At midseason the Broncos were at 6-2, tied atop the AFC West with the Raiders. Since then they have gone 2-3 and could be headed out of playoff contention.
Over the final three games, the Broncos face a murderer’s row of opponents. This Sunday they face the 11-2 New England Patriots, then their final two games are against division rivals Chiefs and Raiders which they lost to in both of their previous meetings this season. That’s a final three games against teams with an current combined record of 31-8.
The Broncos may not need to lose out to miss the playoffs, but should they lose to the Patriots and in Kansas City, it would be just the Raiders between them and a winning record and perhaps their last gasp at sneaking into the playoffs as a wildcard.
Here is the AFC playoff picture as of now:
1. Patriots 11-2 (AFC East)
2. Chiefs 10-3 (AFC West)
3. Steelers 8-5 (AFC North)
4. Texans 7-6 (AFC South)
5. Raiders 10-3 (Wild Card)
6. Broncos 8-5 (Wild Card)
Currently the Broncos are clinging to that sixth seed, two games back in the division. A loss on Sunday combined with wins by the Raiders and Chiefs would take them out of any shot at the division even before facing both teams in the final two games.
A loss by the Broncos combined with a win by either the Dolphins or Ravens would knock them out of the playoff picture. The Dolphins lost Ryan Tannehill this week, but they face the lowly Jets, so Matt Moore could still lead them to a win. They finish the season against the Bills and Patriots.
Prior to the Ravens’ hard fought loss to the Patriots last week, they were rolling, winning four of their previous five games. They look to be making a strong push for the playoffs with the Eagles, Steelers, and Bengals down the stretch.
At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, let’s say for the sake of argument, the Broncos lose their next two, and the Dolphins and Ravens go 1-1. The Broncos’ only hope would then be for both the Ravens and Dolphins to lose and for the Broncos to beat the Raiders. In that scenario, we could know before kickoff if the Broncos will be playing for anything other than just spoilers.