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Denver Broncos clinch AFC's No. 1 seed

The Denver Broncos are back atop the AFC again. And Peyton Manning is back in the saddle at quarterback after replacing Brock Osweiler during a 27-20 victory over the San Diego Chargers. Here's what we learned:

  1. Gary Kubiak made the surprising decision to bench Osweiler after one drive in the third quarter of a close game. Osweiler had three turnovers, and the team had five turnovers at the time. But Osweiler's two interceptions came off a dropped pass and a play where he was hit as he threw. Osweiler also lost a fumble when he was sacked from behind on a blind side blitz. Take away the turnovers and the Broncos were dominating the game. Osweiler had 232 yards on only 22 attempts. But the move to Manning certainly worked.
  1. Manning's numbers were not flashy, finishing with 69 yards on nine attempts. But the team undoubtedly rallied when Manning entered the lineup. The running game especially took off and Manning deserves some credit for calling audibles into better situations. The Broncos scored 20 points after halftime, aided by field position and a late interception by the Broncos' defense. Kubiak said after the game he was looking for "leadership" and believed Manning provided it. While he wouldn't name a starter for the playoffs, it's hard to imagine Manning will be on the bench again.
  1. When Philip Rivers held the ball in a tie game with five minutes left, the Broncos' playoff fate was completely in doubt. Denver could have fallen all the way to the five seed if they lost. Instead, they clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. The Broncos gained 503 yards Sunday, with 210 yards on the ground. The Broncos look like the best team in the AFC when they have a strong running game paired with the league's best defense.
  1. The Broncos have to be worried about DeMarcus Ware's health. He left with a knee injury and has struggled to stay healthy throughout the second half of the season. Kubiak admitted Ware and safety Darian Stewart's injuries were concerns.
  1. If this is it for Mike McCoy and the Chargers, it ended in typical fashion. San Diego fought hard all season but the defense gave up too many long drives and Philip Rivers faced way too much pressure. It's telling they forced five turnovers and still fell to 4-12 on the season.
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