Inside the Numbers: How can the Broncos make the playoffs?

Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay (30) runs for yards during the third quarter against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. John Glaser-USA TODAY Sports

The city of Denver officially has Drew Lock fever.

There is a swell of excitement surrounding the team that has not been felt since the Peyton Manning or Tim Tebow days. Broncos fans finally have a reason to be hopeful about their team for the first time in years.

Could this hope lead the Broncos right into the playoffs? To get there, Denver must first handle Kansas City on the road this Sunday. So what kind of a challenge does the Chiefs’ defense present the rookie quarterback? Let’s go inside the numbers.

How do the Broncos make the playoffs?

Believe it or not, the Broncos aren’t dead yet. For the Broncos to sneak their way into the playoffs they’ll need a lot of things to go their way.

First, the Broncos will have to win their final three games and they’ll need the Steelers and either the Texans or the Titans to lose out. They’ll also need the Colts to lose two of their next three games and the Browns to lose at least one. Yes, that’s a lot of luck that needs to go Denver’s way.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s predictive algorithm, out of all the circumstances the Broncos need to occur, the one most likely to do so is the Browns losing at least one game, which has an 89.7% of happening. The next best odds are for the Colts losing at least two of three which has a 61.1% chance, followed by the Texans or Titans losing out, which they rate at a 25.9% chance¬†of happening.

The Broncos chances to win-out come in at 13.1% but skyrocket to 59.6% if they beat the Chiefs on Sunday.

Overall, the Broncos have approximately a 0.8% chance of making it to the postseason, but that chance improves, obviously, with some help this weekend. If the Broncos, Saints, Cardinals and Bills all win, the Broncos’ odds will improve ten-fold and they will have an 8% chance of making the playoffs.

Lock faces toughest test of young career

Sunday’s matchup won’t just be the toughest that Denver’s rookie quarterback Drew Lock has seen up to this point, but the toughest he’ll see all season for two reasons.

For starters, he’ll have to keep pace with Kansas City’s incredible, explosive offense that dropped 30 on the Broncos in Denver with Matt Moore at quarterback the last time these two teams played.

According to Football Outsiders’ offensive DVOA, the Chiefs hold the league’s third-best offense overall, trailing only the Cowboys and Ravens. They also hold the league’s third-best passing attack behind the Ravens and Seahawks, and unlike last time, they should have four quarters of Patrick Mahomes. That means that Lock will have to put up a lot of points once again for the Broncos to come away with the victory.

The bigger obstacle for Lock though, and the more important one for determining his future success, is Kansas City’s defense. The Chiefs’ stopping unit is no longer the cluster of tomato cans waiting to get steamrolled that they were early on in the season. Since the start of November, the Chiefs have allowed just one team to put up more than 30 points and one other team that put up more than 20 points. Over their last three games, they haven’t allowed an opponent to score more than 17.

The strength of Kansas City’s defense is their ability to stop the passing attack. They have a solid secondary, though not flashy, and they have a strong pass rush upfront with Frank Clark and Chris Jones. The greatest evidence of this stout pass defense is that the Chiefs rank 13th in total defensive DVOA despite ranking 30th in run defense DVOA because of how stingy their sixth-ranked pass defense has been.

SHARE