The Patriots may be the biggest beneficiaries of the Broncos’ loss to the Chargers on Thursday night.
With the loss, the Broncos fell to 11-3. That means the 10-3 Patriots, who own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Broncos, now just need to win their last three games to clinch home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs. The Patriots are at Miami on Sunday and at Baltimore next week before closing the season at home against the Bills.
The AFC West race also just got closer: Denver still leads Kansas City and will clinch the division by winning its final two (at Houston and at Oakland), but now the Broncos can’t afford another slip-up, or else the Chiefs would be able to win the division by winning out.
And the Chargers’ upset kept their own slim playoff hopes alive. At 7-7, San Diego still trails both 7-6 Baltimore and 7-6 Miami for the sixth and final playoff spot in the AFC, but the Chargers can at least hope that if they win out and get to 9-7, they’ll get enough help to get to the playoffs.
Ultimately, the Chargers’ win over the Broncos made the AFC playoff race more interesting, and made it more likely that all the contending teams will have something to play for in Week 17.