And I wonder, still I wonder, who’ll stop the reign?
The Chiefs have finished first in the AFC West five consecutive seasons with 60 regular-season victories.
Can the Broncos bounce back finally after their five seasons of mediocrity? Will the Raiders secure only their second winning season since losing the Super Bowl 18 years ago? Are the Chargers a justifiable threat to the Chiefs?
Is it possible for two, or even three, teams to advance from the AFC West to the playoffs?
We shall know by Jan. 9, when the Chiefs play in Denver and the Chargers play in Los Vegas in the final games.
Although the four acrimonious rivals have similar schedules — each confronting one another twice, all four NFC East teams (the Cowboys, the Eagles, the Giants and the Washington Football Team) and the four AFC North teams (the Steelers, the Ravens, the Browns and the Bengals), the Broncos certainly can have their way with the easiest three remaining opponents.
The Broncos play the Jets, the Jaguars and the Lions — last-place teams a season ago and likely again. The Raiders get the Dolphins, the Bears and the Colts. The Chargers face the Seahawks, the Patriots and the Vikings, and the Chiefs are matched with heavyweight teams — the Bills, the Packers and the Titans.
If the Broncos can’t make significant gains this season, when then?
The Denver defense will be taking on five quarterbacks in their first or second seasons — Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, Zach Wilson, Justin Herbert (twice) and Trevor Lawrence. But the defense also will be challenged by Lamar Jackson, Ben Roethlisberger, Dak Prescott, Baker Mayfield, Derek Carr (twice) and Patrick Mahomes (twice), who is 7-0 against the Broncos since his first start in the league.
The Broncos are tied for second with the Steelers and the Cowboys in Super Bowl appearances (eight), behind the 11 by the Patriots.
Yet, they are writhing in the second-worst stretch in franchise history. The Broncos had 10 consecutive losing seasons from 1963-72 as the joke of an AFL-NFL team. From 1973-2016, the Broncos never suffered back-to-back records under .500. They’ve had four straight from 2017-2020. The overall mark is 29 winning seasons, 23 lost seasons and nine 7-7 and 8-8 seasons.
@ New York Giants – After three exhibition victories, outscoring the Vikings, the Seahawks and the Rams 80-21 (and zero touchdowns allowed), the Broncos fail in their eighth September game in a row, 20-19 on a last-second field goal.
@ Jacksonville Jaguars – The Broncos end the September skid, pressuring the No. 1 pick in the draft, Lawrence, with six sacks. Teddy Bridgewater throws three touchdown passes in a 28-6 triumph.
New York Jets – In the Broncos home opener, as the “official’’ sellout streak resumes, the Broncos blow out the No. 2 pick in the draft, Wilson, and the dreadful Jets, 31-9.
Baltimore Ravens – It’s close, but Lamar Jackson, in his first game vs. the Broncos, rushes for 126 yards and two touchdowns in a field-goal fest (six) that winds up with the Ravens winning 23-20.
@ Pittsburgh Steelers – It’s not close. Pitt steals the game in the second half as Roethlisberger throws for more than 300 yards, and the Broncos fade like a Madras shirt, 27-17.
Las Vegas Raiders – The Broncos recover at home in a 38-0 rout.
@ Cleveland Browns – The Broncos go 0-3 against the AFC North while the Browns, a legitimate playoff team again, coast to a 28-13 victory.
Washington Football Team – The Broncos have no trouble with what should be called the Washington Touch Football Team, prevailing 26-12.
@ Dallas Cowboys – Prescott, who could have been somebody with the Broncos, produces a 30-10 shellacking.
Philadelphia Eagles – Hurts hurts. Broncos 35-10.
Los Angeles Chargers – The Broncos beat the Chargers on a quick touchdown in overtime, 28-21.
@ Kansas City Chiefs – The K.C. and Mahomes winning streak against the Broncos continues, 24-14.
Detroit Lions – Vic Fangio figured out Jared Goff before anyone else, and everyone copied his scheme. Broncos 40-7.
Cincinnati Bengals – Another walk-through for the Broncos, 23-9.
@ Las Vegas Raiders – The teams reach overtime, and each kicks a field goal in a 20-20 tie.
@ Los Angeles Chargers – Just in time, with seconds left, Herbert passes for the winning touchdown, 24-17.
Kansas City Chiefs – Broncos lose 26-24.
The Broncos will be 8-8-1.
As Creedence Clearwater Revival would agree, nobody in the AFC West will stop the Chiefs’ reign.