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Published on 12/27/2009 at Sun Dec 27 22:48.
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It turns out that the Broncos’ playoff picture is more than a little bit crazy. Despite our rather anemic 8-7 record, we currently hold the 5th wild card seed. One would think that means that if we win next week, we’re in.

One would be wrong.

NFL tie-breaking rules can be rather complex when there is a multi-team tie. Currently there are 5 teams in the AFC at 8-7: Broncos, Jets, Ravens, Steelers, Texans. To break a 3-way (or more) tie for a wildcard seed, first go through and apply division tiebreakers to all teams within the same division so that only 1 team from each division. Only Ravens and Steelers share a division, and the Steelers lose this one on division record. Now we are five.

Then we apply the conference record. This eliminates the Texans, but the remaining three teams are all at 6-5. The next tie-breaker is common games. And this is where it gets fun. Because right now, in week 16, the Broncos have an edge in common games between Broncos, Jets and Ravens. And thus, the #5 seed is ours. After that, tie-breaks start over in head-to-head with Jets and Ravens and Jets come out on top.

“But wait,” you say. “Won’t that apply next week?”


It turns out that the Jets are playing the Bengals and we are playing the Chiefs. The Bengals are a common opponent between these three teams…but the Chiefs are not. This one game change, assuming all three of the top teams win their games, causes the common games to go to the Jets’ favor, and then we lose the head-to-head with the Ravens.

So. Our destiny is not in our team’s hands. We must beat the Chiefs, and then either the Jets or the Ravens must lose. Also, we can’t end up in a head-to-head with Pittsburgh, because they’ll win that tie (yet, in a 3 way, they will lose on conference record), so we also need either Pittsburgh to lose or the Texans to win. And even with that, I’m not 100% sure I’ve covered every possibility.

None of this matters, of course, if we can’t beat the Chiefs.

Edit: I misstated slightly. Common games tiebreaker does not currently come into play because there are only 3 common games between the Ravens, Jets and Broncos. It will come into play next week, however, when the Jets play the Bengals and make it four. Because the Colts handed the Jets a free win, they will go 4-1 amongst the Patriots, Bengals, Raiders and Colts, while the Broncos went only 3-2. (It adds up to 5 because the Jets played Patriots twice and we played New England twice).

Edit 2: Here are complete the scenarios released by the NFL this morning:

Denver clinches a playoff spot with:

  1. DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR
  2. DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + PIT loss or tie OR
  3. DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + HOU win OR
  4. DEN win + BAL loss or tie + PIT loss or tie OR
  5. DEN win + BAL loss or tie + HOU win OR
  6. PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss OR
  7. PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss OR
  8. PIT loss + BAL loss + JAC loss + NYJ loss OR
  9. PIT loss + HOU loss + JAC loss + NYJ loss OR
  10. MIA loss or tie + NYJ loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie

  • mile the mascot dies

    Dont matter Broncos loose to the chiefs next week.Score will be Cheifs 17 Broncos 10.Broncos have a lowsy ass qb that cant play with some balls.Also the broncos loose Champ Baily and Brandon Marshall next season.Broncos become the next detriot lions next ten years.
    Kyel the fall down Orten is the worse qb to ever play the broncos.
    Im a shame to call my self a Bronco fan.
    Bronco record next season is 6-10.then they have 7 blackout games.then they will get rid of queer Orten.

  • miles the mascot dies

    broncos suck plain and simple.They play with no heart.they play like cowerds.

  • milelow

    Brandon Stokley need to be fired after what he did.what a cry babby.he is to old .

  • jack

    Why would the tiebreakers just keep going after the jets take the #5 seed. wouldnt we just keep with the common games record instead of going to head to head vs the ravens and then get #6?

  • E. Halsey Miles

    jack: Once it gets down to 2 teams, tie-break restarts on the 2 team chart and that starts with head-to-head.

  • Broncolifer

    Hey queers if your not Bronco fans get off the damn site and go rub one out into your boyfriends ass

  • Jrod

    Basically, we need to become Houston and Cincinatti fans for a week…especially Houston because then we don't have to worry about Pitt or Baltimore…

    And I guess an Oakland win would really help, but I just vomit when thinking about cheering for the silver and black…

    Here's a great summary:

  • John

    What are the common games between the broncs, ravens and jets? There needs to be a minimum of 4 for that rule to appy …

  • Ted

    Best response ever. MENSA must be missing the chairman to it's membership committee.

    What kind of a joke site doesn't moderate out the homophobes?

  • mikebirty

    I can see Al Davis already “running” around the Coliseum with a big smile on his face knowing that he can knock the Broncos out. JaMarcus to start next week?

    Nice write up EHM, sure it'll get more complicated next Sunday.

  • mikebirty

    I'm going out on a limb and I think that Denver is going to New England in the playoffs. I've thought it for a few weeks, it just seems like fate, doens't matter if its 3rd and 6th or 4th and 5th – I think there's a fate about it.

