I spent a lot of words talking about this last week, when more scenarios were open. But I made sure to bold the simplest and best path for the Broncos: “win out and one Patriots loss”. Well, thanks to the Eagles, that one Patriots loss came earlier than we thought. Coupled with the Broncos’ win at San Diego, Denver now controls their own destiny to the #1 seed. Win out, including defeating the Bengals, and the path in the AFC goes through Denver.
The Broncos are going to be nowhere close to clinching that for a while, but they will have two paths available to get into the playoffs come Week 14:
As explained last week, with both the Broncos and Chiefs winning in Week 13, the Broncos clinch the AFC West with a win over the Raiders AND a Chiefs loss to the Chargers. It’s hard to imagine the Chargers being able to get out of Arrowhead with a win, but stranger things have happened.
With both the Texans and Colts losing this week, it guarantees that the loser between these two when they play Week 15 will be unable to catch the Broncos. Therefore, among the current non-division leaders, only the Steelers and Jets at 7-5 can obtain a better record than the Broncos, and the Bills are the only 6-6 team that could tie the Broncos and hold a tiebreaker over them (due to their NFC loss against the Giants) .
So, keeping those three teams in mind, here’s what the Broncos need to at least clinch a playoff berth:
- If the Broncos win next week, they just additionally need a loss by the Steelers OR the Jets.
- If the Broncos lose, they would need the Steelers, Jets, AND Bills to all lose.
For Week 14, the Jets host the Titans, who have the easiest match among these three teams. But the Steelers will have to travel to Cincinnati (its toughness speaks for itself), while the Bills will go to Philadelphia. And if the Eagles could dismantle the Patriots in New England, they’ll certainly have a good chance to defeat the Bills at home.