Broncos beat Chargers, but playoff hopes are officially over

The Denver Broncos improved to 8-8 on the season but it won't be good enough for the postseason.

Dec 31, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey (17) runs for a touchdown.
Dec 31, 2023; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos wide receiver Lil'Jordan Humphrey (17) runs for a touchdown. / Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos were able to easily dispatch of the Chargers on Sunday, winning 16-9 and sweeping the season series between the two teams. But as soon as the game went final, news trickled in that the team's playoff hopes had been extinguished.

With the Pittsburgh Steelers getting a key road win over the Seattle Seahawks to get to 9-7, the Broncos were in trouble, but they still had an outside shot of winning the AFC West division had the Kansas City Chiefs lost this week and next week and the Broncos would have also needed to beat the Las Vegas Raiders in the season finale.

When the Chiefs were able to put the finishing touches on a 25-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, that officially eliminated them from the playoffs.

As for the game, there wasn't much to talk about.

What did we learn about the Broncos without Russell Wilson?

Absolutely nothing.

Jarrett Stidham didn't play poorly. He was efficient in this game, completing 20-of-32 passes for 224 yards and a touchdown. But he didn't provide any "spark" that Sean Payton was supposedly looking for in his decision to bench Wilson.

The game was an uneventful one and resembled that of a preseason contest with the likes of Easton Stick, Alex Ericson and Isaiah Spiller getting key snaps for the Chargers. The Broncos got the win, but it was against a team that phoned it in weeks ago.

The Broncos came into this game with slim hopes of a postseason berth and now they will officially not be in the playoffs for an eighth straight season. However, a win over the Raiders next week would have them finish the season at 9-8, giving them a winning record for the first time since 2016. That would also snap a seven-game losing streak to Las Vegas.

This would be an ideal future situation for Russell Wilson. dark. Next. Russell Wilson Future

So, there is at least something to play for. But this team will once again have an incredibly important offseason in front of it.