The team that knocked Denver out of the playoffs, the Baltimore Ravens, went on to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl after beating the Broncos 38-35 in second overtime of the Divisional Round of the postseason. In essence, the Baltimore beat Denver by a Hail Mary pass before going on to beat the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, 34-31.
On Sunday, every Broncos fan was thinking, that could have been us. Most likely, every player on the Broncos roster was thinking the same thing.
Similarly to the 1996 season, the Broncos went 13-3 in the 2012 regular season before being knocked out in their first playoff game. That year, the Broncos lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
A game that every Broncos fan remembers, however, was when Denver got a chance for revenge, defeating Jacksonville in the 1997 playoffs by a score of 42-17. This offseason, the Broncos will have six months to prepare for the regular season, with one upcoming game having particular significance.
The Ravens are among Denver's eight 2013 scheduled opponents. If you were to ask coach John Fox or quarterback Peyton Manning about the game, they would probably give the standard, "We'll take it one game at a time and treat every game equally" response.
It's hard to believe that, deep down, the Broncos aren't especially looking forward to their rematch with the Ravens next season. The fans certainly are.
The game, despite being over six months away, already appears primed to be an epic showdown. Please, NFL schedule makers, deliver it in prime-time.