Updated: December 28, 2009 at 12:00 am
ENGLEWOOD – Even by NFL tiebreaker standards, the AFC wild-card scenario is perplexing with one week to go. Look no further than Houston’s possible effect on the Denver Broncos’ postseason chances.
Houston is 8-7 and alive for a wild-card berth, yet the Broncos should cheer madly for them to beat New England on Sunday. The Broncos have 10 scenarios in which they make the playoffs, including five long-shot options that don’t even include a win against Kansas City. A Houston win is part of two of Denver’s five most realistic options, which include a victory over the Chiefs. In every scenario, the Broncos need either the Jets or Ravens to lose. Those two teams clinch a playoff spot with a win Sunday.
But why does a Houston win matter? Because the Broncos don’t want to be in a two-way tiebreaker for the sixth seed with Pittsburgh or Baltimore, each of whom have beat Denver. But if Houston enters the fray to make it a three-way tie, the head-to-head loss to Pittsburgh or Baltimore is thrown out and the Broncos would ultimately win the tiebreaker.
If that doesn’t make sense, it’s OK. The Broncos don’t seem to understand it either. They say they’ll just worry about what they can control, which is Sunday’s outcome.
“Ultimately, we know this: we can win, and we can play longer,” Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. “If that’s the case and you get into the playoffs, you never know what could happen.”
Broncos linebacker Darrell Reid said he won’t pay attention to tiebreakers. He said all he knew was the Broncos had to win to get in. He had no idea there were scenarios in which the Broncos could make the playoffs with a loss.
“Well, I definitely don’t want to look at it like that,” Reid said. “It might get more confusing. But our best chance to get in is if we win.”