As the celebration of Peyton Manning's record 51 passing touchdowns fades away, and the Broncos try to lock up the top playoff seed, there are still a bunch of concerns about the state of the team heading into the playoffs. The biggest came yesterday after linebacker Von Miller suffered a torn ACL early in Sunday's game against Houston. Miller won't play for the rest of the season, according to Mike Klis of the Denver Post.
Denver's defense now has to work with its best pass rusher out. Miller's absence numbs a pass-rush which was already missing defensive end Derek Wolfe, who suffered "seizure-like symptoms" on Nov. 29 and hasn't played since. The Broncos clearly missed Miller when he was suspended for the first six games, and for the season is in the bottom half of the league in pass rush metrics. Now they will have to deal with a huge absence in its front seven in an AFC loaded with passing attacks.
On the other side of the ball, Manning didn't miss a beat yesterday without Wes Welker, throwing for four touchdowns. But that was against the Texans. The opponents in the postseason are not the Texans. Welker suffered two concussions in three weeks and will reportedly return for the playoffs, but that isn't a sure thing. The Broncos are still spoiled with receivers—after Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, they have solid targets in tight end Julius Thomas, Andre Caldwell, Jacob Tamme and a running back who can catch passes in Knowshon Moreno—but Welker would still be the biggest threat in the slot.
The Broncos and Chiefs both have playoff spots, but the first-round byes for the top two AFC teams will be decided in Week 17. While the Chiefs play the Chargers, the Broncos get the hapless Raiders. Denver will probably make short work of Oakland, but after blowing last week's game against the Chargers, it's going to be short of the one thing it obviously needs: rest.