The NFL’s dandy dozen is set _ and truth be told, a little scared.
Nobody’s perfect, and all the teams that made the playoffs face potential pitfalls that could derail their dreams of partying down Bourbon Street in February.
Manning insists the Broncos remain a work in progress, lacking enough time together to suit the perfectionist in him, “but I think we’ve done the best job of being the best we can possibly be in a short period of time.”
Like the rest of the field, the Broncos could end up being the NFL’s best without being at their best.
The Broncos, Patriots, Falcons and 49ers all get a little more time to fix their flaws after earning first-round byes, although they’ll also have to make sure all that R&R they get this weekend doesn’t turn into rust and ruin when they suit up again.
Here’s a look at the Achilles’ heel of each of the 12 teams still hoping to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans on Feb. 3:
_Denver: Odd as it sounds, the ball just hasn’t bounced the Broncos‘ way this season. They’re minus-1 in turnover differential. Trindon Holliday has two return TDs but five fumbles. Knowshon Moreno was deactivated for two months after coughing up the ball before replacing an injured Willis McGahee in November. And rookie Ronnie Hillman didn’t see the field after his fumble Sunday led to the scary sight of Manning chasing down a cornerback to save a TD.
“Me, I’m telling him to get out of the way,” Champ Bailey said. “But the competitive nature of him is telling him to make the tackle. He stuck his neck out there.” His four-time surgically repaired neck, by the way.
_New England: The Pats are as close to perfect as there is, but they, too, have blemishes, including RB Stevan Ridley’s fumbles. Despite rushing for a career-high 1,263 yards and 12 TDs in his second season, Ridley fumbled four times, putting him in line for one of coach Bill Belichick’s notorious rants.
_Houston: The Texans lost three of their last four and the main culprit is third down travails. They’ve converted just 15 of 49 third-down attempts in their last four games and their defense has been unable to make stops. Andrew Luck threw a 70-yard touchdown pass on third-and-23 in the fourth quarter Sunday to put the game out of reach.
“Hopefully, being at home, the noise, all those things, we can do a better job,” said coach Gary Kubiak.
_Baltimore: Surprisingly, the Ravens’ weakness is their defense. Baltimore has long relied upon this unit to win, but this season they’ve battled injuries (Terrell Suggs, Ray Lewis, Lardarius Webb and Bernard Pollard), and Ed Reed is having an average year. And Lewis will pull off his No. 52 jersey for the last time after the Ravens lose or claim their second title.View Entire Story
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