Home > NFL > The Denver Broncos are in Oddly Strong Position in the AFC West

The Denver Broncos are in Oddly Strong Position in the AFC West

The Denver Broncos have beaten one good team this season: the Cincinnati Bengals.  They beat the Bengals with Kyle Orton, not Tim Tebow, at quarterback.  Despite the limited resume, the Denver Broncos put together two timely wins with Tim Tebow that make the Broncos a team that, very realistically, controls their own destiny in the AFC West.

This article is not a prediction that the Broncos can make it in the AFC West.  It is an acknowledgement that the Broncos and Tebow are very, very relevant down the stretch.  They play five of their final seven games against AFC teams who are still battling for a playoff berth.  They have a strong chance to hold tiebreakers against the Broncos, Chiefs, and Raiders at the end of the season.  And quite honestly, the Broncos need only to finish 9-7 to be in very good position to win the AFC West.

Of course, that would require a 5-2 (and by extension, 7-2) finish by a team starting Tim Tebow at quarterback.  But with Tebow, the Broncos have figured out that they can run the football on any team in the league.  They can run it on the Jets, they can run it on the Chargers, they can run it on the Patriots.  And Tebow’s arm then goes from a liability to a luxury once you consider that the base of the Denver offense is the read option.  Offensive Mike McCoy seems to be incredibly comfortable calling a spread offense.  And that makes Denver very, very dangerous.

The Broncos defense is a big liability that must be overcome by it’s offense, which is a very heavy weight to put on Tim Tebow’s shoulders.  Also on Tebow now: the loss of running backs Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno to injury.  The Chiefs got it together for the most part with Lance Ball as a primary runner, with Tebow needing to hurt the Chiefs deep with his arm in order to provide the difference in the game.

The most fascinating thing about Tebow is that for weeks all we heard about is the integration that would be required with the pro style offensive concepts and with new receivers in the wake of the Brandon Lloyd trade, and that Tebow was putting his offensive line in bad situations by not seeing the field and holding the ball too long.  Now, the complete opposite appears to be true: the Broncos will be a very young offense the rest of the way, and the team can look to Tebow as a stabilizing force.  The offense runs through Tebow now and it does so by using college concepts which fits the mentality of a very young team whose primary experience is college football.

It’s a fascinating case study made possible by the fact that the Broncos have adapted to their talent and they are winning instead of losing.  Because the ability to win appears to be legitimate, flawed opponents like the Jets and Chargers are going to have a tough time defending the Broncos.  Now, their season becomes a large game management puzzle.  They have a team that is difficult to play, though outtalented by even mediocre opponents.  The Broncos do not need to win every game, but they need to finish strong.  The plan here should be obvious: stay with a base gameplan of what got you here, and diversify.

In reality, the Broncos really aren’t playing out the rest of the season for themselves: even at 4-3, too many things would need to go right to put the Broncos into the playoffs.  But they can ruin the AFC playoff field for any number of teams.  And whoever has to play the Broncos the rest of the way has to make the difficult decision of how many Tebow-centric strategies they really want to work on during the week in order to beat a sub .500 team.  The Jets have a big problem: the game is three days and one practice away, and they just spend the last week preparing every waking hour from the Patriots.  The Jets really need to handle their business this week, and I’m just not sure how much of their business they really control.

First place could be on the line this week for the fighting Tebow’s  If they get this one, they have 11 days to get ready for the Chargers, a game that could knock the struggling Chargers out of playoff contention entirely.  I don’t think the Broncos can roll through December and get through that schedule untouched.  The Bears don’t figure to have much of an issue with this team, and frankly, I’m not sure the Vikings are going to struggle all that much with them.  But with the Jets and Chargers reeling, I have to point out that having Tim Tebow at the helm of a 6-5 1st place team is far more interesting than anything else in the NFL.  That’s a lot to ask of Tebow these next two weeks, but if he gets the job done, I think he’ll have established himself as an NFL player of some capacity.

I don’t think there is anything Tebow can do this year to be the Broncos quarterback of the future, but I think he’s in a good spot: Tebow’s expectations are relatively low, but he’s in the middle of the public spotlight and has a really good shot to succeed in the short term.  Success in the short term is not success in the long term, but it is the start of a long career.  That’s what’s at stake for Tebow in the rest of November.  As for the Broncos?  We’ll see.  They’re relevant right now, even with major roles being played by guys like Lance Ball and Cassius Vaughn.  Are they a playoff team?  Not yet, but they are well positioned to make noise in the AFC West this winter.

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