Broncos Update Insider - Tuesday, Dec. 7

Discussing playoff possibilities might be a popular topic in Denver, but the Broncos aren't going to worry about it.

Denver still controls its destiny, because if the Broncos and Ravens -- who are tied at 7-5 for the last wild-card spot in the AFC -- each go 4-0 the rest of the season to finish 11-5, Denver would win the tiebreaker based on a better record against common opponents, the third tiebreaker.

Denver and Baltimore didn't play this season (head-to-head record is the first tiebreaker), and their records in conference play, which is the second tiebreaker, would be an identical 8-4 if they each win out.

Coach Mike Shanahan said he won't discuss the playoff possibilities with his players.

"I don't think I've ever talked to the team about the playoffs," Shanahan said, "unless you're in a scenario that you know you're in the playoffs."

Not making the playoffs would be devastating for Denver, which hasn't won a playoff game since its second Super Bowl title at the end of the 1998 season. The Broncos started this season 5-1 but have lost four of six games and have fallen to two games behind San Diego in the AFC West race.

While the Broncos can get into the playoffs by winning out, it's a stretch to think they can win out, given their latest slump. Denver's final stretch begins with Sunday's home game against Miami, then road games at Kansas City and Tennessee before finishing the season at home against Indianapolis.

The players didn't want to look that far ahead.

"I'm aware of what's going on, I know what's at stake, and I know if we don't beat Miami none of that matters," cornerback Champ Bailey said.

NOTES AND QUOTES

--Wide receiver Ashley Lelie has been one of Denver's best players this season, and had his best game of the year on Sunday at San Diego. The Broncos threw deep to Lelie often in the first half and Lelie produced some great catches. Unlike last year, when Lelie disappeared in the middle part of the season, he has been a factor in every game. "He's playing at (a high) level every week," Shanahan said. "I think you can see, like everybody else, the consistency this year."

--A lot of attention was paid to receiver Darius Watts not getting out of bounds on Denver's last play of the game against San Diego, but Shanahan said Monday that he didn't think Watts could have gotten the first down and gotten out of bounds. The play was on fourth and 10. What might have hurt the Broncos more was Watts dropping a pass the play before, with eight seconds left. The Broncos would have been at the 28-yard line, which would have set up about a 45-yard field goal attempt for the tie had Denver been able to spike the ball in time. "That would've given us a shot right there," Shanahan said. "We've got a call for that and people understand that if you don't get out of bounds, you've got to get over there quick and obviously stop the clock. I'd say we would've probably had two or three seconds left."

--WR Nate Jackson will miss the rest of the season after breaking his left ankle in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game. Jackson was Denver's fourth receiver. He will be placed on injured reserve this week.

--WR Triandos Luke, a rookie, will see more playing time at receiver the rest of the season with Nate Jackson out with a broken ankle. Luke showed some flashes of ability in the exhibition season, but he hasn't played much at receiver this year. Luke could get some chances to contribute when the Broncos spread the field.

--RB Tatum Bell earned some additional playing time with his performance Sunday against San Diego. After Bell rushed for 31 yards on seven carries, coach Mike Shanahan said he will use Bell occasionally to keep Reuben Droughns fresh. Shanahan said Droughns will still get 20-25 carries a game.

--WR Darius Watts had a couple of dropped passes against San Diego. The Broncos have to worry about Watts, Denver's third receiver, losing confidence down the stretch. Denver doesn't have any proven depth behind Watts so they will have to hope he can get out of his personal slump.

--DT Luther Elliss didn't play against San Diego because of a calf injury, the third straight game he has missed. He did practice last week, and he could possibly return to play in passing situations this week.

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