Even though they won their fifth game of the season last week, the 2017 Denver Broncos were officially eliminated from playoff contention. Without a chance to compete for a postseason spot, the Broncos enter Week 16, ready to face the Washington Redskins, but seemingly without anything to play for.

Yet this is the most important game for the Broncos this season; they have a chance to audition, first-hand, for prized free-agent-to-be Kirk Cousins, one of the better young quarterbacks in the NFL.

Typically, 5-9 teams aren’t the first choice for the best free agents on the market. Many teams will be in the mix for Cousins’ services, and there’s still a possibility that he doesn’t even leave Washington, who could franchise tag him again for an exorbitant $34 million in 2018. However, the Broncos will have the opportunity to play better than their record would indicate and show Cousins that the team has what it takes to return to the playoffs, only two years removed from a Super Bowl victory — if they added him, that is.

Led by receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, the Broncos have offensive talent of their own that could be a deciding factor in Cousins’ choice in free agency. The Broncos also have two solid running backs in youngster Devontae Booker and workhorse C.J. Anderson, who is quickly approaching 1,000 rushing yards on the season, which would set a career high.

Thomas has been a big-time producer on the field despite the Broncos’ struggles on offense, logging 73 catches for 840 yards and catching four touchdowns on the year despite playing with three different quarterbacks. By comparison, Washingon’s leading receiver is Jamison Crowder, who has recorded 59 catches for 772 yards and two touchdowns while playing with the vastly superior Cousins all season.

Currently, Cousins’ supporting cast consists of wide receivers Crowder and Ryan Grant, tight ends Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed and running back Samaje Perine. While Washington has not provided Cousins with a long-term lucrative contract that he desires, the team has put solid pieces around Cousins; enabling him to have continued success in the NFL.

While the Redskins have better talent at the tight end position than the Broncos, the Broncos boast one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL; Thomas and Sanders are  much more accomplished than Crowder and Grant.

The offensive veterans in Sanders, Thomas, Anderson and even Cody Latimer — who has come on strong of late — will need to have an excellent showing against Washington in order to show Cousins that the Broncos possess the offensive firepower to immediately compete in the AFC. Anderson, coming off of a career game where he rushed for 158 yards against the Indianapolis Colts, will need to have another solid outing to illustrate how Denver’s running game has been more consistent and capable than the Redskins’, who have multiple lead running backs this season.

The Redskins enter Week 16 ranked 26th in the NFL with 92.9 rushing yards per game, whereas the Broncos boast the league’s 14th-ranked rushing attack, averaging 113.2 yards per game.

The Broncos’ defense already has a proven level of success in 2017, ranking as one of the elite units in the NFL despite the team’s 5-9 record. Cousins will face the Broncos’ defense on Sunday and get a first-hand look at the talent they possess on defense. It will be up to the offense to display to Cousins (and other players set to enter 2018 free agency) that the Broncos have the talent on offense to be a competitive team, and are only a piece or two away from contention.

The Broncos feel that all they need is a quarterback to lead them in the right direction. Perhaps, after Sunday’s game, Cousins may find himself in agreement — and the Broncos may find themselves ahead of their competitors when the offseason’s high-stakes battles begin.