After 3-0 start, it’s now “playoffs or bust” for the Broncos this season

Sep 27, 2021, 6:00 AM | Updated: 12:12 pm
Broncos Teddy Bridgewater...
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images)

If the Broncos were a college football team, the analysis of their start to the 2021 season would be easy. They did a nice job during their non-conference slate, but things are about to get much, much tougher.

There are no more directional schools on the schedule. They don’t play any more D-II teams. The days of mismatches are over.

The Broncos are 3-0. That’s the good news. Heck, it’s potentially even great news.

But the three teams they’ve beaten are a combined 0-9 on the season. The Giants, Jaguars and Jets are simply dreadful. And that’s being kind.

That’s why it’s hard to get too excited about Denver’s start. It’s difficult to know exactly what it means.

Has Vic Fangio finally figured it out? Is Teddy Bridgewater the solution at QB?

No one knows. And the first three weeks of the 2021 season haven’t provided the answers.

That’s not being negative. That’s not being Captain Bringdown. It’s just pointing out the reality of the situation.

The Broncos haven’t proven that they’re any good. They’ve just shown that they aren’t bad. They aren’t the Giants, Jaguars or Jets.

Given the way they’ve played the last two seasons, however, that’s a step in the right direction. And for now, that should be good enough.

Moving forward, however, the Broncos need to do more. They have to show that they’re something beyond “not bad.” They have to demonstrate that they aren’t just better than the Giants, Jaguars and Jets.

The next four games will provide an opportunity. Games against the Ravens, Steelers, Raiders and Browns will offer a litmus test.

That four-game stretch will also provide a chance for the Broncos to become a playoff contender. Anything better than 2-2 will out Denver is a position to make a postseason run.

And that should be the goal now. It’s become “playoffs or bust” for the Broncos this season.

Historically, teams that start a season 3-0 have a 75 percent chance of making the playoffs. That might change a bit now that the NFL has expanded to a 17-game schedule, but it won’t vary by much. It’s still a better than 2/3 chance of happening.

The point remains the same. Denver should now be expected to make the postseason.

That should’ve been the mission all along. It was the only definitive way to evaluate the decisions to bring back Vic Fangio and start Teddy Bridgewater. Those were short-term choices that needed to provide immediate results.

Now, the opportunity is there to make it happen. The table is set for the Broncos to end their five-year playoff drought.

They’re 3-0. They face a last-place schedule. And they’re in a “win now” mode.

If they can’t make the playoffs in that scenario, they never will under Fangio. If this season can’t turn into a postseason berth, Bridgewater isn’t a viable long-term QB.

That’s why the Broncos 3-0 start has galvanized the goal for season. It’s not about winning in September. It’s not about playing meaningful games in November and December.

It’s playoffs of bust in Denver. And that’s a very good thing.


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After 3-0 start, it’s now “playoffs or bust” for the Broncos this season