After the hiatus, all the Broncos must do to finish first in the AFC West, o ye of little faith, is win their final seven games.
They’ve triumphed in at least seven in a row in five seasons.
And if the Broncos achieve the remarkable feat, they will reach the franchise’s 500th regular-season victory.
From 1960-2021, the Broncos have recorded a 493-439-10 mark. Including playoff appearances, the Broncos and the Chiefs each incredibly possesses 516 victories today.
Raiders and Chargers, read ‘em and weep.
At 5-5 before the bye, the Broncos have a Mile Highball glass half-full or half-empty, depending on your perspective. I predicted before the season 5-5 now and 8-8-1 at the conclusion.
Of the dozen teams in the AFC realistically in the running for playoff spots, the Broncos are 12th (based on records and tiebreakers). While idle, the Broncos can’t fall, but they could rise a position or two.
Yet, only seven conference teams advance to the postseason. Currently in are the Titans (8-2), the Bills (6-3), the Ravens (6-3), Patriots (6-4), the Chiefs (6-4), the Steelers (5-3-1) and the Chargers (5-4). Also ahead of the Broncos are the Raiders (5-4), the Bengals (5-4), the Browns (5-5) and the Colts (5-4). Three teams definitely will lose this week, with the Colts at the Bills, the Steelers at the Chargers and the Bengals at the Raiders.
The Broncos will return Thanksgiving weekend at home against the Chargers. Then they travel to Kansas City, play consecutive games in Denver against the Lions and the Bengals, spend Dec. 26 in Las Vegas and spend Jan. 2 in Los Angeles (Chargers) before finishing at Mile High versus the Chiefs.
A 12-5 overall record and 5-1 in the division would guarantee the Broncos the AFC West championship (because of two victories over both the Chiefs and the Chargers, who would have, at best, 11-5 records, and, at the minimum, the division tiebreaker over the Raiders, who already lost to the Chargers and the Chiefs).
Is that mission possible?
In 1984, John Elway’s second season, the Broncos won 10 straight after losing the second game (with Gary Kubiak at quarterback). The Broncos reeled off eight in a row (seven after their bye week) in 1996 and set a club record with 13 consecutive victories to start the 1998 season. With Peyton Manning at quarterback, the Broncos of 2012 had one victory before the bye and 10 more after.
The last and only time the Broncos had seven straight was 2015, when they won Super Bowl 50. Since then, they have managed four successive to begin 2016, two in ’17, three in ’18, two in ’19 (three times), twice once last season and three in a row to open this year.
7Up: Think Fresh.
It’s been done.
However, according to The New York Times’ playoff analysis Tuesday, the Broncos’ chances of making the playoffs have dropped the past five weeks from 47% to 29%. They have 13% odds of finishing first in the division and a 1% chance of playing in their ninth Super Bowl.
The Chiefs finally are back as the favorite of the AFC West after the overwhelming display Sunday against the Raiders. Kansas City seemed vulnerable for weeks, and the local belief that the intolerable winning streak by the Chiefs versus the Broncos (11) could come to an end Dec. 5 and/or Jan. 9. Not so fast there. But the Chiefs do have the Cowboys on Sunday.
The Chargers and the Raiders are as erratic as the Broncos.
The Broncos get the Lions and the Bengals here in December, and those should be Ws, but everybody in Colorado thought the same about the Eagles’ game.
The strength of schedule for the Broncos now is ranked 15th with their opponents having compiled a 32-32-1 record.
So, the Broncos aren’t eliminated yet, and this NFL season has been goofy enough that the standings could change drastically. Amazingly, the Patriots may overtake the Bills because they play twice in December. And the AFC North — which consists of three teams that already have beaten the Broncos and a fourth who can — is ambivalent.
The Broncos won’t win seven games, but they have to be 8-6 before the holidays. Or else.