At first glance, the Denver Broncos Week 17 finale against the Oakland Raiders appears as meaningless and arbitrary as if it were played in the middle of August. The Broncos are 8-7, out of the playoffs for the first time since 2010, and the Raiders have already locked up a trip to the postseason, despite losing their MVP-caliber starting quarterback, Derek Carr.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1681565-5-reasons-you-should-go-p... The thing about the NFL, however, is that there's really always something to play for. It may not be as obvious or as tangible as a spot in the playoffs, but there's something motivating every hand-fighting battle in the trenches or brave trip across the middle of the secondary.
Ask nose tackle Kyle Peko, who was just called up from the practice squad for the first time in his career, if this game means anything. I have a feeling I know what he would say.
For a lot of these guys who are constantly lingering on the fringes of the roster, there's no such thing as a meaningless snap, let alone game. Every time they step on the field, their every move is immortalized on game film and becomes a part of their football portfolio as they compete every day to stick around on a roster and put food on their table.
And there will be a lot of these guys that get chances on Sunday. Guys like Peko, Henry Krieger-Coble, Kalif Raymond, Taurean Nixon, Zaire Anderson and Cody Latimer will not be taking this game lightly, playoff implications or not.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1741484-denver-broncos-2017-there... There's also the small matter of the quarterback position. Trevor Siemian will start, but Gary Kubiak has stated that Paxton Lynch will also play at some point. Neither guy is going to win next year's starting job on Sunday, but a nice performance could give one of them an upper hand heading into the offseason.
As for the entrenched starters and superstars, I can't blame them or the coaches if they choose to sit them or play them either way. A lot was made when Christian McCaffrey chose to sit out the Sun Bowl and get a jump start on the draft process, and that appeared to be at least somewhat justified when his quarterback, Keller Chryst, tore his ACL on the harsh turf in San Antonio.
Matt Paradis will undergo multiple hip surgeries in the offseason. If he only played a few series and then came out, it would be entirely understandable. But after not taking a play off in the last two years, something tells me he's not starting now.
Send Them off Right
Ware may be suiting up, at least in orange and blue, for the last time and Phillips' contract leaves things up in the air as to whether he will be back next season. Not to mention all the speculation (that being the key word) in the Denver media that Gary Kubiak is preparing to retire for heath-related reasons.
They might all be back, or they might all be gone after Sunday. If it happens to be the latter, it would be more than nice to send them off with a victory at home in front of the 70,000-plus cheering faithful.
It may not be Elway or Manning, but it's always better to end a career with a win than a loss.
Pride, what an abstract concept. It can be applied to a few different things in this situation.
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First of all, most NFL players take pride in their work and want to honor their six-to-eight figure annual salaries by playing hard on every snap and approaching every game with intensity.
The Broncos, as a whole, can also take pride in their role as the spoiler. The Raiders are playing to win the AFC West on Sunday. If the Kansas City Chiefs win in San Diego, then an Oakland win is the difference between going on the road in the Wild Card Round and getting an extra week off and waiting for one of the bottom four seeds to come to them in the Divisional Round.
And don't get me wrong, no one likes the Chiefs, but they're not the Raiders. Although, it would be somewhat beautiful to see Darth Vader with his spiked shoulder pads staring blankly into the abyss of the offseason after a home playoff loss at the Coliseum. I'm conflicted.
Finally, there's pride in finishing the year with a winning record. It's not much, but 9-7 feels a lot better than 8-8. It's a better jumping-off point into the offseason to know that you won more games than you lost, even if you started 4-0 and went 5-7 in the next 12 to find yourself at that final record.
Oh, and does anyone want to spend the offseason hearing Raiders fans bragging about how "durr, we swept the Donkeys" as they pass you on the sidewalk in their faded no. 18 Randy Moss jersey to go meet with their parole officer, Seymour? Me neither.
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Will Keys is an Editor for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.