ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — There is nothing worse in any team sport than having nothing left to play for yet still have games left on the schedule.
The Broncos have reached this nadir for four years running.
They are 5-9 now with two meaningless games left to play. Beat the woebegone Lions and beat the skidding Raiders and the Broncos are still home for the playoffs.
What is there to play for?
"To win a game this week," a resolute Broncos coach Vic Fangio said Monday at his day-after-game press conference. "We’re not the only team in the league in that predicament. It happens every year. Our guys are going to go out and play."
Playing meaningless games at season’s end has happened four years in a row to the Broncos. They were 9-7 in 2016, but eliminated from the postseason prior to playing their final game against the Raiders. They won one for the Kubiak.
They were 5-11 in 2017 and 6-10 in 2018 and eliminated with weeks to go.
There is a player's pride, yes. Statistical milestones are worth attaining. And whether its a brawl between Little League parents and scuffles in the sandlot, any time they keep score, coming out on top feels better.
Still, winning with the postseason at stake makes it easier to get motivated to play. Ain't that right, Von Miller?
Reaction to Von
Fangio was asked his thoughts on the melancholic statements star pass rusher Von Miller made after the Broncos were whipped 23-3 by the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday.
"I heard a little bit of it," Fangio said. "I just think he’s...the frustration of losing to those guys again. He’s been here the last four years now to where it hasn’t been a (playoff) season, but he’s been a positive influence and a positive part of this team, and that will continue. I just think it’s more frustration."
The Broncos have lost 9 in a row to the Chiefs. That skid shouldered the Broncos’ 7-game winning streak against Kansas City. Miller was part of both runs and Sunday he longed for long-ago happier days.
"For me, I guess it just looks different from my lens," Miller said postgame Sunday. "I’m 30 years old and I’ll be playing 9 years. I’m ready to hit the gear. I’m ready to go again. I’m ready to bring back whatever we had in the past back. Whenever we put it all out there and we played hard and we come up short it’s definitively defeating. It’s more than just winning and losing. It just defeats my soul."
It won’t be long before right tackle Ja’Wuan James’ sprained left knee can be classified as a "season-ending injury."
James has only played parts of three games this year, including the first quarter of the Broncos’ first game when he suffered the knee injury against the Raiders.
After playing the first half against the Houston Texans two weeks ago, James didn’t practice last week or play at Kansas City.
"I don’t think he feels that it’s 100 percent right now, so he’s a little leery right now," Fangio said.
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