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Sean Payton and the Denver Broncos aren’t focused on the AFC Wild Card race. They’ve got their eyes on the AFC West title.

Zac Stevens Avatar
December 11, 2023

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The AFC playoff race is a cluster, to keep it P.G.

Entering Monday Night Football, six teams are tied at 7-6 for the final two wild card spots. Three more teams are sitting at 8-5. That makes means a whopping nine of the 16 teams in the AFC are all within one game of each other.

It’s so competitive, in fact, Sean Payton, who has been around the NFL for over two decades, can’t recall a more competitive and crowded field for a playoff push he’s been a part of.

“I’m sure we’ve seen it like this either in the NFC or the AFC, but I can’t recall having been a part of it,” the Broncos’ head coach said on Monday morning, a day after the team’s seventh win of the season, this time over the Los Angeles Chargers.

“This next quarter poll is going to obviously define a lot for a lot of teams, and fortunately, we’re one of those teams,” Payton added. “We just have to focus on the next job. It is unusual. I think it probably comes up a little more than we think and moves around from the NFC to the AFC. It makes it exciting for the fans, and certainly for the TV.”

But there’s a much less crowded path to a playoff spot — the AFC West title.

That’s what Payton and the Broncos have their eyes on.

“Obviously, we’re a game out in our division, and that’s how we’re looking at it,” Payton said, pointing to the AFC West division title when asked broadly about the wide-open AFC playoff picture.

Forget a Wild Card spot, the Broncos are going for the AFC West title.

Within a couple of minutes on Sunday evening, the Broncos beat the Los Angeles Chargers 24-7 and the Kansas City Chiefs fell to the Buffalo Bills 20-17 at home. In those few minutes, the Broncos cut the Chiefs’ lead on the division in half.

Now, the 8-5 Chiefs only sit one game ahead of the 7-6 Broncos in the AFC West.

Thanks to the Broncos’ Week 8 victory over the Chiefs, neither team has the head-to-head tiebreaker over the other since the teams split their two games against each other this year.

The next tiebreaker is record within the division. Currently, the Chiefs hold the tiebreaker as they have a 3-1 record in the AFC West while the Broncos have a 2-2 record.

If the Chiefs win their remaining two division games against the Raiders at home in Week 16 and on the road in Los Angeles in Week 18, they will hold the tiebreaker over Denver regardless of what the Broncos do in the division.

However, if the Chiefs lose both of those games, the Broncos can own the tiebreaker by beating both the Chargers and Raiders in Week 17 and Week 18 respectively.

If, after all of that, the Chiefs and Broncos have the same overall record and record within the division, then it will go down to common games.

Earlier in the season, Javonte Williams said the Broncos aren’t focused on a playoff run, instead they have their eyes set on a Super Bowl run. On Monday afternoon when asked about the playoff picture, the star running back took a different approach.

“Coach Payton told me that I talk about the playoffs too much so I gotta chill,” he said with a chuckle.

With four weeks to go, the playoffs are very much in the Broncos’ grasp. But they don’t have their sights set on a wild card spot. They are going for the AFC West title.

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