By Rich Kurtzman
The Denver Broncos are guaranteed a playoff spot, now they’re fighting for the No. 1 seed.
Denver is already assured a top-four spot due to winning their division in dominant fashion, sweeping their competition with one AFC West game against the Chiefs still coming. The Broncos are a mile high, reaching an amazing eight-game winning streak that has seen special play from all three phases of the game. Peyton Manning is the maestro of offense, Von Miller, the man on defense and Trindon Holliday is spectacular on special teams.
And when Baltimore (9-4) fell to Washington last Sunday, it gave the Broncos a boost to the third seed, at least for this week. Still, the top two spots earn not only home field advantage, but a coveted first-round bye as well. Stunningly, Denver can grab either of those top two seeds; here’s how it could happen.
First and foremost, the Broncos have to win-out. It will definitely be difficult, but not impossible. With three games to go, they must beat the Ravens in Baltimore, then knock off the bad Browns and the cruddy Chiefs at home. The week’s game against the Ravens looks to be the toughest team to beat as they possess a strong offense and defense. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice provide a balanced and dynamic attack, while Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis may return from injury, too. Add in the fact that Denver is 0-5 all-time in Baltimore and it could be a long day for Broncos fans. Past that though, Denver should beat the Browns and Chiefs rather easily to finish their season 13-3.
Next, they need the Patriots (10-3) to lose one game, due to their head-to-head tiebreaker for beating the Broncos in Week Five. It may seem like a small task for them to lose once, but it won’t be considering New England looks unbeatable at the moment. They trampled the Texans, putting up a 42-7 score, making people question which is the best team in the AFC. Their 36.3 points per game are the most in the league, and they score in break-neck style. Tom Brady continues to make a case as the top quarterback in the game, and he knows what’s at stake. Their most likely game for a loss comes next Sunday night against San Francisco, a team built on a defense that scares opponents. New England will almost certainly win their last two games against the Jaguars and Dolphins, making next Sunday important for this scenario.
If the Patriots do lose somehow, and Denver wins out, the Broncos would take the No. 2 seed. And if the Texans wind up losing two of three, Denver would be the AFC’s top seed.
Houston seemed spectacular—sporting a balanced, yet explosive offense and quietly special defense—until their destruction at the hands of the Pats. The Texans are a team with superstars in Arian Foster and Andre Johnson, but they lack the experience and killer instinct to be scary. Their confidence could be shaken after that humiliating loss, and Houston hosts the Colts (7-6), that are still fighting for their playoff lives, this Sunday. Next week, it’s a road game in Minnesota, who is also trying to build a playoff berth, before traveling to Indianapolis to face Andrew Luck and the Colts again.
1. If the Broncos win-out, beating Baltimore, Cleveland and Kansas City and
2. If the Patriots lose one more game and
3. If the Texans lose two of their last three games to the Colts (twice) and Vikings
Then, Denver would be 13-3, New England and Houston 12-4, giving the Broncos the No. 1 seed and putting them in the driver’s seat to the Super Bowl.
It may seem like a long shot, but stranger things have happened in the NFL.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.