Denver Broncos Lose Composure as the Playoff Picture Focuses

Chaz MattsonAnalyst INovember 23, 2009

DENVER - NOVEMBER 22:  Quarterback Chris Simms #2 of the Denver Broncos is sacked by Kevin Burnett #99 and Eric Weddle #32 of the San Diego Chargers during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on November 22, 2009 in Denver, Colorado.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

In case there was anyone uncertain or unsure of the Denver Broncos' current downward slide, it has now reached the breaking point.

The Broncos started out by taking things one game at a time and produced a 6-0 streak.  They have just as easily cast away their conference and divisional advantages on their 0-4 slide.

So, in case you were wondering, it’s officially time to panic, so by all means, please do panic.

The Denver Broncos are currently ranked No. 7 in the conference, which when translated, puts them on the outside looking into the playoff picture.

Oh mirror, mirror, tell us what you see, because it really appears to be true.

Just as easily as San Diego put the hurt on the Broncos yesterday to the pathetic tune of 32-3, did the orange and blue officially fall into the fight of their playoff lives in Week 10, following an amazing 6-0 start.

The AFC playoffs currently lineup right now as follows:

Division Leaders, Overall (Conference)

Indianapolis Colts, 10-0 (6-0)

Cincinnati Bengals, 7-3 (5-3, Denver Owns Tiebreaker)

San Diego Chargers, 7-3 (5-3)

New England Patriots, 7-3 (5-3, Denver Owns Tiebreaker)


Wild Card Teams

Jacksonville Jaguars, 6-4 (5-2)

Pittsburgh Steelers, 6-4 (4-3, Pittsburgh Owns Tiebreaker vs. Denver)


Bubble Teams

Denver Broncos, 6-4 (5-3)

Houston Texans, 5-4 (4-3)

Baltimore Ravens, 5-5 (5-4, Baltimore Owns Tie Breaker vs. Denver)

Miami Dolphins, 5-5 (3-3)


Given the current standings, the Broncos are reeling with no answers immediately in sight. Indy appears to be headed to home field advantage throughout the playoffs, with the rest of the AFC certainly taking shape.

The Broncos own two tiebreakers, but they are against teams that appear to be division winners in Cincinnati and New England. That essentially values those tiebreakers meaningless.

The Bengals play two division leaders in the coming weeks in Minnesota and San Diego.  However, they will play creampuffs like rival Cleveland, Detroit, and Kansas City with their final game played at the New York Jets.

The Patriots have two challenging games the next two weeks at New Orleans, and at Miami.  Following those two games, the Patriots will play beatable teams in hosting Carolina, at Buffalo, hosting Jacksonville, and at Houston.

The San Diego Chargers have a manageable road to the playoffs at this point.  The Chargers start by hosting divisional foe Kansas City and then go on the road to Cleveland and Dallas.  The Chargers return home to face the Cincinnati Bengals, travel to play at the Titans, and then host Washington in the season finale.

Jacksonville and Pittsburgh are currently in the wild-card slots.

The Jacksonville Jaguars are at San Francisco, host Houston, Miami, and Indianapolis, and then finish out at New England and Cleveland.  The Jaguars could start selling out games as they come down the stretch, which could make their home field advantage much stronger.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are at the Ravens next, in a game that could put Baltimore out of the picture, or hurt the Steelers if Denver or another team starts to get hot. The Steelers host Oakland, play at the Browns, host the Packers and Ravens, and then finish out at Miami.

So what does this all mean for the Broncos?

It’s a cliché for a reason, but the Broncos control their own destiny.  The best medicine in Denver is to win out, but the Broncos have three very good teams remaining on their schedule and two divisional foes that love to beat Denver when given the opportunity.

Denver is hosting a physical football team on Thanksgiving night in the New York Giants, then, after a 10-day break, go to Arrowhead to face Kansas City.  The Chiefs are always a tough game for the Broncos on the road. 

The Broncos then go to Indianapolis, host archrival Oakland, at Philadelphia, and then host Kansas City in the season finale.

Baring a total collapse by the Chargers and another role reversal by the Broncos, which doesn’t seem likely, Denver will only make the playoffs as a Wild Card if they get help along the way.

The Jags looks to have as many as four more losses along the way so nothing is certain in Jacksonville. Pittsburgh has virtually lost the division title, so they must have both games against the Ravens.

The Broncos could have beaten any of the remaining teams in the first six games, but they now have to win all of their remaining six games, which is a different pressure altogether.

This is the lay of the land that is known with regards to the schedule.

What is not known currently is how the Broncos will progress with the quarterback situation in disarray.  Kyle Orton did not appear very mobile in the pocket and had a bad game overall, but it was still light years better than what Chris Simms did against the San Diego Chargers.

The harsh reality right now with this team is they need to get on another streak similar to the one that started the season. The problem here is they need to do it with uncertainty in the leadership ranks.

Some have criticized Brandon Marshall for holding out in the offseason and being a detriment to the team. Say what you will, but Brandon has produced this season when given the opportunity to do so.

Some say his not being at training camp discredits him as a leader on this team. Also, his sideline argument with rookie running back Knowshon Moreno in front of their divisional rivals and the NFL fanbase, squashed any composure this team may have had. 

However when he got into it with rookie running back Knowshon Moreno on the sideline after Moreno all but fumbled away the division title on the goal line yesterday.  What ensued was a sideline argument the likes of which has not been seen in Denver, but more than that.  Any composure this team had on this season was lost in the blink of an eye in front of their divisional rivals and the NFL fan base watching.

The questions that remain have to do with Coach McDaniels' poor offensive game-planning and the heart of this football team.

It was clear the Broncos started to implode and give up against the Ravens four weeks ago. The Steelers pummeled the Broncos in a battle of wills, and in Washington, Denver had a fast start, but could not control the ball, and eventually imploded and gave up.  

Yesterday against San Diego, almost as quickly as Knowshon Moreno fumbled on the goal line, the Broncos quit.

A winning NFL team that quits in games? 

It’s puzzling, but ridiculous that they have to reside in Denver, even after a coaching switch. The Broncos fired Mike Shanahan in large part because his teams had a record of quitting down the stretch.

Now it’s time to be clear. 

Not much has changed except the stability of the quarterback position. Currently, the Jay Cutler trade can be a lose-lose proposition. The New England offensive coordinator that was able to set a league record in points is now the headmaster in Denver without an answer.

Has Josh McDaniels lost his football team already? Can they find a quarterback to cure their ills?

These questions don’t have any clear answers, but they are real and they also signify that it is time to do something that is very real. When teams start to quit, there is only one solution.

Hit the panic switch.


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