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Strong finish imperative for Broncos

The turnaround hinges on the next three games.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions Lon Horwedel-USA TODAY Sports

After starting the season 1-5 and then reversing the curse to go 6-2, the Denver Broncos are the closest they have been to the playoffs since the glory-years of Peyton Manning. December football in Denver is interesting for the first time in a long time and it feels pretty awesome.

Yes, the 42-17 loss to the Lions was a throwback to the aggravation Broncos Country finds all too familiar, but it seems like wins against them have never been an easy get.

What we do know is that the Broncos have three more games left in the 2023 rollercoaster season and, when it comes to opponents, Denver could not have picked three more ideal teams to close it out. The 3-11 New England Patriots coming to Mile High on Christmas Eve won’t be the fabled matchup between AFC juggernauts it’s been in the past, but it should be a winnable game.

Without Herbert and with an ailing Keenan Allen, the 5-9 Chargers may be a tad rejuvenated after jettisoning Brandon Staley. However, of all the remaining games that one could be the most winnable.

Then there’s the currently 6-8 Raiders in the final week of the season. While they destroyed the Chargers last week, giving their obnoxious fans all sorts of false hope, they are still not a great football team and, I imagine the Broncos will be looking to avenge their slight loss in week 1. Raiders will Raider and the Broncos should take this one.

After losing to the Lions, the Broncos playoff hopes are now out of their hands. Regardless of this year’s aspirations, they need to lay the groundwork for next year and beyond. Before them are three very winnable games and if Denver is going to announce to the rest of the league that the doofus-days are over, they need to take care of business and end the season strong.

While the playoffs in 2023 would be a treat, they will be expected in 2024. It’s time to show the NFL that the Broncos are the force that has made the league nervous for all these years.

HORSE TRACKS

What could go wrong for the Broncos’ playoff chances did go wrong this weekend - Denver Sports
A collection of unfortunate results dealt a blow to the Broncos’ playoff chances beyond their own loss in Detroit on Saturday.

NFL playoff picture: Broncos have a lot of ground to make up
After losing on Saturday, the Broncos likely need to win out to have a shot of making the NFL playoffs.

‘Look at everything we’ve done so far’: Broncos maintain belief as playoff hopes hinge on final three-game slate
The Broncos know they must quickly move forward from the loss to the Lions.

Broncos coach Sean Payton screamed at QB Russell Wilson on sideline, stayed silent on reasoning | FOX31 Denver
Denver coach Sean Payton screamed at quarterback Russell Wilson on the sideline and anyone watching on TV, or witnessing the game at Ford Field, could see the animated exchange in Detroit's 42-17 victory Saturday night.

Jamal Agnew 65-yard touchdown gets Jacksonville on the board in third quarter - NBC Sports
Jaguars receiver/return specialist Jamal Agnew hadn’t played since the blowout loss to the 49ers on Nov. 12.

John Harbaugh: Keaton Mitchell out for season with serious knee injury - NBC Sports
Ravens running back Keaton Mitchell's injury was as serious as it appeared it could be on the field.

Desmond Ridder: I was trying to make a play and tried to do too much - NBC Sports
The Falcons asked their quarterback to win them a game in rainy conditions on Sunday, but Desmond Ridder couldn't get it done.

NFL Playoff Picture 2023: Updated AFC and NFC Standings, Clinching Scenarios for Week 15 - NBC Sports
The 49ers, Eagles and Cowboys have clinched playoff berths, and 12 more playoff spots are available.

Looking back at Week 15 - NBC Sports
Yes, it's already Week 15.

D.J. Moore hopes Bears don't draft a QB: Justin Fields is better than them - NBC Sports
The Panthers have the worst record in the NFL, and the Bears have the Panthers' 2024 first-round draft pick, which means the Bears are likely to have their choice of quarterbacks in next year's draft.

2023 NFL Week 15 injury roundup: Jets' Zach Wilson suffers head injury, Titans' Will Levis exits late in loss - CBSSports.com
A look at notable names to go down

Jets eliminated from playoffs, now have the longest active postseason drought in America's four major sports - CBSSports.com
It's been 13 years since Gang Green made the playoffs

49ers' Brock Purdy endorses teammate Christian McCaffrey as NFL MVP - ESPN
After the 45-29 win over the Cardinals, 49ers QB Brock Purdy provided an endorsement for Christian McCaffrey as the NFL's MVP. "I really do believe that. He does everything for us," Purdy said.

Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence enters concussion protocol after loss - ESPN
Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence was placed into the concussion protocol after Sunday night's 23-7 loss to the Ravens at EverBank Stadium.

Derrick Henry ponders future with Titans out of playoff chase - ESPN
Derrick Henry, who had his worst performance as a starter Sunday, said he 'had that feeling' that his time with the Titans might be ending after this season.

Buccaneers' Baker Mayfield has perfect passer rating in win at Lambeau Field - ESPN
Buccaneers QB Baker Mayfield posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3 in the 34-20 win over the Packers at Lambeau Field.

Niners clinch NFC West repeat with win over Cardinals
San Francisco’s win over Arizona on Sunday clinched the NFC West title for the 49ers.

Ravens clinch AFC’s first playoff berth with win over Jaguars
The Baltimore Ravens beat the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, 23-7, and clinched a postseason trip in the process.

New England Patriots' loss to Chiefs a microcosm of a lost season
The Patriots' loss to the Chiefs on Sunday reflected the current reality that New England is far from the dynasty it has been the last two decades. Judy Battista examines the current state of the Patriots and what's next for the franchise and Bill Belichi

Ravens rookie RB Keaton Mitchell (knee) likely out for season
Undrafted rookie running back Keaton Mitchell is likely to miss the remainder of the season after suffering a knee injury in the Baltimore Ravens’ 23-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, head coach John Harbaugh said.

2024 NFL Draft order: Panthers win, but Bears still hold No. 1 overall pick and also No. 5 spot - CBSSports.com
Jets currently hold sixth pick, Giants at No. 7

Eagles juggle Jalen Hurts illness, Matt Patricia calling defensive plays ahead of Monday game vs. Seahawks - CBSSports.com
The Eagles made a change with Patricia as defensive play-caller

NFL 2023 playoff picture, standings in Week 15: Eagles, Cowboys clinch spot; Ravens seal first AFC berth - CBSSports.com
A look at the playoff prospects for each team heading into the final weeks of the regular season