In 2015, the Denver Broncos played their best football down the stretch. They got hot and rode that momentum into the playoffs.
http://www.scout.com/nfl/broncos/story/1728893-playoff-picture-where-doe... We see it year in and year out in the NFL. The teams who get hot down the stretch are typically the teams who win the Super Bowl, just like the Broncos did last season.
10 games into their 2016 campaign, it's safe to say the Broncos have yet to play their best football. In fact, in a conversation with Arnie Stapleton of the Associate Press, GM John Elway said as much.
“I think we would take it if you said at Week 10 we’d be 7-3 with what’s happened,” Elway said. “We haven’t played our best football yet, which I think is the encouraging thing.”
The Broncos are ranked No. 27 in total offense. In fact, Gary Kubiak's unit is ranked in the bottom third of almost every major statistical category. They've struggled to run the ball, possess the ball, convert third downs and redzone trips, and protect the quarterback.
Tons of room for improvement there.
Even Denver's sharp ends — the defense — haven't played up to their potential. They're ranked No. 1 against the pass and No. 3 in team sacks.
But their Achilles heel has been rushing defense. They're ranked No. 28 in that department.
With C.J. Anderson on injured reserve, the Broncos have the youngest backfield in the NFL. Devontae Booker was drafted to be a bell-cow running back, but he's struggled as the featured back behind Denver's ineffectual offensive line.
They've allowed the fifth-most sacks on their quarterback — 26 — and 84 QB pressures by their tackles alone, but they're 7-3. And with two games left on the schedule against the Kansas City Chiefs, and one against both the Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots, the Broncos are in control of their own destiny in the Division and the AFC.
How can a team be ranked consistently among the worst in the NFL in a multitude of categories and still be a viable conference threat? It's a good question and I'm not sure anybody could say for certain.
Were I to hazard an answer, I'd say that it starts at the top with John Elway. As a player and a front office executive, Elway never gives up. He battles against the odds and saves his best performance for when it matters most.
Gary Kubiak saw that mentality first hand as Elway's backup. And Kubiak helped create that kind of team culture as an offensive assistant under former Head Coach Mike Shanahan.
Elway and Kubiak are not only great friends but they're kindred spirits — cut from the same cloth. That "never say die" mantra has trickled down to the coaching staff and the players and we see it played out on Sundays.
The Broncos proved in 2015 — and in their seven wins this year — that they will fight til they die and if they go down, they'll go down swinging. The next six games feature easily the toughest stretch on their schedule.
It will take near perfection, but if the Broncos continue to find a way to win, they have every opportunity to win the AFC West for the sixth-straight season, and to wrest away control of the AFC's No. 1 seed from the Patriots.
No, the Broncos haven't played their best football yet and that should terrify the teams of the NFL. But to accomplish their goals and be the first team in more than a decade to win back-to-back World Championships, they'll have to find a way to dig deep and perform at the level they are capable of.
Chad Jensen is the Publisher of Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @ChadNJensen.
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