Critical road trip looms large for Broncos the rest of the way in 2023

A three-game road swing could easily determine whether the 2023 Denver Broncos are contenders or pretenders.

Nov 26, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) celebrates with wide
Nov 26, 2023; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) celebrates with wide / Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

After an incredibly poor start to the 2023 season, where they were written off by basically everyone, the Denver Broncos have turned things around and won five games in a row, putting them firmly in the hunt for the playoffs.

Now at 6-5, the Broncos are the hottest team in the league, due in large part to the 15 turnovers they have forced in their last four games. It has been a wild and surprising turn of events, leaving some to wonder how this recent success can be sustained.

But going forward, and perhaps especially in these next three weeks, the Broncos are going to need to have the formula for success that they have created continue. That is because the next three games will be played on the road.

Whether the Broncos are contenders or pretenders, that will be determined in these next three games. When the schedule was released way back in May, I talked about how these three games could end up being quite critical to the team's overall success this season.

Now, here we are.

The road trip starts with a game at NRG Stadium against a Houston Texans team that is better than anyone thought they would be. Like the Broncos, the Texans are also 6-5 and fighting for a playoff spot. Rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud is running away with the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award but there are some who believe he might even be the MVP of the league.

In Week 14, the Broncos head to Los Angeles to face a Chargers team that is in turmoil but in a division game in which many coaches in Los Angeles will be fighting to keep their jobs, expect them to throw the kitchen sink at the Broncos on that day.

Then in Week 15, the Broncos face a Detroit Lions squad that has not only been quite good this season, but they are hungry and by this point in the season, could be looking to put an exclamation point on a playoff berth.

Make no mistake, all three of these games are going to be quite difficult.

Each of those teams presents much different challenges and will require the Broncos to be up to the task if they are a legitimate playoff contender. Hopefully, the Broncos don't get homesick. They won't be back in Denver until Christmas Eve when they face the New England Patriots.

This will be the first time the Broncos have had a three-game road trip this late in the season since way back in 2010. That year, as the Broncos suffered through one of the worst seasons in team history, they lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders in Weeks 13-15 before finishing that season 4-12.

This is the first time the Broncos have had a three-game road swing at any point in any season since 2017. That year, Vance Joseph's first as head coach, the Broncos were soundly defeated by the Green Bay Packers, Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles in Weeks 7-9 by a combined score of 101-42. That was part of an eight-game losing streak for the team that season.

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As you can tell, a three-game road swing in the NFL is quite the obstacle. The teams that contend in the playoffs and make it to the Super Bowl run over that obstacle. The ones who aren't quite ready for that level get smacked around.