Good Morning, Broncos fans! The AFC West is set up for a wild finish next Sunday afternoon, as the Broncos host the Chiefs and the Raiders face the Chargers in Oakland. Denver's only path to the playoffs is via the division title, but they have three ways of claiming it: 1) beat KC; 2) tie KC, plus Oakland ties or loses to SD; 3) lose to KC, plus Oakland loses to SD. As for the AFC's final wild card spot, Oakland can nab it with a victory and some help, but Denver has no shot at it due to victories yesterday by Cincinnati (23-16 over the Cards) and Tennessee (23-17 over Jacksonville).
How did we get to this point? Well, the Broncos came up pretty small yesterday, especially the offense and special teams, which combined to allow 21 points to the defense's 19 in a 40-14 loss to Buffalo. The 21 came via a punt return TD by Leodis McKelvin and two fourth quarter pick-sixes by Tim Tebow, although one of those could be changed to a fumble. As for the defense, they struggled to keep the Bills outside the 20 but stiffened up once allowing them in (Buffalo was 1-6 in the red zone).
The Broncos lost the turnover battle (0-4) for the third straight week and have given the ball up nine times over that stretch (seven of them by Tebow). They also lost Chris Harris to a pinched nerve, Quinton Carter to a severe bruise on his lower back, and Brian Dawkins to a reaggravation of his neck injury which is feared could end his playing career.
Meanwhile, the Raiders moved into a tie with Denver atop the division at 8-7 by defeating the Chiefs in OT 16-13 thanks in large part to two FG blocks by Richard Seymour. The loss eliminates Kansas City from playoff contention, while Detroit's 38-10 drubbing of the Chargers finished off San Diego's postseason hopes and clinched a wild-card berth for Detroit.
Along with Cincinnati, Oakland and Tennessee, the Jets are the other team with a chance at claiming the #6 seed, although those prospects took a serious hit with their 29-14 loss to the Giants. In order to get in, the Jets will need plenty of help along with beating the Dolphins, who lost to New England yesterday 27-24. The Pats locked up a first-round bye with their victory, while the Ravens moved closer to taking the other top seed by beating Cleveland 20-14.
Pittsburgh kept pace with Baltimore by pummeling the Rams 27-0 without Ben Roethlisberger, but the Ravens' sweep of the season series means they hold an advantage over the Steelers for both the AFC North title and the first-round bye. Should the Broncos win the AFC West, they will host a first-round playoff game against whichever of Baltimore and Pittsburgh finishes second in their division.
Dave Krieger thinks perhaps the Broncos are done fooling opposing defenses.
As Lindsay Jones tells it, the Broncos rued their day of miscues.
The Giants can win the NFC East with a victory next week over the Cowboys, who lost to Philly 20-7 and were without Tony Romo (bruised hand) and Felix Jones (hamstring) for much of the day. Despite their win, the Eagles were eliminated by virtue of the Giants' win. Arizona's loss to Cincy also knocked them from wild card contention.
Green Bay can lock up home field advantage with a win over the Bears tonight. San Francisco beat the Seahawks 19-17 yesterday, and they need Chicago to beat the Packers if they're to have a chance at the NFC's top seed. Seattle's run at a another unlikely postseason berth ended with their loss to the Niners.
As for the two games without playoff implications, the Panthers crushed the Bucs 48-16, and the Vikings beat the Redskins 33-26 but lost Adrian Peterson to a garish knee injury (which resulted in a torn ACL) and Christian Ponder to a concussion.
The league and NFLPA remain at a stalemate in terms of HGH testing.
Chris Chase takes a look at New England's defensive mishmosh.
Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating it today, and travel safely!