I was asked if I would want the Broncos to make the playoffs if I knew they'd lose in the first round.
Let me think... OF COURSE!
A wise man once said, "You play to win the game". A corollary of that statement is that by winning more than you lose, (usually) you make the playoffs. Therefore, by asking me if I wanted the Broncos to make the playoffs, what he was really asking me was if I wanted the Broncos to win.
Easy question. Easy answer. As a Broncos fan, I have to say "yes".
Now, does losing in the playoffs make me happy? Of course not. However, we are nowhere near the "suck for Luck" range. There's no point in losing games on purpose. That's not what football is all about. What would be the advantage of losing the week 17 game against the Kansas City Chiefs? You can't come up with an answer off the top of your head? Don't worry, I'll wait...
If you're still sitting there thinking, let me go ahead and talk about why losing to the Chiefs is not an option. Quite the opposite, really... losing to the Chiefs will be one of the most devastating losses in recent history (which is no small feat, considering how Broncos fans have had our fair share of devastating losses, as of late). The biggest reason why losing would be devastating is Kyle Orton.
John Elway, John Fox and Brian Xanders made the decision to waive Kyle Orton a few weeks ago and were probably thinking that Chicago would be the prime landing spot for Orton. Most of the country thought the same thing. But when the Chiefs stepped in and took the 2 million dollar hit to get Orton, there's no doubt that the Broncos triumvirate was having seller's remorse. Maybe not right away, but as the season unfolded and the week 17 match up against Kansas City loomed, a sick feeling probably came over them all. How awful would it be to lose a game against a quarterback that you shipped out of town just a few weeks ago? One word... Very.
I can tell you, for a fact, that Kyle Orton wants to beat the Broncos. He doesn't just want to beat us, he wants to embarrass us. Wouldn't you? You're minding your own business in Chicago when you're involved in one of the biggest offseason dramas in recent history. You arrive in a city that is still angry that Jay Cutler left and you're thought of as just a bridge between Cutler and "the next guy". How's that feel? Good? You put in all this work and win your first 6 games and suffer a few injuries while the fanbase and organization continues looking for "the next quarterback". You're benched for some unproven hybrid quarterback/fullback and then put on waivers a few weeks later. Now, all of a sudden, you're presented an opportunity to knock this team out of the playoffs. This week, if Kyle Orton is spending fewer than 25 hours a day in preparation for this game, I'd be very surprised.
The opposition really wants this win, but what about the Broncos? I bet they'll be playing inspired ball, too. After suffering an embarrassing thrashing against the Bills, Denver will be looking to get this nasty taste of losing out of their mouths. Looking back on the game, as a fan, I'm ALMOST glad that we lost (maybe it's a coping mechanism). If we won the game in Buffalo, we'd still need to win at Kansas City to guarantee a playoff berth. The way I see it, we might as well be playing with a major chip on our shoulder and a feeling of desperation. If we had beaten the Bills, I could see the week 17 Kansas City game unfolding much the same way the 2006 49ers game did. However, after listening to a lot of post-game reaction from the players, I think it's easy to notice how motivated they are to put forth a good effort this Sunday. I hope their play is as good as their preparation.
The Ramifications of the Game
There are just a few days until the regular season is concluded. We have to face Kyle Orton and the Chiefs. It's all on the line. The stakes haven't been this high against a division rival since the 2008 December beatdown we suffered against the Chargers.
Who's the guy that will get the majority of the praise/damnation after this game? Tim Tebow, of course. I don't care what John Elway said a few weeks ago, this game will make or break the Tim Tebow era. If the Broncos win, we ride into the playoffs aboard our orange and blue bandwagon, singing the praises of our left handed beast of a quarterback. If the Broncos lose, the critics will swarm, conjuring stories of Tebow's inability to win at this level and slandering Broncos Country for our inability to play in December.
Granted, we should be excited that the Broncos have done so well following their 1-4 start... and I am. Before the season started, I said that I'd be completely satisfied with a record near 8-8. However, now that we've achieved that mark, I will be unsatisfied with anything less than 9-7. Circumstances change. It's great that we're doing well, but it's never satisfying to have a division rival prematurely end your season. That's unacceptable.
I'll be completely honest with you, too. If we lose the game on Sunday, I'll be in a very dark place for a while. The Broncos will have had December playoff hopes in 2006, 2008, 2009, and 2011, only to have the door slammed in their face. Then, consider the Damien Nash and Darrent Williams deaths after the 2006 season and the Kenny McKinley suicide a few years later. That is a lot of heartbreak in a short amount of time. This team hasn't been in the playoffs since Jake Plummer led us to the AFC Championship game in 2005. That's too long, folks. It has been a lot of fun to be able to talk optimistically the past few weeks, but it would be doubly as painful to have our playoff hopes squandered in the final week of the season... again.
We need a shot in the arm. This team needs a playoff berth as much as this fanbase does. The first decade of the 2000's are behind us, but we can't let the demons of yesterday affect us today.
Beating the Chiefs and going to the playoffs is the best way to move forward. Is this a Super Bowl year? Probably not, but it doesn't mean we should quit and hope for a higher draft pick. This game means a lot. It means playoffs. It means beating a division foe. It means vindicating the decisions of John Fox, John Elway and Brian Xanders. It means shutting up the critics. It means bragging rights for the next 8 months. It means laying to rest the December demons that have haunted this team over the past few years.
The Broncos have to win.