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NFL Playoff Picture: Broncos could earn playoff bye or lose AFC West entirely

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If the Broncos win their two remaining games, they would be guaranteed a playoff bye. If they lose either game, they could miss the playoffs entirely.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Denver's playoff picture completely rests in their own hands, and how they land in AFC seeding depends on how they react to two brutal, mid-game-collapsing losses.

AFC playoff picture

(Overall record, AFC record, remaining schedule)

1. New England Patriots (12-2, 9-1, at NYJ, at MIA)

2. Cincinnati Bengals (11-3, 8-2, at DEN, vs. BAL)

3. Denver Broncos (10-4, 6-4, vs. CIN, vs. SD)

4. Houston Texans (7-7, 5-5, at TEN, vs. JAC)

5. Kansas City Chiefs (9-5, 8-2, vs. CLE, vs. OAK)

6. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-5, 6-4, at BAL, at CLE)

In the hunt

(Overeall record, AFC record, remaining schedule)

7. New York Jets (9-5, 6-4, vs. NE, at BUF)

10. Indianapolis Colts (6-8, 4-6, at MIA, vs. TEN)

11. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-9, 5-6, at NO, at HOU)

Note: The current 8th and 9th seeds, the Oakland Raiders and Buffalo Bills, have each been eliminated from playoff contention. The Colts and Jaguars have not. Thanks AFC South!

How the Broncos can win the #1 seed

If the Broncos win out, and the Patriots lose both of their remaining games, the Broncos would be the AFC's #1 seed. While that seems unlikely, both of the Patriots' games are on the road; the Jets have everything to play for next week, and the Dolphins would love to play spoiler.

How the Broncos can win the #2 seed

Win out, and the Broncos have a first-round bye. That 12-4 record would tie them with the Bengals (should Cincy win in Week 17), but Denver would own the head-to-head tiebreaker with a win against them on Monday Night Football next week.

How the Broncos can lose the AFC West

If the Broncos lose another game, and the Chiefs continue their eight-game winning streak into January (which seems likely against the Browns and Raiders), the Chiefs would win the division due to a stronger division record. Denver's best chance of avoiding this is simple: win out.

How the Broncos can miss the playoffs

Should the Broncos lose the West, things could go south quickly. Even going 1-1 down the stretch wouldn't guarantee the Broncos a playoff spot. If the Steelers and Jets (and Chiefs) each win out, the Broncos would be on the outside looking in during the playoffs, even with an 11-5 record.

The margin for error is completely gone. The Broncos used it up in Weeks 14 and 15. Every game is truly a must-win for Denver.