With a 7-4 record, Denver trails both the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West. All three teams have a chance of making the postseason, but the Broncos are in a pretty precarious spot, trailing two rivals while also having the rest of the conference to deal with.
Things are made even trickier by the fact that Denver is 1-3 within its division. It will be hard for it to win any tiebreakers if postseason berths come down to that. Fortunately, the Week 13 schedule has given the Broncos a slight reprieve. Up next are the 2-9 Jacksonville Jaguars.
While Denver has the second-best differential, Jacksonville has the second-worst, and being worse than everyone except Cleveland is paramount to being as bad as it gets. The Jaguars have lost six straight games and have just one win over AFC teams all season - Week 4 at home over Indianapolis.
The numbers alone make it evident that Jacksonville is not playing for the playoffs and is instead hoping to be a spoiler these final weeks. A victory over Denver would certainly qualify.
The Broncos are currently tied for the second wildcard spot with the Miami Dolphins, but because of their place in their division and how the schedule shakes, they only have a 32.8 percent chance of making it to the playoffs. Their overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs is going to sting and they are two games behind MVP candidate Derek Carr and the Oakland Raiders for the division lead. They will face off in the season finale in Denver on January 1st.
One loss would see that figure plummet even further. However, a win drastically helps the cause, and Denver is set up nicely in this matchup. Both the Broncos and Jaguars, though they are on different planes, win with their defense. It just so happens that Denver's is way better.
Jacksonville has what amounts to a league-average defense. It is capable of making some nice plays, especially on the outside with rookie standout Jalen Ramsey. But because the rest of the team is so poor, the defense is forced to do too much. On the other end of the spectrum, Denver is below average as well in two facets of the game, but its defense is once again elite this season. An elite defense can cover lots of holes, which is exactly what Von Miller and company are doing this year.
As you can see by each team's net drive yards, the two teams' respective defenses make a huge difference. But when it comes to the Jags, their inability to generate game-changing plays, as well as the offense's proclivity for putting its own defense in bad spots, makes them a liability.
Jacksonville ranks dead last in the NFL in turnover differential. It has the fewest takeaways and the second-most giveaways, which is a deadly combination. When all parts of a team are pulling in opposite directions, it leaves a messy final product. Denver has injury questions at the quarterback position this week, but it still has the clear edge in this game.