Playoff Picture: Sketching the Road to a Playoff Berth for the Denver Broncos

Jennifer EakinsContributor INovember 14, 2012

CHARLOTTE, NC - NOVEMBER 11:  Von Miller #58 of the Denver Broncos during their game at Bank of America Stadium on November 11, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Barring a freak catastrophic incident, the path to the playoffs for Denver is as wide open as I-70 on a Bronco Sunday.

The AFC West was a weak division in 2011. Aside from Denver, it's getting even worse this season. Three out of the four teams finished with an 8-8 record last year, and a .500 record is a pipe dream for the Chiefs and possibly the Raiders in 2012. 

There is little doubt that the division title is the Broncos' to lose. However, the manner in which they play will determine if they will have an easy or difficult road through the playoffs. Denver is currently sitting as the fourth seed in the AFC heading into Week 11 of the regular season.

The Broncos have shown in the past four games that they can play complete football on both sides of the ball. Denver's defensive unit is firing on all cylinders, including a monster seven sacks on Cam Newton last Sunday in Week 9. The offense has gelled well together and is playing up to signal caller Peyton Manning's high rigorous standards, with one exception.

If the 2012 Denver Broncos want to secure the AFC West and shoot for home-field advantage in the playoffs, they must get their fumble situation under control moving forward.

Not only are the Broncos coughing up the ball, but they are failing to recover those fumbles on the field as well. These are things that these guys learn as kids in Pop Warner: fall on the ball instead of trying to pick it up and run. This has occurred not only when Denver fumbles, but when their opponents have put it on the ground as well.

Through nine games this season, Denver has committed 10 fumbles, five from Willis McGahee and three courtesy of Demaryius Thomas. Eight of those balls resulted in a change of possession, a number way too high for a playoff-caliber team.

The Broncos' remaining schedule is a fairly easy one, with only two of their opponents carrying winning records in the Ravens and Buccaneers. Up next is a pivotal game with the division rival Chargers.

If Denver can come out victorious on Sunday, they will pretty much cement that AFC West title. A win puts the Broncos, currently 6-3, three games ahead of the Chargers (4-5) and gives them the advantage in a tiebreaker situation.  

With the combination of solid play Denver has been putting out each week and their favorable schedule, it seems like a playoff berth is certainly in the cards for this Broncos squad.

If they can just stay the course and address the turnover issues, the AFC West and potentially the entire conference could be theirs this season.