Projecting Biggest Roadblocks in Denver Broncos' Pursuit of AFC West Title
Let's face it; the AFC West is not exactly a powerhouse division. Last season, three out of the four teams finished tied at the top with an 8-8 record.
The hardest part of the Broncos' schedule is behind them and their road to the postseason will be dictated by the way they handle themselves on the field. With a weaker division it will be up to Denver to take advantage of this opportunity.
Here's a look at the biggest obstacles that could potentially derail the Broncos from riding all the way to the AFC West title.
Week 9: The Cincinnati Bengals
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Denver will face the Bengals on the road in Cincinnati during the ninth week of the season. The Bengals are somewhat of a wild card, as one does not know which team will show up each week.
They certainly have the offensive weapons necessary to give the Broncos a hard time. Cincinnati currently ranks seventh in the NFL in total offense. They are averaging 382.2 combined yards per game with an average point total of 28.3.
Their second-year quarterback, Andy Dalton, has had some turnover issues which bodes well for Denver. However, Dalton has the talent, an elite receiver in A.J Green and the potential to do some damage to the struggling Broncos defense if he's on point.
So far both the Broncos and Bengals have had their share of inconsistencies in their performances on the field. Their matchup could really go either way. However, if Cincinnati is playing to their ability, this could be a stumbling block on Denver's road to the playoffs.
Week 14: The Oakland Raiders
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This season the Raiders have not shown us much to be impressed by, especially in their first meeting with the Broncos.
They met in the fourth week of the season with Denver outperforming the Raiders on both sides of the ball, resulting in a 37-6 Denver win.
The two teams will meet again in Week 14 when Denver travels to the Bay Area to meet their division rival. On paper, this game looks to highly favor the Broncos, being that Oakland is ranked 27th in overall defense. The way Peyton Manning has played this season would appear to be too much for the Raiders to handle.
However, the circumstances surrounding this matchup make it a possible bump in the road for the Broncos. They meet on a Thursday night, which can tend to make things difficult for a road team on a short week.
Oakland is a difficult place to play, and anything can happen in this highly competitive division rivalry.
Week 15: The Baltimore Ravens
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Even though the Ravens defense just got a bit weaker after the loss of both Ray Lewis and Lardarius Webb to serious injuries last week against the Cowboys, Baltimore will still be a tough game for these Denver Broncos.
They will meet in the latter part of the season when both teams will most likely be battling for a division title or the potential for home-field advantage in the playoffs.
So far this season the Ravens stand fifth overall in total offense with 1,636 yards in the air and 674 on the ground. If that type of production continues against Denver, it could prove too much for Manning to have to overcome yet again.
Coming into this matchup, the Ravens lead the series, defeating the Broncos in six of their nine meetings. There are numerous variables and still a multitude of games that have yet to be played to see what kind of impact this matchup will have on both Denver and Baltimore's postseason hopes.
Either way, it should be a good one.
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The amount of turnovers Denver has given up each week has been somewhat unsettling for Broncos fans. With numbers like theirs, teams rarely win football games. Somehow, the Broncos have managed to win three of those games, but it has not been pretty.
Peyton Manning has thrown four interceptions, three of which were in the first quarter of the game against the Falcons. Denver has put three balls on the ground via running backs, two by Willis McGahee and the other courtesy of Knowshon Moreno.
Demaryius Thomas has contributed to the Broncos' fumblitis by turning three balls over to the opposing team this season.
Last Monday against the Chargers, special teams even got in on the turnover action. Both new waiver-wire pickup Trindon Holliday and rookie Omar Bolden fumbled early in the first quarter.
The Broncos cannot continue to make these errors on the field and expect to win the games necessary to come out on top of the AFC West.
Lousy First 30
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The Broncos have been consistent in at least one thing this season, a horrific first half of football.
In their first six games this season, Denver has been outscored by their opponents 92-42 in the first two quarters of play. The game against the Raiders was the only time this season that the Broncos went into the locker room at the half with a lead.
Peyton Manning will not be able to pull off these late-game comebacks every week in order to dig themselves out. The Broncos will need to find a way to make plays early in order to give themselves a break in the latter part of these games.
If Denver can get off to a fast start and play four solid quarters of football, their path to the AFC West could be much clearer.