Two short years ago, Broncos owner Pat Bowlen sent out a letter to season ticket holders. "You deserve more from this franchise," he wrote.
Then, he went out and fixed it — first by hiring John Elway, who remembered how things worked when the Broncos were one of the NFL's premier organizations, then by bringing on John Fox as coach and, eventually, Peyton Manning to play quarterback.
On Monday, the day after the Broncos closed out a 13-3 regular season and wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
"I had no real expectations for what this year would be like, so I don't know if you can exceed expectations if you never really had any," Manning said Sunday. "Some things were really kind of wait-and-see for me, but it's been a gratifying regular season and very humbling."
Pagano anxious about return to Baltimore
Colts coach Chuck Pagano is already ditching his doctor's advice.
Instead of scaling back his workload, he figures he'll work overtime getting ready for this week's playoff game.
One day after the cancer-beating coach found out he and his team were headed to Baltimore for the AFC's wild-card round, the former Ravens defensive coordinator acknowledged he would spend more time than usual meeting with Indy's offense and special teams to tell them everything he knows.
"My doc said be prudent, if you remember, but I may not be prudent this week in spending a lot of time in a lot of different areas in trying to get as much information out as I possibly can and help where I can," Pagano said Monday.
Wild-card rematch for Bengals, Texans
The Bengals are taking one of the longest streaks of playoff futility in NFL history back to the scene of their latest postseason loss.
A year older, they're hoping they've grown up enough to pull off a significant breakthrough.
Cincinnati (10-6) opens the postseason Saturday at Houston (12-4), where the young Bengals imploded during a 31-10 loss in the first round last year. Quarterback Andy Dalton was a rookie then and threw three interceptions that turned a close game into a blowout.
"The difference is we know the atmosphere from when we went down there last year," head coach Marvin Lewis said. "(It was) the first time we had a playoff game on the road for any of the people here."