What is the outlook for the Denver Broncos in the AFC West as they enter the bye week?

Denver Broncos fan following the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Empower Field at Mile High.
Nov 14, 2021; Denver, Colorado, USA; Denver Broncos fan following the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles at Empower Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

In Week 9 the Denver Broncos enjoyed their highest high of the post-Peyton Manning era, only to suffer one of their lowest lows the very next week at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles.

How do the Broncos measure up to the rest of their odd division following such an embarrassment? Let’s dive in.

1. Kansas City Chiefs

It feels a little reactionary to throw the Kansas City Chiefs into the top spot right now, but they have a stronger case than anyone else in the division right now, and it seems they might have finally exorcised their offensive woes with their performance against the Raiders.

While it’s hard to know whether that performance was just a blip or something we’ll see the Chiefs carry forward, we can feel confident saying they have figured out their defensive woes, at least to some extent.

Under Steve Spagnuolo, the defense has consistently improved as the season goes on, and this year is no different. Now they’re by no means a good defense, but they’re good enough, especially if the offense continues to roll.

2. Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers are the first of our three teams that appear to be in a downward spiral, though they get the slight nod here as they have the best quarterback and coaching situation of these three moribund squads.

With that said, things are looking rough for the Bolts right now. Since their bye they’re 1-2, with their only victory being a narrow win over the Philadelphia Eagles, and the week prior to the bye, they got flattened by the Baltimore Ravens 34-6.

During this stretch, Justin Herbert hasn’t played like the game-changing force he was earlier on in the season, the defense has continued to be porous, and playing at SoFi Stadium is beginning to look like a problematic disadvantage for the home team.

There’s plenty of time to correct the nosedive, but right now, it feels like Kansas City is primed to waltz to another division title.

3. Las Vegas Raiders

Some seasons feel meant to be for a given team. The 2017 Philadelphia Eagles are an excellent example of this concept of a ‘team of destiny.’

The 2021 Las Vegas Raiders, meanwhile, are an excellent example of whatever the inverse of that concept is, as it seems they just can’t get out of their own way and the mounting scandals have finally become too much to overcome.

Losing Henry Ruggs delivered a massive blow to the offense, which has put up just 27 points across the two games since his car accident, after tallying 67 in the two games prior to the accident.

The offense has lost its vertical element and it seems unlikely that Desean Jackson will be able to replicate it. Without that vertical element the offense appears wholly mediocre and the defense isn’t the type of unit that can lead the way for them.

With Cincinnati, Dallas and Kansas City making up three of their next four opponents, it appears the Raiders are likely to be joining the Broncos in the cellar shortly.

4. Denver Broncos

Some weeks the Broncos look worthy of the top spot on this list, and other weeks they look like they should be five games back of the division lead instead of one-and-a-half. This past week, was an example of the latter.

The game opened with Denver’s expensive and talented defense — coming off a complete detonation of the then-invincible Dallas offense — being boat-raced and molly-whopped by Philadelphia and Jalen Hurts.

At the half, Hurts was on pace for over 500 yards of offense by himself as he had already thrown for over 200 yards, and gained over 50 rushing yards before the break.

Pair that with the beyond embarrassing Darius Slay fumble return, a blocked field goal, and the Broncos’ season seemingly sliding down the tubes, and there’s no doubt they continue to hold the bottom spot.