Path to playoffs now more complicated for Broncos

Josh McDaniels knows the Denver Broncos’ path to the playoffs

has become convoluted and quite complicated.

The first-year head coach was briefed on all the possible

scenarios that need to unfold just for the Broncos to sneak in.

Knowing all the scenarios, though, doesn’t help that much. Not

when a once-promising season is suddenly in peril.

Who would’ve thought Denver would now need assistance from other

teams to reach the postseason after a sizzling 6-0 start?

The Broncos (8-7) have faltered near the finish, veering off

postseason course as they dropped their third straight game Sunday

in Philadelphia.

They’re in quite a bind – but it’s not hopeless.

And that’s what McDaniels is stressing to his team leading up to

the season finale Sunday against Kansas City. That’s the one factor

in this snarled AFC wild-card picture the Broncos can control.

“I don’t think hoping for something else to happen while you’re

playing or while you’re getting ready to play the game is going to

do you any good,” McDaniels said Monday. “We understand that we

have a chance, we understand that we have a chance not to be in

even if we do win. I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking

about scenarios.”

That’s good, because some of his players really don’t want to

hear about those scenarios.

“Right now, I do not know anything and I do not want to know

anything,” quarterback Kyle Orton said Sunday after a 30-27 loss

to the Eagles.

That may be best because there’s at least 10 different scenarios

under which the Broncos can slip in. The easiest way is if two of

these three teams lose: Baltimore, Pittsburgh and the New York


The Ravens travel to Oakland, while Pittsburgh plays in Miami

and the Jets host Cincinnati.

Stranger things have happened – like the Broncos going on a 2-7

skid after being the talk of the league following their torrid


Just like that, they’re dangling on the verge of missing the

playoffs for the fourth straight season. Not since early in the

franchise’s existence has it gone four straight seasons without a

playoff appearance, a drought finally halted when the Broncos made

the Super Bowl in their first trip to the postseason in 1977.

“We put ourselves in this position that we are in right now,”

receiver Jabar Gaffney said. “We just need to worry about

ourselves right now and our own destiny and play as hard as we can

against Kansas City next weekend.”

The Houston Texas could be an X-factor for the Broncos in this

tricky formula, provided they beat the New England Patriots. If

there’s a glut of teams tied at 9-7, and the Texans remain one of

them, that could swing some of the tiebreaker scenarios in Denver’s


Might McDaniels call up his former boss, Bill Belichick, and

possibly suggest to him that he rest Tom Brady & Co. for the

game in Houston?

“Umm, no,” McDaniels, said, grinning. “I’m not going to place

any phone calls in that regard.”

To think, this was once a team running away with the AFC West.

Denver had a 3 1/2-game lead over San Diego heading into the bye

week in mid October.

But that bye arrived at an inconvenient time, interrupting the

Broncos’ momentum.

They haven’t been able to get it back, and the Chargers quickly

passed them by on the way to another division crown.

McDaniels chalked it up to execution late in games. They were in

a position to beat Indianapolis in the fourth quarter but


The next week, the Broncos had a chance to put Oakland away

late, but couldn’t stop a last-minute drive.

Against the Eagles, Denver stormed back from a 27-10 deficit

only to tumble on David Akers’ field goal in the closing


“You’re playing good football teams at the end of the season

that are all playing their best, a lot of them playing for

something,” McDaniels said. “We’ve been in position and we’ve

made plays to win games late during the course of this season, too.

We just haven’t done it the last few weeks and it’s definitely come

back to hurt us.”

Brian Dawkins couldn’t agree more.

“Too many mistakes. Too many mistakes,” Dawkins said Sunday

after his emotional return to Philadelphia. “It seems like we are

going through growing pains at the wrong time of the year. Every

time you make mistakes against a good football team, we’ve said

this many, many times, this is what happens – you come up a little