Yes, they may have snuck past the Cleveland Browns, 34-30, last night. But that doesn't mean that the AFC West leading Denver Broncos aren't struggling. On both sides of the ball, at that. All hardcore NFL fans should know about the defensive struggles by now, but what about QB Jay Cutler's offense?
Yes, one of the top fantasy QB's this season (right next to Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and Kurt Warner) has had his problems, too. Before the season, not too many fans or "experts" would have believed that the Broncos would struggle running the ball. But, looks like those people (you know who you are!), have been proved wrong as of week 10. We hear the same old talk about the Broncos consecutive seasons with a 1,000 yard rusher. "Oh, Denver can run the ball no matter who is in the backfield."
Well it appears that streak may be in jeopardy after the injury bug hit the Broncos in last night's game...again. Already being without all-pro CB Champ Bailey (groin) and safety Marlon McCree (ankle) out for the game (and possible several weeks to come), the Broncos came into the game short-handed on defense. The offense is looking even more thin. Three running backs, Andre Hall (hand), Michael Pittman (neck) and Anthony Aldridge (foot) are on the injured reserve along with all-pro center Tom Nalen (knee) and OT Erik Pears (appendectomy). Denver suffered another huge blow in their fifth win of the season. Rookie RB, Ryan Torain, out of Arizona State, suffered a torn ACL and is now on the IR. GAAAAHH!! That's what I'm thinking right now. Boy am I glad I am not a Denver fan right now. What does it take to keep a guy healthy?! It's time to hit the waiver wire.
Cutler has been banged up for the last few weeks, thanks to an iffy O-line. If he happened to even get a little shaken up on a play, they may be in even more trouble. Second-string QB Patrick Ramsey (elbow) is on the IR, as well.
I guess we can say that it's a good thing the Broncos are in the horrific AFC West, or else they may already be out of contention. They are, in fact, one game over .500 now (5-4), but had they been in another division they may not have gotten the chance to play weak teams like Kansas City and Oakland. I am, believe it or not, very disappointed at Denver's remaining schedule. Despite them having more players on the IR than their active roster, Denver could easily end up knocking off the San Diego Chargers for the West division title.
Obviously they can contend with teams like Atlanta, Oakland, New York (Jets), and Kansas City. None of those four teams have really proved they can consistently win. Atlanta has a rookie QB, Matt Ryan, at the helm. JaMarcus Russell is knocked down on almost every play from scrimmage. Brett Favre seems to throw an interception on every other play nowadays. And, Kansas City can seem to even hold on to a 21-point lead despite just one turnover and 384 total yards...That's inexcusable!
Like I said before, Denver can win this division easily with this schedule. Win four of their final seven games of the regular season and you've got yourself a playoff spot.
The four Denver losses is due to lack of production from the defense. Giving up 41 points against a Matt Cassel led New England Patriots team? That shouldn't happen. All the blame falls on the secondary, obviously. The Broncos are 27th in the league in pass defense. Denver's front seven sacked Cassel six times, so how come the secondary wasn't able to pick any of his errant passes off?
Young, inexperienced QB + lots of pressure = At least three turnovers.
This was only week 7. I am not sure Cassel was quite in the groove of things by then. I guess that's what facing a weak secondary will do for you. Cassel was able to throw for 185 yards and 3 TD's despite the six sacks. His QB rating was a monsterous 136.3 as RB Sammy Morris put up 138 yards on the ground. Cassel and New England's offense was able to take advantage of Denver's five turnovers. Final score: 41-7. I don't know about you, but I will be closely following this team from now until the end of the regular season in December. This division, just like the other seven divisions, should be interesting. But, if head coach Mike Shanahan wants a shot at another Super Bowl, they are gonna need more consistency from both the offense and defense.
Sorry that I am just now informing you of this, but I really don't have a definite answer as to whether or not the Broncos will come out alive in the end. I just thought we could, as civilized human beings, discuss this very puzzling mystery. Can Denver pull this one off??