Broncos look like Peyton Manning’s last Super Bowl-winning team

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Photo: Quarterback Peyton Manning (AP Photo)
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning (18) throws against the Oakland Raiders during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2014, in Denver.

The Denver Broncos are two wins away from a return trip to the Super Bowl. They start their playoff journey on Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Sports Illustrated's Joan Niesen joined CPR's Colorado Matters on Thursday to preview the game with host Ryan Warner.

According to OddsShark, the Broncos are favored by seven points, and Niesen thinks they'll win.

"Anything can happen in the playoffs, but when you're the better of the two teams playing at home, usually the odds are stacked in your favor," Niesen said. She acknowledged the Colts are coming off one of their best games all season.

Niesen said the Broncos are in better shape heading into these playoffs than they were last year, particularly on defense.

"They really reloaded on defense," she said. "Their defense last year at the beginning of the year wasn't the best unit in the world, and then it was so depleted due to injuries throughout the season.

"And defense wins championships. That's what it comes down to," she said.

That's particularly important right now because the Broncos' star quarterback Peyton Manning struggled over the last five games of the season, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns.

Still, Niesen said Manning is healthier than he was at the same time last season, and at 38, he's still one of the top quarterbacks in the league.

And, when Manning won the Superbowl with the Colts after the 2006 season, he was on a team very similar to the one the Broncos have now. Both teams ran the ball well and relied on "a really gritty defense," Niesen said.

"I talked to coach Tony Dungy last week, who coached that 2006 Colts team, and he agreed there are a lot of similarities between those two teams," Niesen said.

If the Broncos win on Sunday, they will play again next weekend, either facing the Baltimore Ravens in Denver, or the New England Patriots on the road in Foxborough, Mass.

Niesen said the team would "100 percent" prefer to play the Ravens in Denver.

"You want to be on your home field, regardless of the opponent, especially when the alternative is going to Foxborough, where the Patriots have been pretty close to invincible, especially against the Broncos with Peyton Manning," she said.