Before the season began, this game screamed “massive AFC West implications”. The Denver Broncos were revved up for the Russell Wilson era and the Kansas City Chiefs came in with what seemed like more question marks than reasons to be feared, but would certainly be in the hunt with the revamped rosters of the Broncos, L.A. Chargers, and Las Vegas Raiders.
Fast forward to Week 14 and, oh man, were we wrong. This is good for Chiefs fans and worse than Bronco fans could have ever imagined. Obviously, the Chiefs sit atop the division at 9-3 and could clinch the AFC West with a win against Denver on Sunday coupled with a Miami Dolphins win over the Los Angeles Chargers. The Broncos, on the other hand, don’t even have the luxury of tanking for draft position with Seattle owning their first-round pick for 2023, which will be a good one with the team sitting at 3-9 with two games against the Chiefs and another matchup with the Chargers still left on the schedule. More on this incompetence in a second.
Let’s face the facts: the Chiefs’ loss to the Bengals last Sunday is far from a season-ender, but it’s also not something that can just be brushed off. Going into Cincinnati with what appeared to be a ton of self-inflicted pressure and coming out on the other side with another three-point loss to the team that knocked them out of the playoffs just short of a third straight Super Bowl berth in 2021 will certainly carry some mental duress. The Chiefs are in need of a bounce-back, confidence-boosting win this weekend.
For a game that has little to no implication in the grand scheme of things, the KC Chiefs vs. Broncos game has implications for both squads.
Let’s also face some facts with Denver. The Broncos are an absolute train wreck of a football team from the top all the way to the bottom. In fact, that might be the biggest problem – the top of the payroll has been at the very bottom of the performance scale so far in 2022. For the sake of metaphors, I brushed up on some historical disasters, and wow what a depressing trip down the ol’ Google image rabbit hole that was. Do you know what’s more depressing? Watching the Broncos offense operate.
The Hindenburg really kind of popped out to me when thinking apt comparisons for the 2022 Broncos season. It started with an infusion of hot air, was carried for a moment by said hot air, then crashed and burned spectacularly in front of a few dozen innocent bystanders. The Broncos started out with more than a few dozen eyes on them, but at this point, getting flexed out of primetime in a game against Patrick Mahomes leads me to believe not many more folks are paying much attention.
Nevertheless, these two teams couldn’t be on further ends of the success spectrum in 2022 if they tried. The Chiefs’ gut-punch of a loss to the Bengals notwithstanding, Kansas City still has what many would consider the inside track to the AFC’s top seed in the playoffs with a remaining schedule that includes the Broncos twice, the Texans, the Raiders, and the Seahawks. The Bills, who currently occupy the AFC’s top spot with a 9-3 record but a tiebreaker over K.C., still have the Dolphins, Jets, and Bengals in their way. If KC goes 5-0 in their last 5 and Buffalo stumbles, the AFC playoffs, which are starting to resemble The Masters as opposed to a major that changes courses annually, will once again run through Arrowhead Stadium.
The Broncos, well, they really don’t stand to gain or lose anything from a 5-0 finish or an 0-5 finish. I suppose it’s not mathematically impossible that they could sneak into the playoffs at 8-9, but at this point that would require the entirety of the AFC outside of Houston going on strike for the remaining 5 weeks of the regular season. Either way, this game does mean a lot to both teams for two very different reasons. Let’s dive in.