The 2017 Broncos season is essentially over, just in case no one informed you or you’re a relentless optimist. There won’t be a playoff appearance for Denver this January, and the losses have piled up so high and so quickly that the truth of the matter is that the Broncos would be probably fortunate to win two of their remaining four games.

Even though 2017 has been the Broncos’ worst season in over two decades. there’s a good possibility that the Broncos have enough talent on their roster to make a quick turnaround and compete in the AFC West in 2018.

The other three teams in the AFC West are all 6-6 on the season. While the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs had been seen as offseason AFC favorites, each has since imploded and the division is completely up for grabs, with the Chargers now playing the best football of the underwhelming group. The AFC West is simply not as good as everyone thought it was early in the season — not even close.

The team might not be performing well, but there are key pieces the Broncos have in place that will help them move past the struggles of 2017 and gear up for another playoff run as soon as next season.

On offense, which has been the team’s biggest weakness all season, the Broncos have talent to make big strides in 2018. At receiver, the Broncos still have the Pro Bowl duo of Emmanuel Sanders and Demaryius Thomas. In 2017, with the struggles the Broncos have had at quarterback, the both receivers’ numbers have slipped, but their experience and proven success on the field bodes well for a bounce-back year in 2018.

The offensive line has also seen vast improvement this season, led by offseason free agent acquisition Ron Leary and rookie left tackle Garett Bolles. The Broncos are arguably a right tackle (and possibly a left guard) away from potentially having one of the better offensive line units in the NFL.

Of course the biggest headlines heading into the offseason — as they were last offseason — will surround the quarterback position, which the Broncos should put a heavy focus on for 2018. With a plethora of options available in both the draft (USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson) and in free agency (Washington’s Kirk Cousins), the Broncos will get another shot to find their franchise quarterback. This might be the best opportunity for the Broncos to do so since the retirement of Peyton Manning following the Broncos’ Super Bowl season of 2015.

On defense, the team has one of the best units in the NFL. Looking purely off of box scores, one would think that the Broncos have one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Despite the blowout scores due to offensive struggles and turnovers, however, the Broncos run and pass defenses currently rank fifth and seventh in the NFL, respectively.

Defensive stars like All-Pros Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr. and Aqib Talib, as well as Pro Bowlers such as Darian Stewart compliment a defense that has played hard all season despite being hindered by the play of the offense. While Talib’s future with the Broncos is up in the air, young players such as Justin Simmons, Will Parks and Bradley Roby are in place for bigger roles heading into next season.

Even the defensive line, which many thought would be a weakness for the Broncos in 2017 has played well all season, anchored by free-agent signing Domata Peko, who the Broncos still have under contract for one more year. Defensive lineman Shelby Harris has been a pleasant surprise filling in for the injured Derek Wolfe, and he should continue to grow into a solid player alongside fellow defensive end Adam Gotsis.

This is a Broncos team that has a lot of talent to compete after a ‘retool’ as opposed to a complete ‘reboot.’ Under the right leadership and coaching, the Broncos could return to the playoffs sooner than expected.