First of all, apologies for missing the Week 13 version, I was just too crestfallen by that Sunday Night game to be in the mood to get it out. Second, as I mentioned in comments earlier this week, a Week 14 version was proving to be complicated due to the high importance of the outcome of Thursday night’s game between the Raiders and Chiefs. So instead, let’s start off by explaining the implications of this game alone for the Broncos and the playoffs.
The best way to begin is to explain what will happen upon each of the possible results.
If the Chiefs win
I’m guessing most of us will prefer this for several reasons. The most obvious one is that brings both the Chiefs and Raiders within one game of the Broncos should they win at Tennessee next week.
But if the Chiefs do beat the Raiders, it does guarantee that Denver will be unable to gain a tiebreaker over Kansas City. This is because such a win will be the Chiefs’ fourth in the division, and the Broncos can only gain a maximum of three wins (that TNF loss to the Chargers really, really hurts). Even if the Broncos win out, including a victory at Arrowhead, the Chiefs will still win the AFC West if they beat both the Titans in Week 15 and the Chargers in Week 17. The Chiefs would need to lose one of those two games in addition to losing to Denver in order to overtake them.
However, if the Chiefs do win the AFC West in this manner, the Broncos would have a good chance to get ahead of the Raiders one way or another. If the Broncos win out, they will be no worse than tied with the Raiders at 12-4. Additionally, they will be no worse than tied with the division record as well (both 3-3), and the Raiders could end up with a worse division record if they lose to the Chargers on Week 15. And as much as we’re disappointed that the Bills didn’t do their job on Sunday, one small benefit is that it did guarantee that the Broncos will not lose the common games tiebreaker to the Raiders (who also beat Baltimore). At worst, that will be a wash if the Broncos (who also beat Cincinnati) beat the Patriots. If Denver does beat New England, the next tiebreaker would be the nebulous strength of victory, since both the Broncos and Raiders were 3-1 against the NFC.
If the Raiders win
This keeps Oakland two games clear over Denver, meaning that they would need an additional loss in order for the Broncos to catch them. This loss should preferably be against the Chargers Week 15, as only that gives the Broncos a chance to avoid losing the division tiebreaker against the Raiders. If Denver were to win out, and Oakland goes 2-2 beating the Chiefs and Chargers, they win the AFC West with a division record of 4-2. If Oakland’s second loss does come against San Diego, they and Denver are both 3-3, and again it comes down to strength of victory. (The Broncos would hold the tiebreaker if they went 3-1, losing to the Patriots, and the Raiders lost out after winning the Thursday game.)
A Raiders win does mean that the Broncos can get completely ahead of the Chiefs if they win out, as it would include a win at Arrowhead that sends Kansas City to 11-5 at best. However, the Broncos are still at a disadvantage with tiebreakers against the Chiefs. If they beat the Chargers Week 17, they are guaranteed to hold the division record tiebreaker, and if the Broncos beat the Patriots, the Chiefs are guaranteed to win the common games tiebreaker, since the Chiefs lost to Pittsburgh earlier in the season.
If there’s a tie
Assuming that the Broncos themselves don’t tie later in the season, a tie helps to negate any of the usual tiebreakers, and boils it down solely to the record. This is mostly favorable to Denver since the tiebreakers are mostly against them. The Broncos would be no worse than a half game ahead of the Chiefs if they win out. However, they would still need a loss by the Raiders in addition to Denver Week 17 in order to pass them–though in this case, that loss need not be to the Chargers.
There’s no real good way to get around the fact that the Broncos are at a disadvantage in getting back into the AFC West race. On Thursday, one rival is going to gain a significant advantage, and the other rival will likely still have to stumble somewhere else in addition to losing this game and to the Broncos.
So who do you want to lose? I’ll keep my subjective opinion simple: I would much, much rather handle the Chiefs winning the division over the Raiders.