At the beginning of the season most fans were confident that the Broncos would continue to control the division. National media was less confident, but still felt as if Denver would make the playoffs. Now, as we reach the halfway point in the season, the division is wide open.
The sexy pick at the start of the season was the Oakland Raiders. The young quarterback with weapons and a solid defense looked like they could be poised to win supplant the Broncos. Still, there were some who felt as if the Chiefs had a better shot at dethroning Denver. Kansas City is a team full of talented veterans. San Diego was not in the discussion, but after beating the Broncos, and then backing it up with a win at Atlanta, they can not be counted out.
My preseason prediction was that three teams from the AFC West would make the playoffs, and a quick look at NFL.com will confirm that as a likely scenario. With one loss in the division already, Denver is now in a second must-win scenario for the second week in a row. Dropping to 5-3, and being two games in the hole in the division could spell disaster. Never mind losing two games to the lowly Chargers, as Ian St. Clair and I talk about on MHR Radio.
I called the game against Houston a statement win, and most people agreed that it was a must win for Denver. From this point forward, all games are must win. Looking around the league, New England seems to have a pretty tight grip on the one seed. Pittsburgh is dangerous with their offensive fire power.
Every week in the NFL is must win, but not every team in the NFL has the same aspirations. There are few teams that look at each season and believe that anything less than a Super Bowl win is failure. The Broncos are one of those teams. With a win against San Diego, Denver will remain on track for another championship run. A loss could derail the whole season.
It feels strange to be in week 8 of the season and talking about potential derailment. With the strength of the division, and the strength of the conference, that is exactly where we are.