Denver’s players return to the office this morning, faced with the task of reversing the team’s longest slide in seven years in time to salvage a wild-card berth.
And the most direct route to that spot — as confirmed by the Elias Sports Bureau — is three wins plus at least one Kansas City Chiefs loss.
The Broncos, at present, do not control their own playoff path. This is because there are scenarios by which a 10-6 mark would keep them out of the playoffs. All involve the Chiefs being among the teams in a season-ending deadlock at 10-6; if this happens, the Chiefs would win a tiebreaker with the Broncos on division record, which would then eliminate the Broncos from wild-card consideration if at least one other AFC wild-card aspirant finishes at 10-6 or better.
The bugaboo for the Broncos is the fact that the tiebreakers were changed this decade to emphasize division placement, meaning that in order to break a wild-card tie, a division-record tie is snapped first.
This is what cost the Miami Dolphins a playoff spot four years ago. That year, the New York Jets, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos all finished in a 9-7 tie. The Jets claimed their division crown on the basis of a better record against common opponents, dropping the Pats, Dolphins, Browns and Broncos into a deadlock amongst each other. New England beat Miami on divisional record, eliminating the Dolphins, but the Browns won the three-way standoff among themselves, the Pats and Broncos thanks to a superior conference record.
But back to the present day, and the Broncos’ situation. The key to a potential playoff trip could rest in the Dec. 24 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Winning that game would assure the Broncos of a conference-record tiebreaker advantage over the Jets, Bengals (because head-to-head gets thrown out in multiple-team tiebreakers unless they’ve all played each other) and the Jaguars. The Jaguars could also go 8-4 in AFC games, but in order to do so would have to finish 11-5, thus rendering them irrelevant for this comparison since the best the Broncos can do is 10-6.
Now, if the Jaguars manage to surpass the Colts for the AFC South, that creates a whole other set of scenarios entirely.
And speaking of irrelevancy, here’s a statistic that is somewhat interesting on the surface, but possesses the cosmic significance of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich:
With an 83.0 passer rating, Jay Cutler has the highest quarterabck efficiency mark of anyone born in Indiana, ranking 2.6 points higher than 1990 No. 1 overall pick Jeff George. He does, however, have a long way to go before officially entering the list of those eligible to be ranked for career efficiency ratings (minimum 1,500 passes).
1. Jay Cutler: 83.0
2. Jeff George: 80.4
3. Bob Griese: 77.1
4. Blair Kiel: 75.4
5. Rex Grossman: 72.6
6. Rick Mirer: 63.5
Tags: Jay Cutler