Most important matchups: ranked
4) Broncos @ Lions
The Broncos head to Detroit this week to play a now-struggling Lions team. The Lions started the year hot and have a solid claim to being America's favorite team in 2023. However, the Lions have become almost a tail of two teams. Since starting 5-1, the Lions are 4-3, with a two-possession loss to the Bears, a Thanksgiving loss at home to the Packers, and three wins against non-playoff teams by just one possession. Needless to say, the Lions are in a bit of a rut. However, aside from the basic win and loss, there aren't many playoff implications.
A win would obviously be great, and 8-6 is a lot better than 7-7. However, the Broncos would still be in a strong spot to finish 10-7 and stack up three in conference games to end the season.
3) Broncos vs Patriots
The Broncos have a strong matchup with the Patriots in week 16 in Denver. The Patriots, despite a win in Pittsburgh this past week, are just 3-10 and have been eliminated from playoff contention. The Patriots rode the right arm of Bailey Zappe to a 21-point offensive performance, which many might consider an outburst of offense from their previous offensive performance the week prior: 0 points.
Ultimately, this is the easiest game on the Broncos schedule. The Patriots still do not have a clear quarterback, their wide receiving core is sub-par and injured. The defense is still strong, but the unit gave up six points to the Chargers two weeks ago, and ended up losing that game by six. By all accounts, the Broncos should be able to turn in a performance much like they did in Los Angeles: a multiple-possession win that does not include much closeness between the teams.
2) Broncos @ Raiders
Between this game and the Chargers game, it was hard to decide which game is the most important left on the Broncos' schedule. After their one-point loss to the Raiders in week one, the Broncos need to take the second matchup from the now Jimmy G-less Raiders. Since the two teams last met, the Broncos have turned their season around in historic fashion, and the Raiders have made full changes at quarterback and head coach.
Their season has somewhat gone off the rails, considering the team is now 5-8, in last place, and rumors surrounding the future of star wideout Davante Adams run wild. Ultimately, this feels like a game the Broncos should win handily. Since the two met, the Broncos are 7-5 and the Raiders are 4-8. One team with an upward trajectory on the cusp of the playoffs, the other gearing up for another head coaching search. Plus, week 18 is always a good one to win
1) Broncos vs Chargers
The Broncos handled the Chargers very well in Los Angeles, and are set to face them again in week 17. The Chargers have the most talent of any AFC team left on the Broncos schedule. Keenen Allan is always a threat to put up 100 receiving yards, Austin Ekeler is a threat to break loose for a 100-yard ground game, and Khalil Mack still haunts the dreams of Broncos offensive tackles. The Chargers are always a risk to put a nail in the Broncos' coffin. However, the important mark for the Broncos the rest of the way is 3.
The Broncos need to win three games to get in and have three AFC games left. The Chargers are the third game left on the Broncos schedule. If the Broncos can win their first two against the Lions and Patriots, this might serve as a win-and-you're-in game for the Broncos, both mathematically and figuratively. The Broncos will face Easton Stick in week 17, a quarterback that put through a gauntlet this past week. If the Broncos can knock off the Chargers at home, their path to the playoffs is much, much clearer.