Nevertheless, all the NFL B-Teams have a possibility of playing on in the playoffs.
Including the Broncos and the Bengals, Sunday’s opponents.
The others are the Buccaneers, the Bills, the Browns, Baltimore and even the Bears, who have only a miniscule chance at 0.3 playoff percent and require a Midway Miracle.
Four Bees in the AFC – the Bills, the Browns, the Bengals and the Broncos – were tied Saturday morning for the last playoff position with 7-6 records.
Sports-politics website FiveThirtyEight predicts, based on thousands of calculations, the Bills’ postseason percentage at 67%, the Browns at 40%, the Bengals at 29% and the Broncos at 22%.
The Chiefs, the Patriots, the Titans and the Ravens are robust favorites to win their AFC divisions, although the one team that will receive a bye in the first round likely won’t be determined until the final regular-season Sunday.
The Broncos-Chiefs finale Jan. 9 could be critical for both, with a bye and the home-field advantage in the playoffs a major factor for the Chiefs and perhaps a wild-card berth at stake for the Broncos. Don’t be expecting the Chiefs to play reserves, especially at quarterback.
The Chiefs, at 10-4 following the overtime victory against the Chargers, embrace a seven-game winning streak (and stopped the Packers’ seven-game streak in November). They need two more victories to clinch first in the division.
If the Broncos win their final four, at 11-6, they definitely will finish ahead of the Chargers (2-0 in head-to-head tiebreaker), the Bengals (because of Sunday’s victory) and the Raiders (who have lost seven games). The best the Steelers can end up is 10-6-1. If the Browns win four, they will have the advantage over the Broncos because of the triumph in that Thursday night game. The Bills’ recent struggles have left them vulnerable, but four straight victories would give them an 11-6 mark.
The Colts played the Patriots Saturday night.
The Patriots host the Bills in the upcoming rematch and also have the Jaguars and the Dolphins remaining. The Colts play at the Panthers and the Jaguars wrapped around a home game with the Raiders.
After the Browns-Raiders game was postponed until Monday because of the Cleveland COVID-19 breakout, the Browns must go to Green Bay and Pittsburgh before a home game with the Bengals.
Cincinnati also has the Ravens and the Chiefs ahead at home. The Steelers meet the Titans at home Sunday, then play at Kansas City, finishing against the Browns at home and Ravens on the road.
The Bills will have sweetheart games with the Panthers, the Falcons and the Jets, but that game in Foxborough, Mass., looms. The Dolphins, at 6-7, will be done soon. They should beat the Jets Sunday, but have away games in New Orleans and Nashville before playing the Patriots in south Florida.
The Ravens don’t have any junior varsity teams left with the Packers, the Bengals, the Rams and the Steelers. The Titans are at the Steelers Sunday, then at home with the 49ers and the Dolphins before a laugher at the Texans.
Which brings us back to the Broncos.
If they win against the Bengals, the Raiders, the Chargers and the Chiefs, the Broncos would own their first four-game streak since the beginning of the 2016 season. Such a month of Sundays would guarantee the postseason and a return of Vic Fangio and his offensive and defensive coordinators (but not the special teams coach) and quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (although the Broncos would draft a quarterback in the first round).
First, though, the Broncos must win Sunday afternoon, and they will.
Three victories would give the Broncos their first double-digit season since the four in a row when Peyton Manning was quarterback. Three might be enough for the playoffs.
Two would result in the Broncos’ first winning season during the Vance Joseph-Fangio regimes and match Gary Kubiak’s final season. A 9-8 record would save Fangio’s job, but not Bridgewater’s or Pat Shurmur’s. Yet, the Broncos probably still wouldn’t make the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.
One victory in four would mean the franchise’s longest streak of losing nine or more games since 1963-68.
If the Broncos don’t win any of the four they will be an F-minus team.