The Denver Broncos' decision to put their season in the hands of the untested Tim Tebow rather than Kyle Orton might ultimately be judged by the outcome of next Sunday's game, when Orton returns to Denver with the Kansas City Chiefs.
Tebow and Orton, who once vied for the starting quarterback spot in Denver's training camp, find themselves facing off again with significantly higher stakes. If he can lead the Chiefs to victory, Orton could prevent Denver from making its first postseason appearance since 2005, giving the Broncos' strange season an ironic ending.
"We knew it was a possibility," Elway told the Denver Post about the chance the Broncos would have to face Orton after casting him aside. "So, here it is. We have to go out there and play well. It was best for the team, bottom line. We made that decision knowing this was a possibility. Now we have to do it."
Addressing the media after Saturday's game, Orton downplayed the significance of the matchup.
"You only get 16 games in the NFL, so every one of them is meaningful," Orton said, according to the Chiefs' official website. "If you ask my teammates, I am motivated quite a bit for every game. I don't think that will change."
Tebow's rise forced Orton out of Denver, but the fortunes of the two quarterbacks seem to have reversed slightly in recent weeks.
After leading the Broncos to seven wins in eight starts, Tebow has struggled, failing to mount one of his trademark comebacks in a 41-23 loss to New England and throwing four interceptions in a 40-14 loss to Buffalo on Saturday.
Orton, meanwhile, has seen some measure of success since joining the Chiefs. Two weeks ago, he threw for 299 yards and avoided making any costly mistakes to help the Chiefs hand the Packers their first loss of the season. On Saturday, Orton racked up another 300 passing yards and added a score, though he also threw two interceptions, in a 16-13 overtime loss to the Raiders.