The Denver Broncos won the AFC West on Sunday with their home win over the San Diego Chargers. They lead the Chargers by four games, including the tiebreaker, with only six games to go in the regular season. Anything is possible and the Broncos do have a recent history of late season collapses, but the division race is over. The Broncos cannot look ahead to the playoffs but we can, and there’s only one team in the AFC that should scare the fans.
There are only three teams in the AFC that are legitimate contenders for the Super Bowl and those teams are the Broncos, the Houston Texans and the New England Patriots. Yes, I am leaving out the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Start with the Steelers, they are without Ben Rothlisberger for at least two more weeks and may have a difficult time making the playoffs. The Ravens are not the same team that went to the AFC Championship game last season; injuries have riddled their defense and quarterback Joe Flacco just hasn’t taken that next step. The best way to look at it is if the Broncos had gone in to play the Steelers without Rothlisberger and a beat up defense, Peyton Manning and the offense would have put up 30 points. The Ravens had to hang on by the skin of their teeth to pull out a three point win.
That leaves the Broncos, the Texans and the Patriots. While I respect the Texans, they would not scare me as a Broncos fan. The Texans may or may not beat the Broncos in a playoff game but I would be extremely confident facing the Texans, even in Houston. The only team that should scare Broncos’ fans is the Patriots, especially if the game is in New England. The Patriots are playing at a very high level on offense and they have had the Broncos number, beating them three times in the span of nine months. That does not mean the Broncos cannot beat the Patriots, it just means that is the matchup that would be the toughest for the Broncos. On the other side of that, however, is this. I have a very good friend who is a die-hard Patriots fan, and the one team that scares him is the Broncos.
The Broncos and Patriots are currently tied with 7-3 records but the Patriots hold the tiebreaker due to their head-to-head win back in October. The Broncos have a fairly easy schedule over the last six games of the season and the Patriots have a couple of tough games during that stretch including; the San Francisco 49ers and the Texans. If the Broncos can win out, which would include a win in Baltimore, then they is a decent chance they could claim the number two seed in the AFC. That would give them a first-round bye and if they did have to face the Patriots, then at least it would be a home game.
So if you thought there was nothing left to play for since the AFC West is in the bag, think again. There is plenty to play for and it starts this Sunday versus the Kansas City Chiefs.
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