A Broncos Fan Guide to Embrace the Tank Guilt-Free: Who to Root for on Thanksgiving

Nick Kendell

The Denver Broncos season has not gone according to plan. While this team isn’t the complete dumpster fire that Adam Rank predicted they'd be (2-14 record), the Broncos sitting at 3-8 aren’t really that much better than he speculated. 

While there probably is some small percentage of probability that the Broncos could go on a run and backdoor their way into the playoffs, the odds of that are minuscule. Instead, what should be the Broncos’ goal for the rest of 2019 is to do what they can over the final five games to jumpstart the 2020 squad and give the team the best odds to succeed next season.

In light of that, what is someone in Broncos’ Country to do? While some are cheering for the Broncos to lose out and secure the highest pick possible, others have the mindset that they never could take that stance. Even in a losing season, cheering for the Broncos to lose a football game is unheard of and is a ‘loser’s mentality’. 

Neither fan is right nor wrong, as there are many different ways to be a fan. Whether they are a person who enjoys going to the games and the atmosphere of the tailgate and stadium, or the fan who has never even been to Denver but knows every player’s stat and attribute, the only way to 'fan' incorrectly is to be a gatekeeper and set ‘requirements’ for how to be a ‘true fan’.

Let’s say you are a fan that has come to the realization that this 2019 squad is not going to make the playoffs, and that getting the best draft pick possible is likely the best course of action for this team to bounce back to relevance. That said, you just can’t get behind cheering against the good guys to lose a game. Understandable. 

With that said, there is still a way to cheer for the Broncos to net the highest draft pick possible while not actively rooting against the Broncos, and that is to cheer for the Broncos’ 2019 opponents to lose while cheering for the teams surrounding the Broncos in the draft order to win.

In determining the NFL Draft order, the first thing that sets the order is a team’s overall record. However, given there are only 16 games in a season, a lot of teams do end up with the same record in the end. In such an event, the tiebreaker comes down to strength of schedule. 

For example, if three teams have a 6-10 record, the team that will get the highest draft pick is the one that had the lowest strength of schedule, determined by the winning percentage of their opponents' combined record. To make it somewhat fair, the following round, the order in which those tied teams would pick would be inverted back and forth round by round, but understanding strength of schedule is important in understanding how draft order is set.

As it currently stands, the Broncos are in a tough spot when it comes to strength of schedule. When calculating their SOS for the entire season, including the records of the their final five opponents, the Broncos’ SOS comes out to a very high .537. 

There are only four teams in the NFL that currently have a higher SOS than the Broncos in the Bengals (.582), the Falcons (.571),  the Cardinals (.548), and the Rams (.551). This, unfortunately, means that in almost every instance of a tiebreaker, the Broncos will fall down the draft board. 

That's the reason why, despite whether the Broncos lose to the Chargers this week, they would remain at No. 5 overall in draft order, but if Denver wins and a number of teams with three or four wins below them lose, the Broncos would plummet to as far as the 12th overall pick.

So instead of cheering against the Broncos in order to secure the highest draft pick, here is a guide for your own guilt-free rooting interests in Week 13 to help your team secure the highest draft pick possible. It isn’t always cut-and-dry which team will help the Broncos more in the draft order, but the picture will get clearer as the 2019 regular season inches closer to its end.

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Thanksgiving Games

Bears at Lions

This is a game with two common opponents for the Broncos so on the surface, it shouldn’t matter which team to cheer for as either team winning or losing helps the Broncos’ SOS equally. However, there are two factors to consider here that make it a true toss-up. First, the Lions are on the Broncos’ behind when it comes to draft order. With Matthew Stafford out and Matt Patricia looking more incompetent by the week, the Lions are very much a possibility to jump Denver. A Lions win helps push Denver down. However, the Broncos also could be helped by the Bears winning. The reason is simple, it hurts the Raiders. The Raiders have the Bears' 2020 first-round pick as part of the Kahlil Mack trade. So giving the Raiders a worse pick independent of the Raiders winning? That’s always enticing.

Root For: Push

Bills at Cowboys

Both of these teams will be picking after Denver, but the Broncos played the Bills this season and not the Cowboys. It only moves the needle a little bit as far as SOS, but a Bills loss helps Denver the most. That said, if you are a Cowboy hater, continue to do so.

Root For: Cowboys

Saints at Falcons

The Saints are a legitimate Super Bowl contender that will likely be looking for some revenge after the Falcons stunned them just a few weeks ago. However, Divisional games are always insane. Furthermore, the Falcons are legit contenders to pick ahead of Denver. Neither are a common opponent so another easy decision.

