DENVER - The Chinese zodiac calendar is based on a cycle of 12 years.
The NFL playoffs are a cycle of 12 teams.
"We're one of 12," noted football philosopher Champ Bailey said Sunday in Oakland, which happens to boast a superb Chinatown.
The Broncos, as you've surely heard, are the No. 1 seed in the AFC field. Along with the Seahawks of the NFC, they are also the No. 1 pick to reach the Super Bowl.
So this should come as no surprise:
On the Chinese calendar, 2014 is the Year of the Horse.
Perhaps it's worth noting the Chinese calendar begins not on Wednesday, when our calendar begins, but Jan. 31, two days before Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey.
When the Broncos played the Giants in New Jersey in Week 2, I met only one philosopher, a cab driver. We got a flat tire outside MetLife Stadium. The cabbie said something about God, leaving the passengers to assume he was philosophizing.
The Broncos reached, and lost in, Super Bowls in the Year of the Snake (1978, 27-10 against the Cowboys), Year of the Tiger (1987, 39-20 against the Giants), Year of the Rabbit (1988, 42-10 against the Redskins) and Year of the Horse (1990, 55-10 against the 49ers).
They won Super Bowls in the Year of the Ox (1998, 31-24 against the Packers) and Year of the Tiger (1999, 34-19 against the Falcons).
With all that in mind, here are 13 for '14 - predictions and resolutions - for the Year of the Horse:
1. Peyton Manning returns for a third (and, later, fourth) season with the Broncos. He needs 18 touchdowns to pass Brett Favre for the all-time record - and gets it, in Week 8. The ultimate quarterback downplays the significance of records. But for a football historian deeply versed in legacies, they mean something to him.
2. Speculation over Troy Tulowitzki's future gains steam, if another Rockies season slides into the NFL West basement. His professional attitude with a losing franchise is admirable, talent undeniable and trade value notable. Just say no, Rockies.
3. The Avs hang on to the No. 8 seed and meet the top-seeded Blackhawks in the NHL playoffs. After a riveting seven-game series, Coach of the Year Patrick Roy lobbies the NHL for a move to the Eastern Conference, where the Avs currently would claim home ice as a No. 4 seed.
4. Colorado State running back Kapri Bibbs will be targeted by the Broncos late in the draft. Free agency awaits Knowshon Moreno; Ronnie Hillman remains a reach.
5. Sochi Olympics: A bad idea, top to bottom. Weeks before the opening ceremony Feb. 7, alleged Islamic terrorist attacks in Russia, designed to disrupt the Games, have killed more than 30 people. And it's barely a blip on the American news radar. This should be a major story, and the U.S. should give real thought to withdrawing from the Games. If the scene is deadly now, why would it smooth over once the West arrives in Sochi?
6. The Nuggets miss the playoffs for the first time since 2003 and turn their focus to the Eastern Conference standings. The Knicks hold the key to the Nuggets' future, a first-round pick that will be sent to Denver. By Jan. 10, Tim Connelly told me, the general manager will have scouted each of the top eight prospects in person. Twice.
7. Colorado and Colorado State agree to move the Rocky Mountain Showdown from Sports Authority Field to campus sites, starting with the 2014 season opener, in a smart move that's been discussed.
8. Tim Tebow skyrockets ratings for ESPN's "SEC Nation," a show we didn't know existed until Tebow was announced as an analyst. "I don't know what the future holds, but I know who holds my future," Tebow said Tuesday on a conference call. In a sea of cliche-loving analysts, the former Bronco will be the only one criticized for using them.
9. Attend the Warrior Games in May. In a year with dozens of choices, these Games represented my favorite sports event of 2013. It's must-see, inspired competition for those who enjoy real-life heroes, or Missy Franklin blushing around Prince Harry.
10. Check out De'Ron Davis. A 6-foot-8 sophomore at Aurora Overland, he's already a household name in high-major basketball recruiting circles. Colorado coach Tad Boyle got in early, but a blueblood — Kansas, Indiana, UCLA? — is the smart bet.
11. Chalk rules the NFL playoffs. Ranking the qualifiers, in order of their threat level to the Broncos winning the Super Bowl: 1. Panthers 2. 49ers 3. Chargers 4. Seahawks 5. Chiefs 6. Patriots 7. Packers 8. Saints 9. Bengals 10. Colts 11. Eagles.
12. Purchase a fishing license. At $26 for residents, there's no better deal in sports. The heavy snowpack ensures another banner season for fly fishermen on the river.
13. Ever since the Broncos won their most recent Super Bowl, at the end of the 1998 season, only one AFC No. 1 seed, the 2003 Patriots, avoided upset and won it all. That streak ends after the Broncos beat the Panthers on Feb. 2, 2014, the Year of the Horse.