Broncos playoff picture: Denver no longer in control

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The aftermath of Denver's loss to San Diego has been felt across the AFC, but no team was more directly impacted than the Broncos themselves.

Before Thursday night's 20-27 loss to the Chargers, the Denver Broncos stood alone atop the AFC. The AFC West division looked to be all but wrapped up, and the #1 seed in the AFC was within grasp, with no one remaining on their schedule with a winning record.

Instead, the Broncos fell to the then 6-7 Chargers last night. Now they need help with the #1 seed. Their chances of winning the division have even gotten worse.

Current AFC standings

1. (X) Denver Broncos 11-3

2. New England Patriots 10-3

3. Cincinnati Bengals 9-4

4. (Y) Indianapolis Colts 8-5

5. Kansas City Chiefs 10-3

6. Baltimore Ravens 7-6

In the hunt: Miami Dolphins 7-6, San Diego Chargers 7-7, New York Jets 6-7, Tennessee Titans 5-8

(X) - clinched playoff berth (Y) - clinched division

But if the Patriots win against the Miami Dolphins this weekend, the Patriots will overtake the Broncos as the top seed due to their head-to-head tiebreaker.

How to win the #1 seed back

The Broncos need the Patriots to lose. The Patriots are at the Dolphins, at the Ravens, then home against the Bills to close out the season.

How to win the AFC West

The Broncos now have to win out to win the AFC West. If they lose one more game, they will have to rely on the Kansas City Chiefs losing too.

With only three losses on the season, the Chiefs are one Broncos loss away from being able to steal the division from the Broncos by winning out. This would force Denver to settle for a Wild Card spot.

With the Chiefs' remaining schedule seeing them face the Raiders, Colts, and Chargers, they have a more difficult slate than the Broncos. But it is still imperative that the soft defense and lack of effort the Broncos displayed Thursday night does not repeat itself against the Texans or Raiders to close out the season.

The Broncos should just worry about themselves, not the Chiefs, to make sure they win the AFC West.

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