The Broncos refuse to look ahead.
Head coach John Fox said this week he has not studied the playoff field.
“Nope, because then I wouldn’t be keeping my focus. I think what’s really important is that win this week against Kansas City. All our focus will be on that. Whatever that brings, we’ll react to. Right now, that’s where all the focus is.”
But Fox did tell 850 KOA that he has thought about how he might handle things should the Broncos secure a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
“Oh yeah. I’ve been doing this a while so we pretty much have a schedule for everything,” Fox said. “We’ll know how to adapt and prepare if that’s the scenario. But we have to take care of business Sunday first.”
I know anything can happen on any given Sunday, but I have little doubt the Broncos will beat the Chiefs and at lock down at least the second seed in the AFC playoffs and a week off in the first round of the postseason.
Coaches and players cannot say that, even if they believe it.
Not only do I believe the Broncos will accomplish those things but I also believe with one week left in the regular season, they are the team to beat in the postseason.
I have no idea if they will advance to the Super Bowl and win it. But if I were a betting man, that’s the way I would go for several reasons.
1) OVER THE LAST TWO TO THREE MONTHS, THE BRONCOS HAVE BEEN MORE CONSISTENT THAN ANY TEAM IN THE NFL.
Not only have they won 10 straight games, but the Broncos are averaging 30.8 points per game during the streak. Only the Chiefs have held them under 20 points all season and that was in the Broncos’ 17-9 win at Arrowhead Stadium on November 25.
At the same time, the Broncos’ defense has given up an average of only 17.2 points per game during the 10-game winning streak.
In addition, as my 850 KOA colleague David Treadwell points out, the Broncos lead the NFL with 48 sacks and they are third in rushing defense, allowing only 91 yards rushing per game. They can bottle up the run and get to the quarterback.
2) THE BRONCOS HAVE AN ELITE QUARTERBACK. Peyton Manning gives them a chance to win regardless of how a game unfolds. He can help them get out to a big lead. He can rally the troops if the Broncos fall behind. He won’t let his team go into a game unprepared. He won’t let his team go into a game unfocused on the task at hand.
Manning isn’t the only reason the Broncos are 12-3. But he is most definitely one of the main reasons they have had this kind of year.
I know several other teams also have elite quarterbacks. Which one, however, is playing better than Peyton Manning right now? I’m not sure one is.
3) THE BRONCOS HAVE PLAYMAKERS ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL. Imagine being an opposing defensive coordinator. Remembering that Manning has faced just about every kind of defense possible, the opponent’s defensive coordinator will still have to decide on what he believes the best approach is to try to slow Manning down. Easier said than done.
Then, that coordinator has to decide which receiver will garner the most attention. Demaryius Thomas? Fine, the Broncos still have Eric Decker, Jacob Tamme, Brandon Stokley, Joel Dreessen and others. Seven different players have at least 20 receptions (one of them, Willis McGahee is currently injured) and five players have 39 or more catches this season.
Furthermore, the Broncos are running the ball pretty well. In five starts since Willis McGahee injured his knee, Knowshon Moreno has piled up 469 rushing yards and two touchdowns. That’s a more-than-respectable 93.8 yards per game and 4.0 yards per carry.
Now, think about being the opposing offensive coordinator when your team is facing the Broncos’ defense. Denver stuffs the run and gets to the quarterback. Who is your first priority, Von Miller or Elvis Dumervil? You also know that Champ Bailey will likely match up against your best wide receiver. Think you can pick on Chris Harris or Tony Carter? No worries, each of those guys has scored two touchdowns.
The bottom line is that in addition to a variety of star players who are playmakers, the Broncos have plenty of others who have taken turns making big plays in big situations. There is no reason that cannot continue.
4) THE BRONCOS HAVE SOME COMPELLING INTANGIBLES. Call me a homer if you want but I believe this to be true. More than anything, the Broncos know they have the opportunity to win a Super Bowl. And they are making sure they do what it takes to take advantage of that.
“It starts with Coach Fox,” cornerback Champ Bailey said. “He talks about it. And when you have guys that have been around the block a few times, 10-plus years, there’s several in our locker room that can tell them these opportunities don’t come. You look at (linebacker) Keith Brooking, prime example, Super Bowl his first year and not even close since. You see that around the league a lot. A lot of guys get close and they don’t get back. You’ve got to take advantage of these opportunities.”
The Broncos are a group of guys who like to be around each other. No doubt winning contributes to that but there is also no doubt that it is a good locker room. The importance of that cannot be underestimated, especially when games tighten up in the playoffs.
5) FOR AS GOOD AS THEY HAVE PLAYED, THE BRONCOS CAN STILL GET BETTER. After each of the last ten wins, the talk in the locker room has been about continuing to improve as much as the win they just earned.
Following the victory over the Browns, tight end Jacob Tamme summed it up perfectly on the 850 KOA postgame show.
“It sort of works like this. We know we have a good team. So we don’t need anyone else to tell us that because we also know that we can be better,” Tamme said matter-of-factly. “We know when we watch the film, we didn’t do everything perfect. There are things we can correct and improve on. You kind of start to lose that when you start listening to people on the outside (say), ‘Ah, these guys are playing so great.’ We know we’re playing pretty good and we know we have good players and good coaches and doing some things well. But we also know there are a lot of things we can do better. As long as we keep that mindset and keep improving, then we’ll be giving it our best shot every week.”
After one final regular season game, the frantic race for a silver football perched on a pedestal will be on and once Sunday’s game is over, the Broncos can finally focus on raising the Lombardi Trophy in New Orleans.
No doubt other good teams will be in the running to do the same. As things stand now, however, the Broncos are the team to beat.
What is the biggest obstacle to the Broncos winning the Super Bowl? Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts.