ENGLEWOOD - Playoff tickets were mailed last week to Denver Broncos season-ticket holders, but the club doesn’t have a playoff spot locked up. The Broncos are 9-2 and have been in first place in the AFC West most of the season, but their division rivals refuse to drop out of the race.
Kansas City and San Diego each won Sunday to improve to 7-4. Each has one game remaining against the Broncos. Three or four wild-card contenders in the AFC might reach 11 wins and a couple could win 12 games, so Denver doesn’t have much room for error despite having the second-best record in the conference. “There is no comfort zone whatsoever,” fullback Kyle Johnson said. “I don’t expect it to get comfortable. As long as we continue to do well I’m not worried about that, but it’s not going to be comfortable. That’s not the na- ture of this business.” Denver plays Sunday at Kansas City and Dec. 31 at San Diego to finish the regular season. The Chiefs have won 16 straight December home games, a streak that started in 1997. Kansas City has won five of seven games, and one of the two losses was against San Diego. The Chargers have won four games in a row. “They’re good,” Johnson said about Kansas City and San Diego. “I knew they were good when we played them. I think they knew that. They came into our stadium and lost, but they didn’t think for a second it was the end of their season.” Although it might seem far-fetched that the Broncos could slip out of the playoffs, the rest of the AFC can’t be discounted yet. Jacksonville is 8-3 and, even with backup quarterback David Garrard subbing for injured starter Byron Leftwich, the Jaguars could finish with 12 wins because four of their remaining five games are against teams with losing records. The Jaguars probably won’t catch Indianapolis in the AFC South, so they would be in the wild-card mix. Cincinnati is 8-3 and Pittsburgh is 7-4. Either team could win 12 games and finish behind the other in the AFC North. The Broncos are in good shape with tiebreakers, because they are 3-0 in the AFC West and have lost only one AFC game. The postseason speculation is a bit premature for the Broncos players and coaches, who have been in playoff races before and know not to be concerned about the competition or where they rank too soon. “I think we’ll be a Super Bowl-caliber team if we get to the Super Bowl,” defensive end Trevor Pryce said. “There’s a lot of teams that are Super Bowl-caliber. Pittsburgh is a Super Bowl-caliber team, and so is Indianapolis. There’s still five games left before the playoffs, so I’m looking at it with blinders on and saying, ‘Who do we play next?’” CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4891 or firstname.lastname@example.org NEXT Denver (9-2) at Kansas City (7-4), 2:15 p.m. Sunday, CBS, 740/850 AM