Woody Paige: Does the Broncos success hinge on a playoff berth?

DENVER -- Does the postseason matter if the Broncos can’t win the Super Bowl?

If the Broncos are a wild card team would they have any chance of getting to the Super Bowl?

Is this season a success if the Broncos reach the playoffs?

On the morning after mourning a devastating defeat in Tennessee, let’s take a positive spin.

Getting to the playoffs does matter. Think about the first 17 seasons of this franchise. The Broncos barely had a sniff of the postseason. In 1962 they were 7-2 before losing their last five. In 1973 the Broncos experienced their first winning season, but lost of the last three, and they were 9-5 in 1976, but missed out by two victories.

Finally, in 1977, the holidays were joyful for Broncos’ fanatics for the first time because not only did the team make the playoffs with a  12-2 record (back when there was a 14-game NFL scheduled), they won their first division title and defeated the Steelers in their first playoff game on Christmas Eve. “Tell the people of Denver to relish this,’’ Pittsburgh quarterback Terry Bradshaw said to me afterward, ‘’because it will never be quite like this again.’’

Actually, the Broncos beat the Raiders on New Year’s Day and advanced to their first Super Bowl – losing to the Cowboys.

Yet, once they tasted the playoffs, the Broncos and the people of Denver wanted it again.

In 1978, the Broncos made the postseason again, but lost the playoff game in Pittsburgh – with Bradshaw prevailing this time.

The Broncos have played in 38 postseason games since 1977 (winning 20).

Being in the playoffs is a grand achievement. Think of all the cities that rarely, if ever, can appreciate the moments.

And the Broncos do have a good chance of going to the postseason again, although they won’t finish first in the AFC West. They won’t be the fifth seed. Oakland or Kansas City will be.

But the Broncos’ competition for the last playoff spot in the American Conference probably will be the Dolphins, the Texans, the Ravens or those Titans. Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill badly injured his knee Sunday in the team’s victory, and Miami still has a home game with the Patriots after road trips to New York (Jets) and Buffalo. They may win 10, but the Broncos would have the tiebreaker with a couple of victories.

Baltimore has three difficult road games (at New England Monday night, at Pittsburgh and at Cincinnati.  And the Titans have to go to Kansas City Sunday and Jacksonville before a close with Houston.

The Broncos need at least victories to likely assure a playoff spot. A 9-7 record might, or might not, make the postseason. It will be thisclose (cq).

The Broncos are 3-9 overall in road playoff games, and a rather sad 0-6 in road wild-card games (including two in Indianapolis against a guy named Peyton Manning).

Since the addition of the wild card in the NFL playoffs in 1970, 10 wild card teams have reached the Super Bowl. Six have won.

Guess who was one?

In 1997, the Broncos placed second to Kansas City in the AFC West and played a wild-card game at home against the Jaguars (who had upset them in the playoff the previous year in Denver). They decimated Jacksonville in the rematch 42-17, then pulled off upsets of their own in Kansas City (14-10) and Pittsburgh (24-21) to get to the Super Bowl, and edge the Packers, and Bart Starr, for their first World Championship.

The difference then, though, was John Elway was the quarterback.

So, if the Broncos do get in as a wild-card team they do have a chance of reaching the Super Bowl, and a chance of winning.

But, chances are the Broncos, for the first round, would have to go to Pittsburgh. And, if they were to win, they’d likely have to play in New England or Kansas City the next weekend. All those games would be difficult for a team without much of an offense, although defenses are critical in the postseason, and the Broncos possess one of the very best. They only allowed the Titans one touchdown

Realistically, what are the Broncos chances of making the playoffs? Good. What are their chances of winning a game on the road? Slim. Chances of winning two or three? Slimmer? Chances of winning the Super Bowl? Slimmest?

However, all those scenarios certainly beat the alternative – no playoffs, which happened in 33 seasons.

And if the Broncos lose three more, that's what will happen. And this season definitely won't be a success.

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