The Broncos have had two games in the last three weeks that have had a playoff feel about them and they’ve failed to show up in both games, this week they fell apart on national television to boot.
At this stage of the season, every loss stings that extra bit when you’re in a six-way battle for two wildcard playoff spots, but it’s not all doom and gloom, here’s what I took away from Saturday’s performance.
Huge playoff dent
There’s no escaping it, the loss is a big hit to Denver’s improbable playoff run, especially because all but one of the fellow chasing pack won their games on Sunday, to add salt to Sean Payton’s wounds.
The Broncos slipped from ninth to 11th in the AFC playoff picture and they are now a game back from both teams in the final two spots of the AFC wildcard picture as well as the Buffalo Bills and Houston Texans in the two places just out of the playoffs.
It feels like the Broncos missed an opportunity on Saturday but because of the nature of their schedule in comparison to their fellow playoff chasers, they’re far from out of the race for the playoff places in a highly competitive AFC.
Offence misfires again
This game felt like deja vu for the Broncos when recalling what happened only two weeks ago when they played the Houston Texans in what felt like a game with a similar magnitude given the playoff implications.
Similar to the Houston game, the offence failed to keep up with their opponent early in the game and quickly fell behind the eight-ball on Saturday night.
They failed to score any points in the first half and barely moved the sticks at all before halftime despite the Detroit Lions having a defence that other teams had managed to score points on in past weeks.
In the second half, they managed to drive the ball with more efficiency but due to their subpar first-half display, they had left themselves with too much to do trying to keep up with the Lions.
Defence picked apart
Like the offence, the defence also failed to turn up and properly make a difference in the game, barely laying a glove on the Lions.
They failed to register a turnover and only sacked Jared Goff twice, rarely putting meaningful pressure on the Lions’ offence.
As a result, Goff was able to systematically pluck apart the Broncos’ defence and with impressive YAC (yards after the catch) specialists like Amon-Ra St.Brown, Sam LaPorta, Jameson Williams and Jahmyr Gibbs at running back it’s difficult to defend all of their dynamic assets, a task that the Broncos couldn’t undertake.
Three winnable games down the stretch
The Broncos have three games left of their season to complete their improbable in-season turnaround and make the playoffs for the first time since their Super Bowl-winning season in 2015/16.
All three games are against backup quarterbacks and teams with losing records all in the AFC, first up is the New England Patriots, followed by the Los Angeles Chargers at home before travelling to Las Vegas to try and beat the Raiders for the first time in nine attempts.
If they win out then the Broncos will give themselves a great chance at making the playoffs because every other playoff contender has to play at least one other team in the hunt, meaning the Broncos can take advantage of loses elsewhere.
Week 16 preview
In week 16 the Broncos face the team with the worst record in the AFC, the New England Patriots.
The Patriots are a franchise in turmoil with rumours swirling about legendary head coach Bill Belichick and the Broncos couldn’t have a better game lined up to get their playoff run back on track after Saturday’s disappointing loss.
Russell Wilson is playing with a chip on his shoulder trying to prove to the front office why they should keep him in the team going forward, while Sean Payton will be trying to gauge who he can build his offence around while he is the Broncos’ head coach.