver's overtime victory over Cleveland. "So we've got to go get it.'

Oddsmakers have established the Colts as three-point favorites for what will be the teams' first postseason meeting, at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the RCA Dome.

Tennessee vs. Baltimore

The Titans have a big question mark heading into the postseason, and that's whether or not quarterback Steve McNair can get them back to the big game.

McNair sat out last weekend's game against Tampa Bay and watched teammate Neil O'Donnel play well during the Titans' 33-13 victory over the Buccaneers. McNair threw for 232-yards and two touchdowns in McNair's absence, and will likely retire after Tennessee concludes the postseason.

Now he's hoping to be there to watch McNair take a knee to finish off a Superbowl win.

''I've got two AFC Championship rings, I don't have a Super Bowl ring,'' O'Donnell told the Tennessean. "He deserves it all. He does. He's the one that put us in position to go all the way. Steve should take the knee. I'll carry Steve off.''

McNair did not practice last week due to a cracked bone spur in his left ankle and a strained right calf, injuries which also kept him out of the Dec. 14 game vs. Buffalo.

''We elected to go with Neil over Steve to rest Steve,'' Titans Coach Jeff Fisher told the newspaper. ''Steve was better today than he was last week but we felt that our best chance to have success in the postseason was to give Steve an extra opportunity to rest.''

Meanwhile Brian Billick's club is looking forward to another shot at the postseason after a loss by the Cincinnati Bengals assured his team of clincing the AFC North title.

"I tried not to watch it," Billick said when asked if he watched the Cincinnati game. "I was in my hotel room. My wife and daughters were in the other room and I tried to ignore it, but they kept screaming and yelling and shouting."


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