Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Now the Road Gets Rockier….

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 7, 2008

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” –  George Santayana, The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress: Reason in Common Sense 284

If you had told me before the start of the season that the Broncos would be 4-1 and would own a two game lead in the AFC West through five games, I would have first thought that you were crazy, but I also would have taken that in a heartbeat no questions asked.  Well here we are five games into the season, and the Broncos are possession of said two game lead in the division.  Granted, the one loss was an embrassing one to a bad Kansas City team, but the Broncos did bounce back with a terrific defensive effort against an underrated Tampa Bay team.  The Broncos finally got excellent pressure on the quarterback, first on Brian Griese and later on Jeff Garcia, and the defense gave a much better effort against the run.  Granted, that isn’t saying much after they got shredded by Larry Johnson, but the defense showed it is capable if need be of carrying the team on a day the offense may not be on its top game.  While this is all great, it is only a start, nothing more. 

The optimistic side of me is definitely excited about the 4-1 start.  Generally speaking, a good start can lead to a good finish.  The other side of me says that we’ve been down this road before, only to see the Broncos not finish the way they started.  Two years ago in 2006, the Broncos actually started 4-1, and later were 7-2, before finishing 9-7 and missing the playoffs.  In 2004, the Broncos started 5-1, ended up 10-6, and lost a wild card game to the Colts.  The year before in 2003, the Broncos started 5-1, finished 10-6, and lost a wild card game to the Colts. (No I did not accidently retype the sentence, ’03 and ’04 were identical in that regard in Bronco land.)  Or we could even take 2002, which saw the Broncos start 4-1, and later 6-2, and miss the playoffs with a 9-7 record.  The one recent exception was 2005, when the Broncos did successfully parlay a 5-1 start into a 13-3 record and an AFC Championship Game appearance.  The point is, yes the Broncos have gotten off to a good start, but that’s all it means.  It is important that the Broncos do not repeat their second half failures of this decade.  There is a lot of season to go, and the Broncos will need to keep playing at a high level to maintain their position in the AFC West.

One thing about the NFL is the outlook of any team can really vary radically from week to week.  It is also true that a team’s perceived strength of schedule can vary even more wildly from week to week.  Are you playing a team when they’re on fire?  Are you catching them while injury riddled?  Are you playing a team from the other conference in between two division games?  There are so many x factors in the NFL schedule that make it really difficult at best to determine exactly how hard or easy a team’s remaining schedule will be.  Right now though, it certainly looks like the Broncos’ schedule is about to get tougher.    The Broncos face Jacksonville at home on Sunday, a team that has traditionally given them trouble and will be desperate after last week’s loss to Pittsburgh.  Then the Broncos are at New England in a Monday nighter before the bye.  The Broncos also have trips to Atlanta, Carolina, and the Jets that could all be potentially difficult, plus what is shaping up to be a monster home game in December against Buffalo.  Even the home game against Miami suddenly doesn’t look the gimmie it appeared to be a month ago.  Of course, all of this could easily change next week, but the point is while the Broncos are off to a great start and have beaten good teams so far, they must continue to play well and stay focused if they want to keep pace with the other top teams in the league. 

Injuries of course also have a huge impact, and the Broncos will be without top receiving threats Eddie Royal AND Tony Scheffler on Sunday against the Jaguars, and possibly beyond.  Both players left Invesco Field on crutches after the Tampa Bay game, Royal having suffered an ankle injury and Scheffler a groin injury.  For Jay Cutler to lose two key receiving targets simultaneously could be awfully tough to overcome.  Factor in that Selvin Young also got banged up against Tampa and may miss next week, and the Broncos find themselves really shorthanded against a Jaguars defense that loves to be physical and play a tight, low scoring game like what the Broncos saw last week.  The Broncos do still have a lot going for them, and will need guys like Brandon Stokley and Michael Pittman to step up and play well. 

This is not meant to be doom and gloom and be pessimistic about the Broncos’ prospects the rest of the season, but rather to caution about getting too carried away just yet.  The Broncos have gotten off to a fast start and that’s important.  It’s also important that they keep it up.  Keep in mind the Broncos were 8-0 at home in 2005 when they made the AFC Championship Game.  They are 3-0 at home so far this year, and have another important home game on Sunday.  As long as the Broncos take Jacksonville seriously they should be fine, but they can’t afford letdowns like what they had in Kansas City.  There is a lot of season left, and the Broncos do have the tools to build on their fast start, but that’s all it is right now: a start.  The Broncos had better hope this season turns out more along the lines of 2005 and the late 90s, and not 2002, 2004, or 2006.

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