One of the most intriguing games of Week 17 will be played in Denver, when the Prodigal Son returns from Kansas City.
But folks in Denver will neither be slaying a fatted calf nor growing any neckbeards to commemorate the occasion. Instead, they’ll be worried that Chiefs quarterback Kyle Orton will topple the home team’s chances at what was once an unlikely postseason berth, thanks to the Broncos’ 1-4 start under Orton.
Thus, to avoid the embarrassment of having the man that the Broncos let walk away knock the Broncos out of the playoffs, V.P. of football operations John Elway suddenly needs the quarterback about whom Elway has been at times ambivalent to save his bacon. Yes, Elway needs Tebow, more than ever.
Though Elway won’t be fired if Orton and the Chiefs knock off the Broncos, it will make for a long offseason of Broncos fans openly questioning whether Elway has the chops to run an NFL team. They’ll say that Elway should have foreseen the possibility of Orton landing with the Chiefs, and that Elway should have politely (or, if necessary, rudely) explained to Orton that he won’t be set free simply because he wants his freedom.
And while Elway has recently embraced Tebow as the quarterback of the immediate future, the outcome of Sunday’s game undoubtedly will have an impact. If Tebow wins, he’ll surely have all of 2012 to prove himself. If Tebow loses, the leash likely will be shorter, and the Broncos could be more inclined to sign a veteran who could push and/or supplant Tebow if he plays in September and October the same way he played on Christmas Eve in Buffalo.
Either way, three hours of football on Sunday afternoon will have a huge impact on the next 12 months in Denver, and possibly beyond.This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!