The blame goes to the Broncos for ending up in this playoff mess

First, let’s place the blame where the blame is due.

The Denver Broncos are in this mess because they couldn’t beat two dregs when needed, the Washington Redskins in a midseason contest and the Oakland Raiders only two weeks ago, the Raiders at New Mile High of all things.

Those two teams have won a combined total of nine games this season and the Broncos should have swamped both of them. That having been done, the Broncos would not be forced into cheering long and hard for the Miami Dolphins, the Raiders and the Cincinnati Bengals.

We could spend hours going over the playoff scenarios. We won’t do that here. If you think you have the time, get on the internet and get out your fine-toothed comb.

Simply put, Denver has to beat the Chiefs today at home, then hope Pittsburgh gets beat at Miami by the Dolphins, the Ravens get beat by the Raiders in Oakland, and/or the Jets get beat by Cincinnati tonight at Giants Stadium in New York.

Basically, two of those three teams have to get beat today for Denver to have a chance to …

… travel to either Cincinnati to play the Bengals or to New England to take on the Patriots in the opening round of the playoffs.

The rather odd thing about scoreboard watching today is that only one of the games having a significant effect on the Broncos will take place early, the Pittsburgh at Miami game. That game, by the way, is certainly not a Steeler gimmee for a couple of reasons: The Dolphins are still in the playoff hunt themselves (needing more assistance than Denver needs), and the Steelers have pretty much stunk it up since All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu went down to a knee injury in the middle of the season.

The Baltimore at Oakland game will be played at the same time as the Denver vs. Kansas City game and the Cincinnati-Jets game will be played tonight.

Yes, it is entirely possible Bronco fans everywhere will be huge Bengals fans tonight, hoping against all hope that the rather conservative Cincinnati squad finds a way to move the football against the tough Jets defense — perhaps the league’s best this season.

So much for the situation with the AFC and the playoffs.

Let’s do a reality check:

The Broncos whipped the Chiefs 44-13 in Week 13 for one of those rare December road wins in Kansas City.

In that one, Denver rushed the ball a season-high 45 times with Correll Buckhalter gaining 113 yards, Knowshon Moreno adding 86 and Peyton Hillis 47 yards. Denver averaged 5.4 yards per carry in the game and broke it open with a 20-point third quarter.

Quarterback Kyle Orton didn’t have to do much in that one, completing 15 of 25 for 180 yards and two TDs, one of those to Brandon Marshall, who will not be playing in this must-win game.

The Broncos also played outstanding defense, holding Chiefs QB Matt Cassel to just 84 yards passing on a miserable 10-for-29 performance and running back Jamal Charles, one of the Chiefs bright spots in the second half of the season, to only 56 yards and 3.1 yards per attempt.

The Chiefs do have one thing going for them that they did not have that day, the return of star wide-out Dwayne Bowe after a four-game drug suspension. He is Cassel’s go-to guy — but he’ll also have Champ Bailey shadowing him all day.

I can see absolutely no reason the Chiefs win this game.

Denver has to have it. There is no scenario where Denver players and staff know they are out of the playoffs prior to the start of — or even early in — this game.

The Broncos have played a few good foes very well lately. Losing close games to Indy and the Eagles on the road is no sin.

They are moving the ball better of late, scoring at a higher clip when in the red zone, and still playing good defense for the most part.

Scouts Inc., the scouting service for ESPN, rates the Broncos with positional advantages at 10 of 10 spots today. The Chiefs last week could come up with only two drives of longer than 50 yards in a loss to the Bengals. The Chiefs have given up 45 sacks this season, fifth-highest total in the league.

Those signs point to a Bronco win.

I’ll take my 10-4 record picking with or against Denver (I did not have a prediction last week because of too much frolicking in the sun) and say Denver wins this one 28-17.

And at that point, perhaps all eyes will turn to the Bengals-Jets telecast.

Or not.


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