NFL Playoff Scenarios: Why Denver Broncos Can Take the AFC West with a Win

Marco CummingsContributor IIDecember 29, 2011

DENVER - NOVEMBER 14:  The Kansas City Chiefs offensive line prepares to snap the ball against the Denver Broncos defense at INVESCO Field at Mile High on November 14, 2010 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Chiefs 49-29.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

It’s finally Week 17 of the NFL season, and the playoff picture has become a lot clearer, for the Denver Broncos at least.

Denver is just down to two potential scenarios for clinching the AFC West and the automatic playoff berth that comes with it. The first scenario is the tried and true “win and you’re in” scenario—beat the Kansas City Chiefs and make the playoffs.

The second scenario is one where the Broncos lose but receive help with an Oakland Raiders' loss to the San Diego Chargers. Both scenarios actually look favorable for the Broncos, but here’s why the Broncos will win the division with a win.


The Broncos know their opponent

The local and national media have made a big story out of how Kyle Orton knows the Denver Broncos offense and defense, but during this week’s press conference, head coach John Fox pointed out that it works both ways.  On Orton’s knowledge of the team’s schemes Fox said, “It’s not as equal as having our defense practice against Kyle.”

Those who followed the team during training camp would have to agree with Fox. During camp, the Broncos’ first team offense struggled against the first team defense, mainly due to Andre Goodman and Champ Bailey’s ability to read Orton.

If Orton struggled to make passes against the Broncos defense in camp, just imagine what life will be like for the now Kansas City quarterback against the full-fledged pass rush of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. The Broncos defense held up well against Kansas City in their first matchup this season, so with a familiar piece added, this matchup is sure to favor the Broncos yet again.

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Eddie Royal #19 of the Denver Broncos eludes a tackle from Andrew Gachkar #59 of the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 27, 2011 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images


The Broncos will win the Special Teams Battle


During their two-game skid, the Broncos were abysmal on special teams. Special teams play is important to John Fox’s winning formula, and he conveyed this message to the team by putting return specialist Quan Cosby on the chopping block this week. The fact that not only a playoff berth but also jobs will be at stake Sunday will give the special teams unit extra motivation to step up their game.

Additionally, with the cutting of Cosby, the Broncos have actually improved at the return position because the team is now left with the option of either Eddie Royal or Eric Decker as returners. Both have scored touchdowns on returns this season.

Finally, the game will be a home game for the Broncos. Say all you want about crowd noise, but in the special teams game, the mile high air has a definite advantage. The ball travels further at home games for the Broncos, which has given both kicker Matt Prater and punter Britton Colquitt an additional edge in their game this season. On the other side of the ball, kicker Ryan Succop has struggled for the Chiefs, having two of his field goal attempts blocked last week against the Raiders.


Tim Tebow will bounce back against a division rival

He competes, he’s a winner and he never gives up. Yes, throw all the clichés into the ring that you want in regards to Tebow. But when all is said and done, they have been mostly true this season, especially in regards to the Broncos’ AFC West rivals.

Tebow has played exceptionally well against AFC West teams, getting his first opportunity in the second half against San Diego back in October where he nearly led the team to a comeback win. Since then, Tebow has been an undefeated 3-0 against divisional opponents as a starter.

During Wednesday’s meeting with the media, Tebow summarized what will be on the line Sunday with just a few sentences, “Ultimately this is the Denver Broncos versus the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s going to be a great atmosphere. It’s going to be very exciting. The crowd is going to be rocking, and we’ll be excited. It’s two teams going at each other, not just a few players.”

But in the minds of the fans and the media, Sunday’s finale will still stick in the mind as Orton vs. Tebow.

Marco Cummings is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. The John Fox and Tim Tebow quotes were obtained first-hand via a press release transcripts from Denver Broncos Media Relations.