Denver Things have gotten so bad for the Denver Broncos that they’re starting to point fingers — at themselves.
Denver’s 2-7 slide since November began puts the Broncos in some bad company with bottom feeders Detroit, St. Louis, Washington and Kansas City. Only the Broncos still have a shot at the playoffs thanks to their sizzling 6-0 start.
The Chiefs (3-12) visit Invesco Field today, when the Broncos will try to salvage their season and end a three-year playoff drought. They’ll need lots of help.
There are 10 scenarios in which the Broncos will get an invitation to the postseason party, but none appears very realistic. Aside from all the other AFC wild-card contenders losing today, the Broncos’ best bet is to beat the Chiefs and for two of these three teams to lose: the Jets, Ravens and Steelers.
Denver would need only one of those three to lose if it beats K.C. and Houston beats New England.
“I just hope we’re focused on the game,” Broncos coach Josh McDaniels said. “I know there’s a lot of other factors at play and there’s so many different scenarios that if you’re sitting there trying to calculate all those you might miss the first quarter.”
The only score they’ll be tracking is their own.
“I’m not going to root for anybody,” Brandon Marshall said. “I’m just going to sit back and play my part and hopefully everything will fall in our favor. I’m not even going to watch or pay attention to the scores. Hopefully things work out for us.”
They sure didn’t last week, when the Broncos lost at Philadelphia. Then they learned the Jets leapfrogged them in the AFC wild-card race when the Indianapolis Colts frittered away their shot at an unblemished record by losing to New York, 29-15, after pulling their starters in the third quarter.
Neither did the league do the Broncos any favors this week by moving the Jets’ season finale against Cincinnati into prime time. If New England wins at Houston earlier in the day, the Bengals won’t have a chance of moving up to the No. 3 seed in the AFC bracket, so the Jets could end up with another virtual forfeit and a ticket to the playoffs.
Asked if competitive integrity was taken into account in the flex schedule change, league spokesman Greg Aiello told the Associated Press: “The Jets-Bengals game was the only guaranteed ‘win-and-you’re-in’ game this Sunday. That was the primary factor in moving it to Sunday night. If the Jets win, they are in the playoffs. If they lose, they are out and someone else is in.”
Actually, if Baltimore wins at Oakland, the Ravens get a wild card.
McDaniels holds no grudges against the Colts or the NFL over these decisions that could have deep ramifications in Denver.
So, what kind of shot does he expect the Bengals and Raiders to give the Jets and Ravens, respectively?
“It will affect us,” McDaniels said, “but it’s not our business.”
“They’ve earned the right to do whatever they want to with their football teams, whatever they think is best for them. You earn that right over how you play over 16 games and we’re 8-7, and if we were 12-3, we might be in a different situation and we would be discussing that,” he said. “You don’t want to wait until now and then start crying foul because somebody else might rest some players for the playoffs. I mean, that’s your (own) problem.
Despite a regime change, a staff makeover and a roster rollover, the Broncos find themselves in the same precarious position as a year ago, fighting for their playoff lives after a late-season fade.
Last time, they were whipped at San Diego, becoming the first team to blow a three-game divisional lead with three weeks left and costing two-time Super Bowl winner Mike Shanahan his job.
Now, they could become just the third team since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to go unbeaten through six games and miss the playoffs, joining the ’78 Redskins and the ’03 Vikings.