Root For: Falcons

Titans at Colts

Another game where the Broncos have played both teams, so no matter who wins or loses the effect on the SOS will be the same. I personally really enjoy the Colts as they bestowed upon Denver the gifts of John Elway and Peyton Manning, but in terms of the Broncos’ draft, this game is a push.

Root For: Push

Jets at Bengals

Another game where the Broncos have not played either opponent. The Bengals, currently sit at the first overall pick after starting 0-11. With effectively a three-game lead on the Broncos in draft order, it is very unlikely Denver is able to catch the Bengals. That said, the Jets are just one game back behind the Broncos. Adam Gase may be annoying, but it’s probably his squad

Root For: Jets

Redskins at Panthers

The Broncos have not played either of these opponents, but the Redskins are truly one of the teams most likely to ruin the Broncos’ hopes of obtaining a tackle in the first round of the upcoming draft. A Washington win won’t put the Broncos above the Redskins this week no matter what, but it gives Denver a real chance to pass them at some point before the season ends.

Root For: Redskins

49ers at Ravens

Potential Super Bowl preview? The Broncos do not play either of these teams, but this is the first game where opposing draft capital matters. The Broncos have the Niners' third and fourth-round picks, so every loss for San Francisco increases the odds ever so slightly that those picks are higher in the draft. Also, it’s pretty hard not to be pulling for Lamar Jackson at this point, as the dud is legit FUN in all caps.

Root For: Ravens

Buccaneers at Jaguars

A double whammy game! The Broncos have played the Jaguars but not the Buccaneers, while the Buccaneers are right on the Broncos’ heels in the draft order and a real threat to pick above them at the end of the season. Easiest one so far.

Root For: Buccaneers

Browns at Steelers

Okay, so this is truly a tossup game. The Browns are somewhat a threat to surpass the Broncos in draft order, but given an easy schedule down the stretch and a two-game lead, that is not very likely. However, the Broncos do have the Steelers' third-round draft pick. Moving that pick up seems like the right decision in rooting interest.

Root For: Browns

Packers at Giants

Another super easy game in the mold of the Buccaneers at the Jaguars. The Broncos have played the Packers, so a Green Bay loss helps Denver’s SOS. On top of that, the Giants are picking No. 2 overall currently. A win increases Denver’s odds of picking ahead of them come the end of the season. Also, I am still salty David Gettleman wouldn’t trade with Elway in 2018 so the Broncos could obtain Sam Darnold. Pulling for the Giants to win the battle to lose the war.

Root For: Giants

Eagles at Dolphins

Neither team has played Denver, but the Dolphins are picking No. 3 overall currently. Is it probable the Broncos end up picking above the Dolphins? Not likely, but would it be amazing if the Broncos were and the Dolphins offer them some of their massive heaping of draft capital to move up? Absolutely.

Root For: Dolphins

Rams at Cardinals

The Broncos do not play either of these teams, but the Cardinals are currently sitting eighth in the draft. Tiebreakers won’t likely come into play with the Cardinals and Broncos given the Cardinals have a tie on their resume this season, but still, a Cardinals’ win pushes them down the board.

Root For: Cardinals

Raiders at Chiefs

Can both teams lose? It’s a Divisional game where Denver will play both squads so the effect on the SOS is null. Pull for whichever team you hate the least? For me, I guess that is Kansas City… eww.

Root For: No one

Patriots at Texans

Another Eww moment. It is in the Broncos’ best interest for the Patriots to win. The Broncos play the Texans and a Houston loss helps the Broncos’ SOS. Still, if you can’t bring yourself to pull for the Patriots no matter what I can’t fault you one bit.

Root For: Patriots (begrudgingly)

Vikings at Seahawks

This is another case of one team being a common opponent and another being a team the Broncos won’t face. A phenomenal matchup that could be a playoff preview, but for SOS, a Seahawks' win and Vikings loss is the best for Denver.

Root For: Seahawks

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickKendellMHH and @MileHighHuddle. 

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Comments (3)
No. 1-3

I hate losing but I do want a top 3 pick. So ...


If Denver is winning and it’s because of Drew Lock (which it would most likely be at this point), I won’t be sad about falling in the draft order.


if lock can go all out and win the final 5 games.............thats a big if...........but its true the broncos would have almost a 25% chance of making the playoffs and playing in buffalo in a wild card game..............now wouldn't that be fun?........so cheer them on...............