Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Last year the Broncos amazed both hometown fans and those of other loyalties by racking up eleven straight wins to close the season. That doesn’t mean a whole lot when you choke away your first playoff game but nevertheless that was one of the best regular season runs in the history of the franchise.
Many at the time said the finish was mostly attributable to a weak schedule. Maybe. The AFC West has certainly become the new NFC West (notably the NFC West has become a powerhouse division since 2010) and the Broncos did lose games to eventual playoff teams early. Still, eleven in a row?! In the NFL? That’s really hard to do. The best streak by a Bronco team ever was the 1997-1998 run that saw John Elway finally win a Superbowl and then rattle off 13 straight regular season wins en route to his second championship.
When it comes to regular season wins Peyton Manning lead the Colts to the longest streak in history back in 2008-2009. The Colt’s won 23 straight. Is it possible that he could do something like that again this year in a Broncos’s uniform? Probably not, but he doesn’t need to.
Last year the Broncos opened the first six games of the season against three playoff teams and lost to each one. This year the Broncos have an easier road early, a heightened sense of urgency and a year with Peyton already in the books.
The first four games of 2013 are the Broncos for the taking. A revenge game in Denver against the Ravens, a road game against little brother, Eli Manning in New York, the lowly Raiders at home and then a bout with the Eagles, a team in the middle of a complete overhaul. Sure, the Giant game is the one that most people are pointing to as the potential stumble and that is not a surprise. The Giants are dangerous, plain and simple. No team relishes seeing that unit come up on a schedule. Still, the Broncos are the better team here and though road games are tough, this is one Peyton and the boys need to bring home to set the proper tone going into a must win season.
The next four should be gems! The Cowboys, Jaguars, Colts and Redskins will make for some incredible viewing. On paper, the Jaguars at home shouldn’t be too much work but sandwich them into this line up of four and it gets interesting. Preparing for the Cowboys and then looking ahead at Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III could distract any team. Still, the Broncos SHOULD get that win. It’s getting through the rest of this line up that’s going to be difficult. I wouldn’t expect perfection but would be ecstatic with a 7-1 or 6-2 record at this point in the young season.
Games 9-12 feature a healthy dose of the AFC West. Coming out of a week 9 bye this should be a recipe for success. Denver goes on the road to face the Chargers and gets the mildly improved Chiefs twice in three weeks. However, caught up in the middle of this is a trip to New England. By week 12, both the Broncos and the Patriots should be at full speed and looking at the possibility of having home field throughout the playoffs. This may well prove to be one of the greatest chapters in Peyton Manning’s career long battle with Tom Brady. This match up comes at such a crucial time in the season and both teams are going to need this victory. Win or lose it’s safe to assume the Broncos will stand at 9-3 after this stretch. Anything better will simply be an indication of how sharp this team has become.
The final four games of the 2013 schedule should be the games that once again propel the Broncos into the post season on a hot streak. The Titans and Chargers at home and the Texans and Raiders on the road. The Texans are going back to the playoffs this year but the Broncos need to dispatch this team late in the season. Beating playoff caliber teams in the regular season is the perfect preparation for doing it in the playoffs and we know the Broncos were unable to do that last year. Don’t expect a repeat in 2013.
13-3, again. It looks like a reasonable expectation for a team that has the personnel the Broncos have and the absolute need to win now! It’s certainly a different path to 13 wins but this path should prepare the Broncos to finish what they started in 2012.