Great Moments in Second Place:
1948: Thomas Dewey wins the Presidential Election over Harry Truman. That’s what the headline in the Chicago Tribune blared.
Truman ended up winning the election, while Dewey was relegated to a not-so-sweet runner-up spot despite being a huge favorite in the polls to defeat the incumbent Truman.
2004: Oklahoma’s sensational freshman running back, Adrian Peterson, just misses on the Heisman Trophy, which was claimed by Southern Cal senior quarterback Matt Leinart. Peterson now dominates the National Football League as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. Leinart, of course, has been a perennial backup, annually looking for work in any NFL city.
2007: The Colorado Rockies pull off a stunning September, winning 21 of 22 games, earn a wild-card playoff berth, then win seven National League playoff games in a row to earn their first (and only) World Series berth.
Alas, Clint Hurdle’s team finished only second best, losing to the Boston Red Sox in four games in the series.
Still, becoming the darlings of the diamond for a couple of months was better than finishing fourth or fifth in a division, something all Rockies fans are now accustomed to.
2013: The Denver Broncos are beaten up by the Colts in Indianapolis, in the process losing their first regular-season game after 17 straight wins over a two-season stretch. The loss drops John Fox’s team that has been almost unanimously heralded as the best in the business into second place in the AFC West behind the NFL’s only remaining unbeaten, the 7-0 Kansas City Chiefs.
Yes, Bronco fans, the waters are now officially muddied, and there are several things that need be considered: That Andy Reid guy can really coach in Kansas City and the Chiefs have some serious talent. And we must start thinking the previously unthinkable, that the Broncos may be in this for a wild-card berth.
Runner-ups in the AFC West? While it wasn’t even a fleeting thought as recently as a week ago, worst things have happened.
Think back to 1997 when the Broncos finished as runner-up in the Wild West to the Chiefs. The Broncos lost late in the season to the Chiefs in Kansas City, then had to go against them again in the second round of the playoffs, again in Kansas City.
The Broncos, a big underdog, squeaked out of a 14-10 win against the Chiefs and went on to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh then the favored Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl.
Ahh, yes, it was the first of two straight for John Elway as he closed out his career in grand fashion.
Maybe that’s what this will come down to for Peyton Manning and this edition of the Broncos, a wild-card.
If the playoffs were to start today, the Broncos would indeed be in one of the two wild-card games, and they would be the fifth seed. And they would be playing on the road against – guess who? – the Indianapolis Colts, who would be the fourth seed.
The other wild-card game would have sixth-seeded San Diego playing at third-seeded New England. The two byes would go to Kansas City and Cincinnati.
That’s the picture right now, with the Broncos, the only 6-1 team in the AFC, facing what would look to be a Herculean task of having to travel to Indy to take on Andrew Luck and his squad again.
Obviously, there could be – and will be – change.
The Broncos, Chiefs and Chargers still have unfinished business. None of the three has played, meaning they all have two games remaining against each other.
The Chiefs, as mentioned before, have a bye week prior to traveling to Denver for the Nov. 17 bash. The two teams meet again in Kansas City only two weeks later on Dec. 1.
And while you’re at it, don’t ignore Mike McCoy and his improving Chargers, with Denver traveling to San Diego on Nov. 10, then hosting the Chargers on Dec. 12.
You might want to circle those dates on your calendar.
They will go a long way toward determining which team finishes in second place.