After looking like one of the worst teams in recent history in the month of September, the Broncos now seem like a legitimate playoff contender after back-to-back wins over the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. Those chances got even better this week.
Two teams in the AFC that will be competing with the Broncos for one of those seven playoff spots are the Cleveland Browns and Cincinnati Bengals. Both of those teams have taken some tough news this week that will greatly hamper their chances.
For the Browns, who the Broncos face in Week 12, starting quarterback Deshaun Watson will miss the rest of this season with a broken bone in his throwing shoulder that will require surgery. That injury has caused him to miss other games this season and the veteran chose to shut it down for the year.
The Browns will go with rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson as their starter and they still have P.J. Walker on the roster. In addition, the team reportedly worked out Joe Flacco on Friday.
Things may be even more bleak for the Cincinnati Bengals, who lost Joe Burrow on Thursday night to a season-ending wrist injury.
The Bengals, who currently sit at 5-5, had their playoff hopes take a massive hit with Burrow going down. The only other quarterbacks on their roster are Jake Browning, who will be the starter going forward, and A.J. McCarron.
Both the Browns and Bengals were having seasons that seemed headed for the playoffs but without their starting quarterbacks, it's going to be a tough mountain to climb. In a crowded AFC playoff race, this bodes quite well for the Broncos.
If the Broncos can stay healthy and continue the level of play we have seen in recent weeks, this news makes them even more likely to end their seven-year playoff drought.
Currently, both Cleveland and Cincinnati are ahead of Denver in that playoff race, but both teams should be considered minor roadblocks without Watson and Burrow.