Broncos "sitting pretty" despite ups and down

The New York Jets were rising to take over as the trendy pick in the AFC, and the Denver Broncos beat them soundly at the Meadowlands. So what to make of the Broncos now?

They have two road wins against 8-4 teams, Atlanta and the Jets, the past three weeks. They also have a three-touchdown loss to the Raiders at home in between those wins.

One thing the Broncos were sure of, and that's their spot in the AFC West. With their impressive win against the Jets and the Chargers' eighth loss of the season, the Broncos had a three-game lead with four to go, heading into a home game against the Chiefs.

"We've had a little bit of ups and downs now but November, December is when you want to start putting it together, when you want to start making a run," quarterback Jay Cutler said. "I think we're kind of doing that."

The Broncos haven't figured out their consistency issues, but they've also shown they have the ability to play very well. Their best games have happened on the road, which is perplexing to them, but they were at their best against the Jets.

The Broncos go as Cutler goes and against the Jets, he was very good. He had 357 yards and a pair of touchdowns. In the rainy conditions, Cutler outplayed Jets quarterback Brett Favre, who made playing great in poor weather an art form during his Green Bay days. Favre had to give credit to the Broncos, who frustrated him most of the day.

"We got outplayed," Favre said. "I thought Denver played outstanding."

Denver will continue to rely on Cutler's arm and hope the running game and defense provide enough big plays to make them dangerous in the playoffs. All they need to secure their second AFC West title in 10 seasons is either two wins or two more Chargers losses or one of each.

Despite all the missteps Denver has taken to get to this point, "We're sitting pretty right now," cornerback Dre Bly said.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The game plan we had today was executed perfectly." -- Broncos CB Dre Bly, after the win over the Jets, in which Denver allowed only three points after an early second-quarter touchdown by Thomas Jones.

UNDER THE RADAR: Broncos receiver Chad Jackson is the latest in a long line of reclamation projects by the team, and so far this one seems to be working out. Jackson's playing time has increased every week and he was on the field a lot against the Jets. He caught one pass for 19 yards and could be in for a significant role in Denver's spread offense down the stretch.

Jackson is a former second-round pick of the Patriots, whose career was slowed by a knee injury. He was eventually cut and picked up in midseason by the Broncos. He is gifted physically and seems to have picked up the offense well. He could carve out a spot for himself in the Broncos' future plans if he finishes well.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--CB Champ Bailey was inactive again on Sunday. He has been out since hurting his groin Oct. 20. Bailey has practiced for a couple of weeks but hasn't had a full practice since his injury. The Broncos are going to be careful with their star corner.

--S Josh Barrett played extensively on defense in only his second NFL game. The Broncos love his athletic ability and have had problems at safety all season, so they were willing to see what Barrett could do when given the chance.

--RB Peyton Hillis continues to play well as Denver's top tailback. He rushed for 129 yards against a Jets defense that was ranked third against the run coming in. No other Broncos back had a carry.

--LB Spencer Larsen took a hard fall on his hip in the second half against the Jets, but said he will be fine. If Larsen can't go next week, Nate Webster might be ready to return from a knee injury and reclaim his starting spot.

--WR Eddie Royal played despite being questionable all week with a toe injury, and had a huge 59-yard touchdown in the second quarter. He should be fine going forward.



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