Last week at this time, things looked good for the Denver Broncos to make the postseason but after a 42-17 loss to the Lions, it looks like an uphill battle for them. On top of that, multiple other AFC postseason contenders came away with wins which put the Broncos behind the eight ball even more.
As we stand right now, The New York Times has the Broncos at a 21% chance to make the playoffs. That’s the lowest amount of all of the AFC postseason contenders (Browns, Colts, Texans, Bills, Steelers, and Bengals). With their loss to the Lions, the Broncos fell from the 9th seed to the 11th seed in the AFC playoff standings. All hope is not gone and the Broncos can make the postseason but moving forward, they have no room for error.
So, let us take a look at the remaining schedule of the AFC playoff contenders and how I see it all shaking out after this weekend’s slate of games.
Broncos (7-7) - 11th seed
Week 16: vs. Patriots (3-11)
Week 17: vs. Chargers (5-9)
Week 18: @. Raiders (6-8)
The Broncos finished their tough three-game road trip by dropping two out of the three games on their schedule. They currently sit at 7-7 and as the 11th seed in the AFC. That does not sound great, but despite that, the Broncos still have a clear road to a potential postseason spot. All they need to do is win out and hope for the best.
They have two home games against the three-win Patriots and another against Easton Stick and the free-falling Chargers. These are two games the Broncos SHOULD win and must win if they want to make the playoffs. Their finale is on the road vs. the Las Vegas Raiders. That is another game they should win, but they did lose to the Raiders in the opener and a season finale on the road vs. a hated divisional rival is never easy. So, we could be in for a nail biter come the final week of the season if the Broncos do win their next two games.
Getting to 10 wins does not guarantee a playoff spot but it’s the only way they can make it so hopefully, they win these next three and are able to make the playoffs.
Bengals (8-6) - 6th seed
@ Steelers (7-7)
@ Chiefs (9-5)
vs. Browns (9-5)
Despite losing Joe Burrow, the Bengals somehow continue to win games. Their recent rise has thrown a bit of an unexpected wrench into the Broncos' postseason hopes as they are currently the 6th seed in the AFC. They, however, face a tough stretch against two teams currently in the playoffs and a divisional foe who defeated them just a few weeks ago.
It’s a tough road for the Bengals but they have continued to defy the odds and continue to win so we shall see if that continues this weekend vs. the Steelers.
Colts (8-6) - 7th seed
Week 16: @ Falcons (6-8)
Week 17: vs. Raiders (6-8)
Week 18: vs. Texans (8-6)
The Colts are another scrappy football team that continues to find ways to win each week. They currently find themselves at 8-6 and as the 7th seed in the AFC. With the Jaguars losing and potentially without Trevor Lawrence next week due to a concussion, they could be contending for the AFC South divisional title.
Looking at their schedule, all three of these games could go either way. A potentially tough road game vs. the Falcons, a home game against a Raiders team that just dropped 60 points on the Chargers and a season finale vs. a Texans team also contending for a postseason spot.
The Colts are a team the Broncos need to lose moving forward if they want to clinch a postseason spot.
Texans (8-6) - 8th seed
Week 16: vs. Browns (9-5)
Week 17: vs. Titans (5-9)
Week 18: @ Colts (8-6)
The Texans won in the final seconds of overtime vs. the Titans this past Sunday and did it without rookie standout quarterback C.J. Stroud. Now they are at 8-6 and one spot out of a postseason spot. However, they have a tough schedule ahead of them.
They have two home games vs. the Browns and their dominant defense and a Titans team that nearly defeated them and their finale is against their division rival Colts which could also be a game that decides the AFC South.
Like the Colts, the Texans are a team the Broncos want to lose moving forward. They have a game up on them in schedule and a head-to-head win so losing two of their remaining three would be huge for them(if they win out of course).
Bills (8-6) - 9th seed
Week 16: @ Chargers (5-9)
Week 17: vs. Patriots (3-11)
Week 18: @ Dolphins (10-4)
The Bills look like the hottest team in football with big wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Cowboys in back-to-back weeks. Now they sit at 8-6 and look like one of the better teams in the AFC despite not currently being in the playoffs.
Looking at their schedule, they should at least get to 10 wins and potentially 11 and an AFC East divisional title if the Dolphins falter moving forward. Either way, with these two big wins, the Bills look like a lock for a postseason spot.
Steelers (7-7) - 10th seed
Week 16: vs. Bengals (8-6)
Week 17: @ Seahawks (6-7)
Week 18: @ Baltimore (11-3)
The Steelers are freefalling and just announced they would start third-string quarterback Mason Rudolph vs. the Bengals this upcoming weekend. So, things are looking bleak for them and they have three tough games moving forward.
With that said, they did defeat the Bengals and quarterback Jake Browning once already so we shall see how they play out this weekend. After that, however, they have a tough road game out west vs. the Seahawks and their finale is vs. the number one seed Baltimore Ravens.
I don’t view them as a postseason contender and likely will have them off this list next week if they are defeated by the Bengals.
This was a tough weekend for the Broncos and their postseason hopes. A loss to the Lions was not a huge surprise but how they lost was demoralizing. On top of that, every team they needed to lose this weekend ended up winning. The rise of the Bengals and Bills also have the Broncos farther back than some expected at this point.
With that said, winning out and getting to 10 wins gives them a pretty good shot of making it in. They may need some help still but that is their best way of making it in.
This is how I see it shaking out currently.
1-4: Ravens, Dolphins, Jaguars, and Chiefs
We could see two of these change if the Jaguars continue to lose and are without Trevor Lawrence next weekend. As for Miami, they have a tough schedule ahead and could be caught by the Bills who have an easy schedule and a head-to-head meeting with the Dolphins. So, things are far from locked in for these division leaders.
5: Cleveland Browns
At 9 wins, they seem fairly locked into a wildcard spot. Will it be the 5th? We shall see, but they currently have a one-game lead over the rest and have a top-ranked defense and Joe Flacco leading their offense.
6-7: Colts, Texans, Bills, Bengals, and Broncos
The Bills seem like a favorite for a wildcard spot at least while the Texans and Colts could be pushing for an AFC South title as well. So that could move Miami and the Jaguars into this discussion. As for the Bengals, while they keep winning, they face a tough schedule and I do not see them making it in right now.
Things look bleak for the Broncos but their saving grace is their favorable schedule moving forward. They face three teams with losing records and backup quarterbacks with two of the three games played at home. If they win out, they have a good shot of making the playoffs but will need help.
Last week, I was feeling pretty optimistic but now, things look tough for the Broncos. If they win out they have a shot and we just need to see how everything else plays out.
Do you think the Broncos can make the playoffs?
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