  • M B

    Yes but Ill bet your the same person that only thought we would win two games this year.

    Also Orton had 3 TDs 1 Int and a QB raiting of over 90 much better than your boy Cutler. Last game Cutler had a QB rating of 7 Thats right 7. 90 would be better than 7 now wouldnt it.

  • Keith

    There are 11 different scenario's which may tentatively get the Broncos into the playoffs. ESPN AFC West Blogger Bill Williamson has the different scenario's at the following website:…. Also, those of you who claim the Broncos are cowards (notice the correct spelling of coward, miles the mascot dies), then you need to seriously reexamine your head. I thought the Broncos came out with a lot of passion in the 2nd half and it just wasn't enough (plus a bogus replay decision). The Broncos have been wildly inconsistent this year, which the DEN @ PHI game was a microcosm of that inconsistency. Let's just hope we can back into the playoffs and make some noise.

  • vince_mairne

    I really don't forsee us making the playoffs this year. We lost our chance when we lost to the Raiders. I don't see the Ravens losing to the Raiders and now that the Bengals have locked up the AFC North, they will probably do what the Colts against the Jets. It's sad when a team will just give up a win to rest their players, but hey they deserve to do that. They won the games they were supposed to. It was a good season and I hope we can go out with a win! Go Broncos!

  • Kurt

    I would not be surprised if Denver ended up in New England as well. After this season I am almost ready to admit that the games are partially scripted. Some great individual efforts but the refs are there to make sure the outcome is what the NFL needs. It is the only decent explanation for why we went 6-0 to start the season and after yesterdays game, all too evident. I think most of us would be fired for performing that bad. Scripting kept the Denver market alive and interested and the money flowing. Doubt we would have sold out many games if we started the season like this (as expected).

  • Craig L.

    we lose the tie breaker to the Ravens and Steelers we lost to both of them remember so if all 3 go 9-7 we do not jump over either one of them. Why is all the sites getting this wrong, we are not the 5th seed now, we are the 8th seed as of now.

  • Curtis Wells

    You're a true fan. The only problem we have was proved by the Baltimore Ravens. It's hard to beat a team if you don't throw it over their heads. The important stat, is yards per completions. If you noticed in the Eagle's game yesterday. We moved the ball easily when Orton threw the ball down the field, beyond 10yds. We lost to the Raiders, cause he didn't throw the ball downfield. I love our defense. I love our offense. Same offense as the Patriots, only difference is, that Brady throws downfield, it opens up the underneath stuff. Orton throws underneath. It's shuts down the underneath stuff, as well as the run.

  • Keith

    You need to check out the NFL tiebreaking procedures for wildcard spots with 3 or more teams with the same record. In the scenario you listed, if both Steelers and Ravens win, along with a Broncos win and NYJ loss, the Steelers, Ravens and Broncos will have 9-7 records. The 3 way tie breaking would eliminate the lower of the ravens or steelers based on their rank in the division. The reason why the Broncos recent loss does not hurt our playoffs chances that much is because it was a non-conference loss. ESPN has the entire scenario list (10 in total now) of how the Broncos can get into the playoffs.

  • roshon2411

    We are currently the fifth seed. That is why there is actually a chance(slim) Denver could lose on Sunday but still get in. However, as E. Halsey Miles mentioned, if all teams 8-7 teams win out, we're out.

    Here are the scenarios:

    Denver clinches a playoff spot with:

    1) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + BAL loss or tie OR

    2) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + PIT loss or tie OR

    3) DEN win + NYJ loss or tie + HOU win OR

    4) DEN win + BAL loss or tie + PIT loss or tie OR

    5) DEN win + BAL loss or tie + HOU win OR

    6) PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss OR

    7) PIT loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + NYJ loss OR

    8) PIT loss + BAL loss + JAC loss + NYJ loss OR

    9) PIT loss + HOU loss + JAC loss + NYJ loss OR

    10) MIA loss or tie + NYJ loss + BAL loss + HOU loss + JAC loss or tie

    Also, this generator works everything out too…


    All ou guys think the Broncos are going to the playoffs are setting your selfs for a big heart brake next week.No way in hell the Broncos will go to the playoffs now.
    They will sow all of you how mch heart they have next week and loose to the chiefs.No way they sweep the Cheifs this year.IM going to say told you so.Like iI have ben al year long.

    I hop Kyel Orten gets hurt and cant play football no more ever so he wont be are qb next year.Mc kid will not fire Orten becuas he want to prove he is a grate coach but he is not.Hes to young to be a coach.

    Kyel Orten had a grate offence this year and screwed that up bad.Jay Cutler would have thrown for 4500 yards and the broncos would have won thier devison.

    I think Josh Mc daniel should be fired for what he did to jay cutler and the broncos.
    The Broncos pay for 18 years in loosing sesone for what they did to jay cutler.
    Jay Cutler cold scramble realy well in the pocket.Not fall down like Kyel Orten.This broncos franchise sucks ass now and thier the laghing stock of the nfl.



