Football is a funny game with how quickly a script can be flipped.
That's the case with the Denver Broncos this week as they host the Cincinnati Bengals in an almost identical scenario as the two teams faced last year: The home team needed a Week 16 win on Monday Night Football in order to ensure they made the playoffs and the away team already secured a postseason berth and was just trying to boost their seeding.
This time around, the game is in Denver with the Broncos needing a win to ensure they're part of the playoffs while the Bengals have already locked up a postseason berth. It's scary how identical the two situations were between the Bengals last year and the Broncos this year.
The odds still favored the Bengals making it to the postseason going into Week 16 of 2014 and they ultimately would have made it had they not beaten the Broncos thanks to the Buffalo Bills, Kansas City Chiefs and San Diego Chargers all losing one of their final two games.
This year, several more teams would have to win out in order for the Broncos not to make the playoffs. However, like last year, it's likely enough that teams win that Broncos fans should be as nervous as Bengals fans were about missing the playoffs entering Week 16 last year.
If the following happen, things could get very interesting:
2. The Kansas City Chiefs win at home vs the Cleveland Browns in Week 16 and Oakland Raiders in Week 17.
The first two scenarios are very likely to happen, and if they happen along with the Broncos losing one of the next two games, they suddenly go from winning the AFC West to now being the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoffs. In fact, that scenario is almost favored to happen as ESPN Analytics gives Kansas City a 46.7-percent chance of overtaking Denver to win the division.
Needless to say, the Broncos have far more to lose Monday night when the Bengals come to town.
However, unlike last year, the Bengals have a lot more to play for than the Broncos did at this time last year. The only thing Denver had to play for last season was a shot at the No. 1 seed in the AFC, but only if they won their final two games and the Patriots lost at home in Week 17 to the Bills.
Had the Broncos beaten the Bengals, the Patriots would have played their starters for all of their Week 17 game and probably beaten them. Instead, Denver lost in Cincinnati and allowed New England to clinch the top seed and rest their starters in Week 17.
In other words, the Broncos didn't have much to realistically play for. The same is not true of the Bengals this season. They have everything to play for with a first-round bye on the line in addition to securing the AFC North crown and putting themselves in position to rest their starters next week before getting the Wild Card weekend off.
That just may be enough to get banged-up players like Tyler Eifert, George Iloka and Andy Dalton healed up enough that they can come back and play effectively in the Divisional Round game.
But, if the Bengals lose this week, they likely lose the first-round bye, and will need to beat the Ravens to win the AFC North crown. And, even if Cincy wins the division, they could very likely host the Steelers in the Wild Card round.
If Dalton is unable to play that game, it's hard to see Cincinnati avoiding another first-round exit while watching their season end at the hands of their biggest rival. In other words, the Broncos may have everything to play for Monday night, but so too do the Bengals.