Who would have thought this two weeks ago: The Broncos will have as much on the line Sunday as the Dolphins.
And the winner of the Mile High showdown this weekend will have the inside track for a NFL playoffs wild-card spot — at the very least.
Denver began Sunday as the AFC’s No. 2 seed, but after the team’s 22-7 no-show loss in St. Louis, the Broncos are suddenly banged up and seemingly vulnerable.
If they lose to the Dolphins, scenarios exist in which the Broncos would be on the outside of the AFC’s playoff picture looking in heading into Week13.
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The Dolphins, meanwhile, knew they would end the weekend the same way they began it: in second place of the AFC East. Even after Miami’s Thursday night win against the Bills, the Patriots remain the favorites to win the division for a sixth consecutive season.
But the Dolphins are not only very much alive for one of the conference’s two wild-card spots, they own the tiebreaker among most of the clubs in contention. Thanks to the Dolphins’ 5-2 record in the AFC, they are guaranteed a playoff berth if they win their last six games.
After the league’s 12 games Sunday, the Dolphins (6-4) were the sixth seed in the AFC; 10 wins is probably the floor to qualify for the postseason in what is shaping up to be a competitive year.
All this makes Miami’s first visit to Denver since 2008 so much more intriguing.
“We can sit up here and talk about it,” receiver Mike Wallace said recently. “We still have to play the football game on Sunday. We’re going to be there on Sunday.”
A look at the résumés of nine other teams in the AFC’s wild-card conversation:
▪ Broncos: 7-3, 5-1 in AFC, first in the AFC West. Who owns tiebreaker: Whoever wins Sunday.
▪ Kansas City Chiefs: 7-3, 5-2 in AFC, second in the AFC West. Who owns tiebreaker: Chiefs, by virtue of head to head (Kansas City won 34-15 on Sept. 21).
▪ Cincinnati Bengals: 6-3-1, 4-3 in AFC, first in the AFC North. Who owns tiebreaker: Dolphins, by virtue of conference record.
▪ San Diego Chargers: 6-4, 5-3 in AFC, third in AFC West. Who owns tiebreaker: Dolphins, by virtue of head to head (Miami won 37-0 on Nov. 2).
▪ Baltimore Ravens: 6-4, 3-4 in AFC, second in the AFC North. Who owns tiebreaker: Whoever wins on Dec. 7.
▪ Pittsburgh Steelers: 6-4, 5-3 in AFC, third in the AFC North. Who owns tiebreaker: Dolphins, by virtue of conference record.
▪ Cleveland Browns: 6-4, 4-4 in AFC, fourth in the AFC North. Who owns tiebreaker: Dolphins, by virtue of conference record.
▪ Houston Texans: 5-5, 4-2 in AFC, second in AFC South. Who owns tiebreaker: Dolphins, by virtue of conference record.
▪ Buffalo Bills: 5-5, 2-5 in AFC, third in AFC East. Who owns tiebreaker: Dolphins, by virtue of division record (2-1 for Miami, 2-2 for Buffalo).