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5 Possible Scenarios To Send the Denver Broncos to the Playoffs

Adam OdekirkContributor IIDecember 1, 2011

5 Possible Scenarios To Send the Denver Broncos to the Playoffs

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    The Denver Broncos are a legitimate contender for the playoffs, and there are several scenarios that could send them there.

    After Week 5 of the season, it seemed like that sentence couldn't have been written for many years to come.

    However, five wins in six games, with another winnable game ahead, means the Broncos could find themselves tied for the AFC West lead as soon as Monday.

    Let the insanity and torture of playoff scenario speculating begin, Denver.

    With five weeks remaining in the NFL season, the Denver Broncos are firmly entrenched on the bubble.

    Following are some different ways the Broncos can help themselves, and be helped by others, to play after New Year's Day. 

Win the Division

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    Because the Raiders hold a one-game lead in the AFC West, it's impossible to say that the Broncos control their own destiny. The Raiders could possibly win out and lock the division.

    However, the Broncos can take comfort in knowing that the Raiders face Green Bay and Detroit—two tough games that could easily end as losses for the Black and Silver.

    Assuming those two games are losses, the Raiders would finish at 10-6.

    If the Broncos win out, it would obviously guarantee winning the division if Oakland loses twice.

    The more likely scenario, though, is that Denver loses once and the division race ends in a tie.

    Were that to be the case, assuming that Denver's one loss comes to the New England Patriots down the stretch, the division would go to Denver. The deciding game would have happened in Week 2 when Oakland lost to Buffalo.

    If the Broncos win their game against Buffalo, it would be the only common opponent between the two that resulted in a different outcome for each team.

     

    BREAKDOWN:

    Oakland must lose to Detroit and Green Bay, while Denver must only lose to New England down the stretch.

    **UPDATE** 12/2/2011

    With the Oakland Loss to Miami, Denver now controls their fate if they win the rest of their games. The Buffalo game is now not a must win because Denver has a victory over Miami, whereas the Raiders now do not. The Broncos simply need to keep pace with the Raiders down the stretch as they own the tiebreaker already.

Top the Bengals for the Wild Card

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    This is the one scenario where the Broncos might thank Kyle Orton for his efforts.

    Assuming that the Broncos lose a game down the stretch and finish at 10-6, and also assuming that the Bengals lose twice, there would be a tie between the two teams.

    Once again, Week 2 is crucial, because that's the week when the Orton-led Broncos defeated the Bengals, giving Denver the heads-up tiebreaker.

    The Bengals will face tough tests against Pittsburgh and Baltimore, as well as a potentially desperate Houston team scrambling to lock their division.

    Expecting two losses is a real possibility for the Bengals, and will likely leave them out of the playoff picture.

     

    BREAKDOWN:

    The Bengals need to lose twice, and Denver can only lose once. Who the teams lose to is irrelevant, due to the Broncos win over Cincinnati.

Top the Jets for the Wild Card

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    Same tie-breaker, different quarterback.

    This is a scenario where the Broncos do control their own destiny, if it's a race between Denver and the New York Jets.

    As long as the Broncos keep pace with the Jets in the wins column, the tie-breaker goes to Denver, by virtue of the thrilling Thursday Night Football victory.

    The Jets seem to have an easier road, but they'll face their in-state rivals, the Giants, who may be clinging for their playoff lives as well.

     

    BREAKDOWN:

    Do as the Jets do down the stretch, and the playoffs are a guarantee.

Top the Titans for the Wild Card

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    This is one tie that the Broncos don't want to find themselves in.

    Although most head-to-head matchups with potential playoff teams are favorable for the Broncos, this is one instance where it is not.

    The Broncos' frustrating defeat at the hands of the Titans early in the season would cost Denver the playoffs if both teams were to end in a tie. 

    However, that loss to Tennessee would not necessarily keep Denver out of a three (or more)-way tie for the final AFC wild-card spot, because of the NFL's wild-card tiebreaker rules.

    Essentially, if it were to be a four-way tie with teams at 10-6, the Bengals would fall out first because they're third in their division (assuming Baltimore and Pittsburgh are 11-5 or higher).

    The Jets, Broncos and Titans would all be second in their divisions, and because there are still three teams tied after that rule is applied, the head-to-head matchups are skipped in favor of the in-conference win/loss record.

    That's the only way that the Broncos could top the Titans in a tie, but they must have the Jets included in that mix.

    If it were only the Broncos, Bengals and Titans tied at the end of the season, the Bengals would fall out first, leaving only the Titans and Broncos tied, at which point the head-to-head would be the tie breaker.

     

    BREAKDOWN:

    Don't end in a tie with the Titans, unless the Jets are tied as well.

"Run" the Table

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    Forgive the pun, but it was too good to pass on, as that is literally how the Broncos have come to this point to begin with.

    If the Broncos want to try and bypass most of this nonsense, they simply need to win all of their remaining games and finish at 11-5.

    That record could easily net them the division, or at the very worst, almost guarantee a wild card.

    The word "almost" is very important, because there have been teams going 11-5 and still missing the playoffs (ask Matt Cassel and Bill Belichick).

    It is highly unlikely, though, and were that to happen, the Mile High Magic would not be as strong as everyone thought it was.

    Put it this way: A bet in Las Vegas for the Broncos to make the playoffs prior to the season would pay a lot more than one that got laid down today.

    Now that's progress! 

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