Breaking Down the Road to NFL Playoffs for the Denver Broncos

DJ SiddiqiCorrespondent IIINovember 6, 2012

CINCINNATI, OH - NOVEMBER 04:  Peyton Manning #18 of the Denver Broncos throws a pass during the NFL game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on November 4, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos (5-3) are at the midway point of the season, in the midst of a three-game winning streak and currently leading their division with a one-game lead over second place San Diego Chargers.

Entering the season, the Broncos had the second-toughest schedule in the league. Following their 34-14 victory over the New Orleans Saints in Week 8, the Broncos entered Week 9 with the easiest schedule in the league, with their opponents holding a .343 winning percentage.

The Broncos currently stand as the fourth seed if the regular season had ended today. Obviously, that means very little considering we are only at the halfway mark of the season. But it at least indicates where the Broncos are at so far after enduring a tough opening stretch of the season that included games vs. the likes of the Steelers, Falcons, Texans, Patriots, Chargers and Saints.

The toughest part of Denver's schedule is over, as seven of their next eight games are against teams that have .500 records or below.

Let's take look at Denver's remaining opponents and what the outlook is on Denver's finish at the end of the regular season.

Denver's Remaining Schedule

Week 10 at Carolina (2-6)

Week 11 vs. San Diego (4-4)

Week 12 at Kansas City (1-7)

Week 13 vs. Tampa Bay (4-4)

Week 14 at Oakland (3-5)

Week 15 at Baltimore (6-2)

Week 16 vs. Cleveland (2-7)

Week 17 vs. Kansas City (1-7)

As of now, the Broncos would lose out on a head-to-head tiebreaker with the Patriots and Texans, having lost to both teams earlier in the season. Denver has a pivotal Week 15 matchup at Baltimore and that will obviously dictate the head-to-head tiebreaker between the two teams if it comes down to that.

In the NFL, anything can happen. There is no concrete way of predicting who will win said games and what Denver's final record will be at the end of the season based upon how these teams currently look entering Week 10.

However, when you realize that Denver has the easiest remaining schedule in the NFL, you can only assume, barring the biggest of miracles, that Denver will have a favorable path towards not only making the playoffs, but also winning their division.

The Broncos face a Panthers team that just ended a five-game losing streak this past week. They also face a Chiefs team two times that has yet to hold a lead in regulation this season. It isn't farfetched to say that the Chiefs are not only the worst team in the NFL, but they have a chance at becoming the worst team in NFL history.

Along the way comes games against a tough but skillfully undermanned Cleveland Browns team, an inconsistent but high-scoring Tampa Bay team and one more game each against divisional rivals Oakland and San Diego. The Broncos currently have a 2-0 record in the division, having blown out the Raiders and having defeated the Chargers 35-24.

And obviously, the marquee game of the bunch, the Week 15 matchup at Baltimore.

The Raiders and Chiefs are not threats to win the division. Let's simply get that out of the way.

The one and only threat to Denver's AFC West supremacy are the San Diego Chargers. As inconsistent and disappointing as they've tended to be under Norv Turner, they are always a threat at the end of the season. There is a reason why since 2004, the Chargers have won the division five out of eight possible seasons. The Chargers are simply a difficult team to beat in December when the pressure is on.

The Broncos, on the other hand, often have late season collapses. The Broncos blew a three game divisional lead with three weeks to go in 2008 by losing their final three regular season games, while the Chargers won their last three games of the season—including a 52-21 blowout win over the Broncos in front of a national television audience in Week 17.

Remember Denver's 6-0 start in 2009, only to lose eight of their final 10 games to miss the postseason for the fourth consecutive year?

Remember how Denver lost their final three regular season games in 2011?

The Broncos have a schedule currently designed for them to finish with an 11-12 win regular season in a weak division with only one legitimate opponent to their crown.

The road to the NFL playoffs for the Denver Broncos? Easy on paper. But anyone who has followed the Broncos over the past several years can tell you that's it never been easy.

Prediction: 10-6 Record (AFC West Champions), Fourth Seed