NFL Playoff Scenarios: What More Do the Denver Broncos Need to Clinch?

Christopher Smith@MileHighMentorCorrespondent IIIDecember 23, 2011

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 20:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos scrambles for a first down against the Buffalo Bills during the fourth quarter at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 20, 2011 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Bills 24-10. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
Justin Edmonds/Getty Images

There's two weeks remaining in the 2011 NFL season and the playoffs are right around the corner.

The Denver Broncos are by far the most unexpected presumed playoff contender in the NFL this year.

After a 1-4 start to begin the year with Kyle Orton at the helm, the Tim Tebow-led Broncos have veered back onto course and are sitting atop the AFC West.

However, the battle is not yet won.

The Broncos face the Buffalo Bills on Christmas Eve and finish the season against their division rival Kansas City Chiefs. Both games are downright critical for Denver to continue on their virtually unpredicted path to the postseason.

Denver currently sits only one game ahead of the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers in the AFC West.

The Raiders, who led the division for a good portion of the year, are not the team to worry about. They're 3-5 since their draft-pick fire sale for new head honcho Carson Palmer.

Rather, it's the Chargers who have been here before.

It was just a few years ago that Denver held the division lead with an 8-5 record above the 5-8 Chargers. However, by the end of their matchup in Week 17, the two teams were tied at 8-8 with the tiebreakers going to San Diego.

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 Pensin
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

The Broncos and Jay Cutler stayed home, the Chargers and Philip Rivers went on to make some noise in the playoffs.

This year, Denver needs some help in Week 16. A win against Buffalo alone will not be enough to go into their game with the Chiefs with any confidence.

A win against Buffalo will, however, effectively rule out Kansas City and their chances at the division title.

Kansas City also holds the ability to knock Denver out in the final week if the Broncos drop one in Buffalo.

However, this very same team is the one that will most help Denver on their way to the postseason.

Denver needs Kyle Orton and Kansas City to keep their roll on against the Raiders on Saturday.

If the San Diego Chargers manage to end their hot streak and lose to the resilient Detroit Lions as well, the Broncos will have clinched the division.

Going into the final week at 9-6, with San Diego and Oakland at 7-8, is literally the very best Denver can hope for.

How fitting would it be that Orton—a former Bronco, if some of you haven't been paying attention—wins a game that would help put Denver into the postseason?

On the other hand, how amazing would it be—for everyone outside of Denver—if Orton was the reason the Broncos stayed home in January?

SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 27:  Quarterback Tim Tebow #15 of the Denver Broncos runs the ball against the San Diego Chargers during the Broncos 16-13 overtime win in their NFL Game on November 27, 2011 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California  (Photo by
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

If Denver drops one to the Bills and Kansas City rolls Oakland, the final game of the season would determine the division winner.

At 8-8, Kansas City would hold the tiebreakers and win the division in an even more unlikely fashion than Denver plans to.

However, once again, the team that scares the Denver faithful the most is the San Diego Chargers.

Not only are Denver fans worried about the Bolts, either. Who would want to face off with this Chargers team given the streak they're on right now?

Fortunately for Denver, at this point, they control their own destiny.

Unfortunately for Denver, that hasn't been a phrase said with confidence in years.

They win out and they're in the playoffs.

Much easier said than done.


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