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Here’s what needs to happen for the Broncos to make the playoffs

Zac Stevens Avatar
December 6, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — “Playoffs!? Don’t talk about playoffs! Playoffs? Are you kidding me?”

Yes, Jim Mora, the Mile High City is talking about the Denver Broncos playing January football.

And rightfully so, too.

Entering the final quarter stretch of the season, the 6-6 Broncos sit just one game out of the final Wildcard spot in the AFC. But they’re not the only team in the mix.

As it stands, the Broncos trail the 6-6 Indianapolis Colts and the 6-6 Miami Dolphins — due to losing the conference record tiebreaker — in the chase for the final wild-card spot, currently held by the 7-5 Baltimore Ravens. The Tennessee Titans are also 6-6, but Denver owns the conference record tiebreaker over them.

While there’s nothing the Broncos can do to take the division from the 10-2 Kansas City Chiefs, they can snag a playoff spot from the Ravens and even the 9-3 Los Angeles Chargers, who currently hold the first Wildcard spot.

As Vance Joseph will constantly remind his team, nothing matters if the Broncos don’t take care of business down the stretch. But currently owning the ninth-overall seed, they’ll need some help in order to jump into the top six by the end of the season.

Here’s what needs to happen for Denver to clinch a trip to the postseason.


After a grueling schedule through much of the first 12 games, the Broncos finally have the schedule on their side. In fact, they have the easiest remaining schedule of all the teams in the hunt.

Here’s the remaining schedule for the Broncos and each team they are chasing.

*Note: The Pittsburgh Steelers currently have the fourth playoff spot, but can be jumped by the Broncos for a wild card spot if the Ravens overtake them for the division.

Broncos (6-6)

AT 2-10 49ers

VS 4-7-1 Browns

AT 2-10 Raiders

VS 9-3 Chargers

Steelers (7-4-1)

AT 2-10 Raiders

VS 9-3 Patriots

AT 10-2 Saints

VS 5-7 Bengals

Chargers (9-3)

VS 5-7 Bengals

AT 10-2 Chiefs

VS 7-5 Ravens

AT 6-6 Broncos

Ravens (7-5)

AT 10-2 Chiefs

VS 5-7 Buccaneers

AT 9-3 Chargers

VS 4-7-1 Browns

Dolphins (6-6)

VS 9-3 Patriots

AT 6-5-1 Vikings

VS 4-8 Jaguars

AT 4-8 Bills

Colts (6-6)

AT 9-3 Texans

VS 7-5 Cowboys

VS 4-8 Giants

AT 6-6 Titans


If the Broncos take care of business and end the season on a seven-game win streak, they’ll still need help.

Denver will need one of the following to happen:

  • The Steelers lose two games
  • The Chargers lose three games
  • The Ravens lose two games

*If the Dolphins and Colts both win out, the Broncos will jump the Dolphins based off the fourth tiebreaker, strength of victory, and they will jump the Colts based off the third tiebreaker, win-loss-tie percentage in common games.


This is where it gets tricky. If Denver goes 3-1 in their final four games, they very much still have a chance at the playoffs, but they’ll need substantial help.

Denver will need one of the following to happen:

  • The Steelers lose three games
  • The Chargers lose out
  • The Ravens lose three games


  • The Dolphins, Colts and Titans would all have to lose at least one game


  • If Dolphins finish 9-7, Miami’s loss has to be to an AFC team, and the Broncos have to beat the Raiders
  • If Titans finish 9-7, and the Broncos must win their remaining three AFC games, meaning in order for this to happen, with Denver at 9-7, they would lose to the 49ers.

*If the Colts finish 9-7, the Broncos will most likely jump Indianapolis based off the fourth tiebreaker, strength of victory. If Denver doesn’t want it to come down to the fourth tiebreaker, and both teams finish 9-7, one of the following must happen:

  • The Broncos beat the Raiders
  • The Colts lose to the Texans


Hope for a miracle and pray that all of these unlikely scenarios pan out.

Denver will need one of the following to happen:

  • The Steelers lose out
  • The Ravens lose out


  • The Dolphins, Colts and Titans must lose two games
  • The Bengals and Browns must lose at least one game


  • If Dolphins finish 8-8, the Broncos must beat the Raiders and beat either the Browns or Chargers. Miami must also beat the Vikings
  • If Colts finish 8-8, Indianapolis can’t beat the Texans and the Titans. If Colts beat either the Texans or Titans, the Broncos can’t beat the 49ers.
  • If Titans finish 8-8, they must lose to either the Jaguars or the Colts.

*If the Bengals finish 8-8, the Broncos win the tiebreaker based on their Week 13 victory

BRONCOS FINISH 7-9 or 6-10

Uh oh, there’s trouble in Denver.

Oh, playoffs are impossible, too.



Get ready for this, Broncos Country. Down the stretch, the Kansas City Chiefs can help out their division rival in Denver more than any other team.

So put on the Mahomes jersey and pull for the Chiefs to beat the Ravens in Week 14 and the Chargers the following week, both of which are in Arrowhead.

If the Broncos win out, and the Chiefs take care of business in back-to-back weeks, the Broncos won’t need too much more help down the stretch.


Ravens-Chargers, Week 16

The Broncos need both of these teams to lose at least two games. Barring pandemonium — aka a tie — one of these teams will drop a game in Week 16.

Since the Broncos will get their shot at the Chargers in Week 17, if either team has a loss in the next two weeks leading up to this game, that’s who Broncos fans should be pulling for to lose this all-important game.

If both teams win their next two games leading up to this showdown, the Broncos will be cheering for the Chargers to win, as they’ll already have locked up a playoff spot, and will be chasing the final Wildcard spot occupied by either the Ravens or the Steelers.


According to ESPN, the Broncos have a 19 percent chance of making the playoffs. While it doesn’t seem like the best odds, they actually have the highest odds among teams currently on the outside looking in.

Of course, the Steelers, Chargers and Ravens all have significantly higher odds, but with games against the Chiefs and the Chargers-Ravens battle, there’s certainly a chance for Denver to make the improbable run into the playoffs.


Win out. It starts with that. Yes, Denver can make it by dropping a game, or even two, but the odds get significantly more difficult with each loss.

After that, it’s great news as all three teams the Broncos need to lose two games have two very lose-able games on their schedule.

The Ravens play the 10-2 Chiefs and 9-3 Chargers both on the road.

The Steelers have the 9-3 Patriots and the 10-2 Saints on back-to-back weeks, with the latter being in the always-loud dome in New Orleans.

Finally, the Chargers play the 10-2 Chiefs in Arrowhead, the 7-5 Ravens at home and the 6-6 Broncos in Denver.

It could all come down to the Week 17 showdown in the Mile High City.

Oh, how fun that would be.

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