  • Kurt

    Dude, I am having a hard time taking you serious when you can't even correctly spell or write. Where did you learn English? Oakland?

  • Truman

    Agreed that this comment is unacceptable. The site, however is good. A work in progress.

  • TheTroglodyte

    Kyle would you please ban this guy aka mile highs, aka mile lows, aka miles the mascott dies aka kyle orten falls down.

    His incessant need to bash the team repeatedly after every loss, his horrible grammar, his choice of names and his homophobic comments like “queer” are a blight on Bronco Talk.

  • Kyle

    Of course that comment is unacceptable and was deleted.

    BTW, feel free to flag comments, folks. It helps the moderation process immensely.

  • steeplebomb

    I tink yor rong because I lIke Kyelle Orrten. HE hAss a grate nekbeard. i thInk the Broncs go 16-0h bekause they ar grate.

  • Steffan

    we would not do better even if we did have jay cutler.
    look at him with the bears. they don't even have a winning record and jay has like 25 interceptions and most of them in the red zone.
    yes i think he is a whole lot better then orten but i think orten has played a whole lot better then jay has this year cuz apparently they aren't even close to reaching playoffs this year and we are. we just have to hope either jets or raven lose next week. i don't think jets will lose because they play the cincinnati and they are already in the playoffs. i believe that the raiders have a chance agaisnt the ravens. they beat broncos, steelers, cincinnati and the eagles.
    so i'm hoping jets and raven lose and were in.

  • E. Halsey Miles

    Patriots, Raiders, Colts, Bengals

    I actually misstated it slightly. Because Jets haven't played the Bengals yet, the common games tiebreaker doesn't actually happen until they play the Bengals and all four games kick in.

    In that list, Jets split with the Patriots and beat the Raiders and the Colts (Thanks, Jim Caldwell, you cretin). We split with the Raiders (sigh) and lost to the Colts. We assume a win against the Bengals since they have to win that for the tiebreaker even matters.

    If we had beaten Oakland last week, this wouldn't matter. If the Jets hadn't gotten handed a free W on a silver platter, this wouldn't matter. Lots of ifs, of course.

  • john

    Also, in a 4 team tie with pitt, balt, houston, and Us (Assuming the jets lose), why woudnt we get the 5th seed. Woudnt it skip head to head with balt and we would get the 5th, not 6th due to conference record?

  • steffan

    houston doesn't really matter to us really.
    only jets ravens and pitt. because if jets win then they take 5th seed because they beat the colts and we didn't.
    and for the ravens and pitt they beat us head to head and if the raven beat the raiders next week then there in because the raiders beat pitt and us.
    so yeah we just need ravens or pitt to lose because i don't think cincinnati will play there starters that much because they are already in the playoffs.

  • Jack

    Last question, If the jets, balt, houston, and us win, i understand that the jets get the #5 seed, so its a 3 way tie with us, hou, and balt for the #6 seed. Now wouldnt WE win that due to conference record? why would we?

  • steffan

    no because if jets and ravens win then they are in because the ravens beat us head to head.
    basically if jets and ravens win there in no matter whan happen if other team win or lose in the hunt.

  • jack

    but in a 3 way tie, it skips head to head and goes on to conferene record and common opponents

  • steffan

    yeah and then if the ravens beat raiders and we win next week they take over because the beat us head to head and for the jets they just beat the colts and we lost to the colts so yeah those are the common opponents. we just have to see if the raiders can pull another upset agaisnt the ravens and its in oakland so thats a plus.

  • E. Halsey Miles

    In a *3 way tie* between Broncos, Texans and Pittsburgh, the Broncos win due to conference record.

    However, in a 2 way tie between Broncos and Ravens or Steelers, the Broncos lose.

    If the Jets win, they clinch the #5 seed no matter what.

    If the Ravens win, they win pretty much any tiebreaker you can imagine with us, so they clinch, no matter what. They have the same conference record we do, they beat us head to head. The only other team with the same conference record as Broncos and Ravens is Jets, and they win the common games tiebreaker. *All other teams* will get eliminated in a 3+ way tie on conference record.

    Once that happens, Jets win the first time and get the #5 seed; Ravens and Broncos go into the 2 team tie-breaker and Ravens win on the head-to-head.

    One of Jets or Ravens must for us to have a chance. Even with that, we then need any number of odd things to happen.

  • E. Halsey Miles

    Really, the Steelers is the most interesting one. In a 3 way tiebreaker between Broncos, Steelers and any other team that isn't Jets or Ravens, the Broncos win. But in a head-to-head with the Steelers, the Broncos lose. So Broncos-Steelers tie is bad. Broncos-Steelers-Texans tie is good.

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  • Bradpeck66

    How do you come up with this. Denver is 8-6 so this makes no logic!!