Broncos don't buy early hype

The Denver Broncos have started 3-0 nine times before this year, and seven of those times they made the playoffs.

All five teams that started 3-0 in the NFL won their division. There's plenty of reason for the Broncos to feel good about their 3-0 start this year, especially with two of those wins coming against division rivals, but they're not buying into the early hype.

"It's sure nice to be 3-0," Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said Monday. "I think our guys are realistic. We have a ways to go. We've had a good start, we've made some strides, but we're far from where we want to be."

The AFC is filled with division leaders that weren't expected to be that good this season, including Buffalo, Baltimore and Tennessee. Denver was in that category as well, coming off a 7-9 season.

The Broncos offense has carried the team thus far, and they're confident the problems with the passing defense can be fixed. They are heavy favorites at Kansas City this week, then face Tampa Bay and Jacksonville at home before traveling to New England before the bye week.

It is way too early, however, for the Broncos to think that far ahead.

"We're feeling good about ourselves and what we're doing but we all understand it's just three games into the season," receiver Brandon Stokley said. "If you let up at all you're in trouble."

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--QB Jay Cutler's success this year is not just his own maturation, but the great play of the offensive line. Cutler hasn't been sacked in three games. The only credited sack to the opponent came on the controversial fumble/incompletion ruling at the end of the San Diego game. As long as the line gives him time, the Broncos could be a good vertical passing team as the season goes on.

--C Tom Nalen was placed on injured reserve with a left knee injury. A 15-year veteran, Nalen ranks second in Broncos history in career starts (188) while his 194 career games played in a Denver uniform represent the third-highest total in club annals.

--RB Selvin Young has been effective and had a season-high 11 carries against New Orleans. As long as the Broncos continue to use a committee, Young should be fresh later in the season.

--RB Andre Hall would probably do well with an increased workload, but that probably won't happen because the Broncos have been happy with their tailback committee. Hall will continue to split time with Selvin Young, with Michael Pittman getting the short-yardage work.

--WR Brandon Marshall wanted to score more touchdowns for the Broncos this season, and so far he is doing that. He has scored a pair of touchdowns in two games and should continue to score. He has worked hard on his deep game. He caught a 35-yard touchdown against New Orleans after beating the defense deep.

--WR Eddie Royal caught four balls for 11 yards against New Orleans. Because the Broncos have many receivers they believe in, there will be weeks in which Royal isn't a big part of the offensive plans.

--TE Tony Scheffler had a costly fumble near the end of the New Orleans game. Third tight end Nate Jackson caught a touchdown in that game as well, but Scheffler shouldn't see a drop in his playing time. The Broncos know that Scheffler is a perfect fit for their pass-first offense.

--K Matt Prater is five-for-five on field goals this season. He has also hit 13 extra points, and because the Broncos have such a high-scoring offense, he is a good bet to finish the season with 100 points.

--DE Elvis Dumervil is still struggling without full use of his right hand. He has a broken pinkie and is wearing a cast. He will continue to play but until he gets the cast off in a couple of weeks, he won't be playing at his full capability.

--LB Boss Bailey could benefit if the Broncos decide to use their 3-4 defense more in passing situations. Bailey lined up in the outside rush position. He has the speed to be a good blitzer and get to the quarterback.

--DE Jarvis Moss could be a candidate for the inactive list again this week. The Chiefs have a murky quarterback situation and might not pass the ball much. Moss might not play much against running teams this season.

--S Marquand Manuel could have a big role this week. He is the safety that plays near the line of scrimmage on running downs, and Kansas City probably won't pass too much. Manuel will be a key in containing Larry Johnson.


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