Bye Week Takeaways: Can the Broncos make a playoff push?

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No news is good news through the post-trade deadline bye week and the Broncos are still boasting that two-game win streak heading into week 10. 

Sean Payton’s team have the added benefit of playing their week 10 matchup against the  Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football, giving them one of the longest possible in-season breaks. 

Payton said after the 24-9 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs that he had taken a leaf from Chiefs head coach Andy Reid’s book and the players would be in for film study on Monday morning but then have the rest of the week off before getting prepared for the Bills matchup this week. 

So where do the Broncos go after their bye and do they have a shot at the playoffs? 

The first four games 

The Broncos opened up the Sean Payton era in a calamitous fashion, losing their first three games and seemingly eliminating themselves from any playoff discussions before their campaign had kicked off. 

In the opening two weeks, the Broncos lost by a point to the Las Vegas Raiders (their seventh in a row vs the Raiders) and lost on a failed two-point conversion after a miraculous hail mary attempt in week two at home to the Washington Commanders. 

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In week three, things got even worse, when the Broncos’ defence made history for all the wrong reasons. They gave up 70 points to the Miami Dolphins and allowed the most total yards of any team in the history of the NFL. 

Things continued to look bleak through the first three-quarters of week four in Chicago as well until the defence finally checked in for the season and produced two massive fourth-quarter turnovers to help the Broncos chalk up their first win of the season.

The losses to the Commanders and the Raiders (both at home) could come back to kick the Broncos as they now look to mount an unlikely, uphill charge for the playoffs. If those two games had gone in the favour of Denver – which they should have done on the balance of play – the Broncos would be 5-3 right now. 

Rebuilding next four-game 

Moving away from the hypothetical, and back to reality, the Broncos faced the near-impossible task of overturning their poor start around to give them some hope of resurrecting their season.

Up first was the Nathaniel Hackett New York Jets at Mile High stadium and a game that could have been a momentum shifter turned into a banana skin. The Broncos dropped to 1-4 after losing 31-21 thanks to a late defensive touchdown from the Jets made the game look worse than it was on the box score. 

Next up on a short week was a trip to Arrowhead Stadium, and despite the defence putting in an incredible performance, the offence went hiding and the Broncos’ streak against the Chiefs fell to 16 straight losses

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Despite the two losses being disappointing from an offensive standpoint the defence threw up positive signs and, finally, the two sides of the ball came together to generate the Broncos’ first home win of the year against a lacklustre Green Bay Packers outfit. 

The win against the Packers still felt like a consolation victory for the rest of the season, however, and the Broncos welcomed the Chiefs in week eight, with all the expectation being, another blowout to the rampant Cheifs. 

The reality for Broncos Country was so much sweeter than anyone could imagine, they blew the Super Bowl champions away and romped to a comprehensive 24-9 demolition of their AFC West rivals. 

Heading into the bye week the fanbase and media reaction to the Broncos changed completely and there was a breath of optimism that swept its way back into Denver.

Resurgent out of the bye 

Now sitting at 3-5 coming out of their midseason bye the Broncos have a clear road and clear goal ahead of them for the next nine weeks. 

It’s not going to be easy and there are plenty of challenging games ahead, none more so than this Monday at Buffalo.

With back-to-back primetime games, the Broncos could move back to .500 and with full momentum on their side against some more favourable opponents. The trade deadline has been and gone so every franchise knows “who they are” and the Broncos are a team on the incline. 

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After Buffalo, Payton’s team will welcome the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football, before welcoming the Cleveland Browns and then making a trip to the Houston Texans. 

In an ideal world, four wins from four would be tremendous in that stretch, but even three from four getting victories over AFC playoff rivals the Browns as well as beating the Texans and the Vikings could see the Broncos at 6-6 going into five interesting games at the end of the year. 

Finishing strong

The final five games of the season throw up plenty of narratives no matter where the Broncos stand out of their four key games coming off the bye week. 

Firstly, a trip to Los Angeles to face their AFC West rivals, the Chargers, in a game that could have big playoff implications. Both teams could feasibly be heading into that game 6-6, both gunning for the seventh seed in the AFC. 

Next up is a difficult trip to one of the NFC’s best teams, the Detroit Lions who have only lost two games this season and beat the Chiefs in Arrowhead on the opening night. 

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Week 16, could potentially be a game with draft position implications if the Broncos can’t find any wins in the second half of the season. The New England Patriots will come to Mile High in what was once a fierce AFC Championship battle. The Patriots are in full rebuild mode and currently sit at 2-7, a record that could be even worse when this one rolls around. 

The penultimate week of the season is a rematch of week 14 with the reverse of the Chargers matchup this time in Denver. If the Broncos have any record in the region of 8-7 or better then Mile High could be bouncing for this one with giant playoff implications.

Games against the Raiders will bookend the Broncos’ season and the Broncos will have to go to Sin City to close out their year, they could finish their season with a flourish both making the playoffs for the first time since 2016 as well as snapping their losing streak against the Raiders as well. 

Record prediction 

With all of this being said, I may have foreseen a miraculous turnaround that sees the Broncos win eight or nine of their last nine games to finish the year 12-5 or 11-6. In reality, that seems unlikely and the best possible record I could see this Broncos team getting is 10-7, but my prediction would be either 8-9 or 9-8. 

Week 10 Preview

The Bills have been shaky this season and look far from the clinical and convincing outfit that they have been in recent years. 

Their offence has been struggling despite Josh Allen’s MVP level of play, the defence has been star players, Tre’Davious White and Matt Milano go onto Injury Reserve and there are holes in that team that this Broncos group can take advantage of.

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The Bills have the third-ranked total offence in the league in the first nine weeks of the season despite being 5-4. They’ve scored the third most passing TDs in the league this season (two more than the Broncos) and they rank seventh for rushing TDs. 

They haven’t looked convincing since their week four victory over the Miami Dolphins and their recent form has been inconsistent. 

However, with a talented quarterback and talent around him, the Bills are always a threat, especially at home.

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