The Denver Broncos assured themselves a playoff berth with their 20-17 overtime win against the Cincinnati Bengals... but not much else. The AFC West is still not won; the AFC's top seed is still up for grabs.
If the Broncos beat the San Diego Chargers Sunday in their regular season finale, they'll be guaranteed both their fifth straight division title as well as a playoff bye. If the Miami Dolphins also beat the New England Patriots, the Broncos would claim the AFC's top seed and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
If the Broncos lose and the Kansas City Chiefs beat the Oakland Raiders, they'd fall to a Wild Card, where they have a roughly 50/50 chance of being the sixth seed (and going to Kansas City to open the playoffs).
The Broncos have clinched a playoff berth, but what position they're in is still very much up in the air. pic.twitter.com/XgNP1XkHnz— ESPN Monday Night (@ESPNMondayNight) December 29, 2015
AFC Playoff Standings
(Overall record, AFC record, remaining schedule)
1. New England Patriots (12-3, 9-2, at MIA) - y
2. Denver Broncos (11-4, 7-4, vs. SD) - x
3. Cincinnati Bengals (11-4, 8-3, vs. BAL) - y
4. Houston Texans (8-7, 6-5, vs. JAC)
5. Kansas City Chiefs (10-5, 9-2, vs. OAK) - x
6. New York Jets (10-5, 7-4, at BUF)
(x = clinched playoffs; y = clinched division; z = clinched home field advantage)
Most likely playoff scenario
Based on NFL odds, it's most likely that both the Patriots and the Broncos will win next week. That would make the Broncos the No. 2 seed, and the playoff standings you see above would remain as-is.
Who would the Broncos play?
As the likely No. 2 seed, the highest remaining seeded team from the WIld Card round would be Denver's foe in the Divisional Round following their bye. In this scenario, if the No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals won, it would be a guaranteed rematch against the Bengals, possibly led by Andy Dalton. The Broncos wouldn't face their AFC West rival No. 5 seed Chiefs unless both Kansas City and the No. 6 seed New York Jets won in the playoffs' first round.
Stay tuned; in this week-to-week league, anything can happen. But the Broncos have set themselves up for a deep playoff run if they beat the 4-11 Chargers at home in Week 17