At 3-3, the Denver Broncos are at a crossroads for their 2017 season. The Broncos have lost two of their last three, including two embarrassing losses to the winless New York Giants at home and a complete shutout against the Los Angeles Chargers.
Heading into the middle stretch of the season, the Broncos are much more talented than their .500 record indicates, but in the NFL talent doesn’t always equal wins. Though talented, the Broncos will need immense improvement if they plan on competing for a spot in a tightly-packed AFC. How exactly can the Broncos turn their season around? Looking at the Broncos first six games thus far reveals exactly what they need to get their season back on track:
Beat the Chiefs tonight in Kansas City
Some would call it impossible, but experts said the same thing about the Giants marching into Denver and taking down the Broncos. Both the Chargers (3-5) and the Oakland Raiders (3-5) suffered losses this week, which put the Broncos right back in the thick of the AFC West race. Chasing the 5-2 Chiefs, the Broncos can pull within a game and half of the Chiefs’ division lead. The Broncos have the talent to line up against the Chiefs’ offensive firepower; the biggest question will be if the offense can put enough points on the board to remain competitive throughout the game.
Stay committed to running the football
The Broncos had one of the best one-two combos at running back early in the season, but have since scaled back on committing to the run. After beginning the season averaging 143 yards per game on the ground, the Broncos have plummeted to rushing for only 69 and 46 over their last two games. The Broncos will need to run the ball effectively to keep quarterback Trevor Siemian from being forced to throw 30 or more times per game behind shaky pass protection.
Find a way to force turnovers on defense
Currently, the Broncos rank 30th in the NFL with 0.7 takeaways per game. While the defense has played relatively well, they’ve failed to generate game-changing turnovers on a consistent basis. The Broncos also rank 30th in the NFL with a turnover margin of -1.3 per game. The Broncos continue to give turnovers away without forcing any of their own. The Broncos have talent to generate turnovers with the ‘No-Fly Zone’ secondary and pass rushers like Von Miller; it’s time for the team to find a way to give the offense better starting field position by generating turnovers.
Find help at right tackle
Free agent acquisition Menelik Watson has been a colossal bust thus far in the season, ranking as Pro Football Focus’ second-worst starting offensive tackle in the NFL before suffering an injury against the Giants. The poor play at tackles has gravely hurt the Broncos’ offense, as Siemian has been sacked a whopping 22 times through six games. As the NFL trade deadline looms, a few options at tackle have emerged in San Francisco 49ers’ Joe Staley and Houston Texans’ Duane Brown. While a trade for either could cost the Broncos a high draft pick, keeping Watson penciled in at tackle is a recipe for disaster, no matter who lines up at quarterback. Speaking of quarterback…
(At least) entertain the possibility of starting Paxton Lynch
Lynch will not suit up this week as he continues to recover from a preseason shoulder injury. Once healthy, it could be time to give Lynch another shot at taking command of the Broncos’ offense. Give Siemian a lot of credit — he has played his heart out through six games — but unfortunately the Broncos still sit at 3-3 and have deeply regressed on offense over the past month. While Lynch did not look ready in his preseason action, the Broncos will need to decide sooner rather than later if Lynch is capable of being the Broncos’ next franchise quarterback. A switch to Lynch could be the jump-start the Broncos need on offense as well as answer questions about the quarterback situation heading into the future.