By Rich Kurtzman
The Broncos have been tested like no other team in the NFL this season.
They’ve faced the undefeated Falcons in Atlanta, the 6-1 Texans and the AFC East leading Patriots, losing to all three, albeit by an average of only a touchdown.
And last week, Denver went into division rival San Diego, found themselves down 24 points, only to rally and win in a spectacular second half. That win was huge as it pushed the Broncos to 3-3 and into the lead of the AFC West.
This Sunday, the New Orleans Saints come to town. At 2-4, their record is not indicative of the championship level play they are capable of, as it will be another arduous contest to win early in the season. The Saints are fresh off their thrilling last-second win over Tampa Bay, a game in which venerable quarterback Drew Brees went off for 377 yards and four touchdowns. Unsurprisingly, with Brees at the helm, New Orleans boasts the No. 1 passing offense in the NFL (335.2 YPG) and their scoring offense (29.3 PPG) is third in the league.
NBC must be loving the prospects of this coming contest because it’s shaping up to be a shootout between two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL on Sunday Night Football. (Check back on Friday for a full opponent profile and preview of the Broncos versus Saints.)
If Denver can find a way to win, it would carry their momentum from that big Week Six comeback through the bye and into the second half of the season, all while beating a better than advertised New Orleans team.
And after this week, the schedule eases up for the Broncos a bit.
Following the Saints, Denver plays at Cincinnati, at Carolina, hosts the Chargers, goes to Kansas City, then is home for the Buccaneers and travels to Oakland. Including New Orleans—who will not be a cakewalk—the Broncos’ next seven opponents are a combined 14-29, winning barely one-third of their games to this point.
Denver won’t sweep those seven games, but they should be able to win at least four, which would put them at 7-6 with three games remaining. Of course, Baltimore has been decimated by injuries on the defensive side, Cleveland is bad as always, and the Chiefs may be the worst team in the league. It will be more difficult than it seems to sweep the AFC West, and indeed, the game against the Chargers on November 18 will likely determine the division’s champion.
While there are no real easy opponents in the NFL, the Broncos should finish with at least 10 wins this season, win the AFC West and move onto the playoffs for the second straight season. But as we all know, there’s still a lot of football left to be played.
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Rich Kurtzman is a Denver native, Colorado State University alumnus, sports nerd, athletics enthusiast, and competition junkie. Currently writing for a multitude of websites while working on books, one on the history of the Denver Broncos and Mile High Stadium. Find more of Rich’s Denver Broncos pieces on Examiner.com.