How do the Denver Broncos get playoff experience without playoff experiences?

"The toughest part, other than not being in the playoffs, is we have so many guys who want to be in the playoffs more than anything," said Broncos safety Justin Simmons. AP Photo/Jack Dempsey

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos' playoff hopes have been smashed into the smallest of numbers behind a decimal point.

After Sunday's 17-13 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, when the Broncos gained 158 yards worth of offense, ESPN's Football Power Index gave the Broncos a 0.2% chance of making the AFC's postseason field, or far closer to none than slim. Without absolutely everything going right for the Broncos over the next two Sundays they will miss the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season.

Defensive end Shelby Harris assessed the situation this way: "It's trash."

The Broncos of 2021 are in a difficult spot. They are trying to reach the playoffs without a long-term solution at quarterback. They have stumbled in their big-moment chances down the stretch in recent weeks, as a locker room full of players who have never seen the postseason try to figure out what it takes to win when it counts.

"The toughest part, other than not being in the playoffs, is we have so many guys who want to be in the playoffs more than anything," Broncos safety Justin Simmons said. "We know how much people want us to be in the playoffs, we feel that, we know the history of this franchise, but we want to be in the playoffs more than anybody, I assure you. We want that and we have guys that want to be part of that solution more than anything."

Still, experience has indeed been a painful teacher for these Broncos. On Dec. 5, they were 6-5 and entering a prime-time matchup with the Kansas City Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium.

A win that night would have ended a losing streak to the Chiefs that dates back to 2015, and the Broncos would have been in first place in the AFC West with five games to play in the regular season. Instead, they lost, 22-9.

On Dec. 19, the Broncos had another chance to keep themselves in the wild-card hunt. They lost 15-10 at home to the Cincinnati Bengals. And Sunday, with their playoff hopes getting a minor boost because of losses by the Bengals, Steelers and Browns, the Broncos lost to the Raiders.

Sunday was the 18th game the Broncos have played over the past three seasons that was decided by seven or fewer points. They are 6-12 in those games.

Only one player on the current roster has worn the team's jersey in a playoff game -- kicker Brandon McManus. And this year's group simply didn't find the plays, especially on its beleaguered offense, to keep from falling down in the biggest moments it faced.

Asked how a team without playoff experience could be better in those difference-making moments, Harris said: "You know, I don't know, the whole thing is more [that] if we're going to do it, we're going to do it together. That's the only way we're going to do it."

Harris then said something other players have said.

"I've never been on a team like this before where you can truly say the guys love each other," Harris said. "They are really rooting for each other, and that's a start. That's what it's going to take to get us to that next level. We need that camaraderie, and also that camaraderie has to [have] results on the field."

An argument can be made that every division, except perhaps the NFC West, is led by the team with the best quarterback and has the best support system to fit the personnel, including that quarterback.

The Broncos have used 10 different starting quarterbacks since the 2016 season -- 11 if you count running back Phillip Lindsay opening the no-quarterback game of 2020 in the Wildcat formation -- they're on their fifth different offensive coordinator during that span.

After trading linebacker Von Miller on Nov. 1, the Broncos were left with no players they drafted on the roster from their playoff run with Peyton Manning. Their homegrown, big-game experience is now all gone. Simmons, a third-round pick in the 2016 draft, is now the longest-tenured player drafted by the team, which last saw the playoffs following the 2015 season.

"Me personally, I've asked guys that I've played with who have had that experience," Simmons said. "I've asked what they did from a leadership standpoint, did they ever do anything from outside their comfort zone from a leadership standpoint that was positive or negative and ultimately, too, sometimes it just comes down to you just need the reps. The painful ones and the ones you succeed in. It's just different, you have to live certain elements of it. And it's more than the notion of want-to, we want to, more all of the time."

Or as Miller said days before he was traded: "If just wanting to was the difference, we would have made it before. But you want it too bad sometimes, because if you've been here when we're in the playoffs, you want to feel that again, there's no place like it, you want to be part of the reason you get back. But you learn a lot of things have to go right and everybody, players, coaches, everybody, has to be ready for their time."