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Broncos playoff picture and AFC playoff scenarios entering Week 13

The 2014 NFL playoff picture in the AFC is looking pretty similar to the 2013 standings - as it stands now, the same four teams win their respective divisions, and the same two teams earn a Wild Card.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

ESPN's cool Playoff Machine is back. With it, you can simulate the rest of the 2014 NFL regular season and see who would come out on top in the playoff race. First, set your winning criteria (current winning percentage, home team, etc.), then optionally modify to pick the winner of each game week-by-week. The machine lets you test out your own scenarios, something I'll do each week down the stretch to talk about how the Broncos can reach the highest playoff heights.

Current AFC playoff standings

Sd Team W-L-T Pct Div Conf SOS
1 New England Patriots 9-2-0 .818 2-1-0 6-2-0 .500
2 Denver Broncos 8-3-0 .727 3-0-0 6-1-0 .545
3 Cincinnati Bengals 7-3-1 .682 2-1-0 5-3-0 .467
4 Indianapolis Colts 7-4-0 .636 4-0-0 6-3-0 .483
5 Kansas City Chiefs 7-4-0 .636 1-2-0 5-3-0 .488
6 San Diego Chargers 7-4-0 .636 2-2-0 5-3-0 .430
- Baltimore Ravens 7-4-0 .636 2-3-0 3-4-0 .495
- Pittsburgh Steelers 7-4-0 .636 2-2-0 6-3-0 .417

How the Broncos win the AFC West

Using the Playoff Machine, I confirmed something I believed to be true - the Broncos are in pretty good shape to win the AFC West, as long as they finish 11-5 or better. Here are some division-clinching scenarios (assuming the Chargers and Chiefs, who are both 7-4, finish no better than 11-5).

  • The Broncos win out. This is the safest bet, obv.
  • The Broncos lose only one division game to either the Chiefs or the Chargers.
  • The Broncos lose to both the Chiefs and the Chargers, and the Chargers beat the Chiefs Week 17.

The only realistic way the Broncos lose the division is if they fall in both Kansas City and San Diego, and the Chiefs take out the Chargers Week 17. However, that scenario is not without merit: that simply equates to all the home teams winning down the stretch.

The Broncos must become a decent road team to clinch the AFC West in 2014.

How the Broncos win the AFC #1 seed

In short, they need to win the rest of their games, and they need the New England Patriots to lose twice. Two Patriots losses would give the Broncos a straight-up better record, guaranteeing they win the AFC's top seed for the third year in a row.

The Broncos could possibly even have a little wiggle room if the Patriots lose twice - i.e., the Broncos could lose another game and find themselves in a big four-loss tie with another team like the Indianapolis Colts or San Diego Chargers. At that point, the seeding will come down to common opponent tiebreakers, and the chips could fall any number of ways (the Broncos currently have the best Conference record, but they only have AFC opponents remaining, so another wiggle-room loss would negate that.)

In other words, every week, we're cheering for the Patriots' opponent. Oh, and the Broncos.

Remaining schedules

Remaining Patriots schedule: at Packers, at Chargers, Dolphins, at Jets, Bills

Remaining Broncos schedule: at Chiefs, Bills, at Chargers, at Bengals, Raiders

Remaining Chiefs schedule: Broncos, at Cardinals, Raiders, at Steelers, Chargers

Remaining Chargers schedule: at Ravens, Patriots, Broncos, 49ers, at Chiefs