If there’s one thing I’ve learned writing about the Denver Broncos over the last two seasons it is that nothing is as black and white as it looks on the screen. Just when it seems the dust has cleared and the Broncos’ future is very bright, another storm comes through that changes the road ahead.
To make sense of the metaphor: now that the Broncos have a bye week and some time to recover and prepare for the rest of the season, head coach John Fox will have to undergo heart valve surgery which will put him out of the game (but not out of our thoughts) for at least a few weeks.
This is leading to more questions than answers, such as who will take over as head coach intermittently? How will this affect the team’s mentality? Will this change the game plan? What kind of change in leadership will Peyton Manning have?
It will make the most sense to have defensive coordinator, Jack Del Rio take over. He has obvious passion for his team, was the Jacksonville Jaguars’ head coach for nine seasons and has transformed the Broncos’ defense in the last two years that he has been here. The only hindrance is that he might have less time to focus directly on the defense. The Broncos also have an excellent coaching staff that will prove to step up while coach Fox is away.
All other questions will most likely be answered as the season progresses and it will be interesting to see what effect the absence of coach Fox will have.
Aside from this recent curveball to the Broncos organization, they have never looked better since Peyton Manning joined last season. Last week’s 45-21 win over the Washington Redskins proved that the Broncos are a threat that will take full advantage of opponents’ mistakes. Peyton Manning had a Peyton Manning-esque game including 354 yards and four touchdowns despite the Broncos’ four turnovers.
Coming from behind in the second half, the Broncos defense really stepped up causing five turnovers, one that directly resulted in a Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie touchdown. They limited the Redskins to only 266 yards, compared to their average of 380.6.
Midseason quick facts:
- Peyton Manning has 2,919 yards, 29 touchdowns and a league-best 119.4 passer rating.
- This season Danny Trevathan, Duke Ihenacho Chris Harris, Rahim Moore and Wesley Woodyard all have at least 40 tackles. Shaun Phillips has stepped up as the Broncos lead pass-rusher with 6.5 sacks. Their ability to pass-rush needs to improve for the remainder of the season in order to have a truly effective defense.
- Knowshon Moreno and Montee Ball have been able to maintain an effective running game with 633 combined yards and nine touchdowns.
- The Broncos receivers: Demariyus Thomas, Eric Decker, Wes Welker all have over 500 yards and have 6, 3 and 9 touchdowns respectively.
Keys to the rest of the season:
- Use the absence of John Fox as motivation rather than an limitation.
- Manning needs to continue to play like Manning – excellent passing, excellent receivers and excellent health.
- Do not underestimate your opponent – having the rest of the season full of AFC competition aside from two games makes the stakes that much higher (especially when you add the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs into the mix… twice).
- Defense is vital to win games – the Colts game in week 7 proved that if Manning and the receivers are stopped then it is possible to outscore them, especially if the Broncos’ defense doesn’t hold opponents to the same standard. Keeping control of powerful offenses is still a necessity even when you have an offensive juggernaut like the Broncos.
- Continue to work Moreno with the occasional splash of Ball to have an effective running game.
- Keep it interesting – a few more trick plays (Manning’s naked-bootleg) shouldn’t hurt.
- Week 10 – November 10 – Broncos at Chargers 2:25 p.m. mtn
- Week 11 – November 17 – Broncos vs Chiefs 6:30 p.m. mtn (updated)
- Week 12 – November 24 – Broncos at Patriots 6:30 p.m. mtn
- Week 13 – December 1 – Broncos at Kansas City 11:00 a.m. mtn
- Week 14 – December 8 – Broncos vs Titans 2:05 p.m. mtn
- Week 15 – December 12 – Broncos vs Chargers 6:25 p.m. mtn
- Week 16 – December 22 – Broncos at Texans 11:00 a.m. mtn
- Week 17 – December 29 – Broncos at Raiders 2:25 p.m. mtn