At 7-1, the Denver Broncos no longer have the best record in the AFC. In fact, they don't even have the best record in their own division.
That distinction belongs to the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. Still, the Broncos have to be considered one of the favorites to reach the Super Bowl, based largely on their high-powered offense.
Denver has a bye coming up in Week 9, and it comes at an opportune time. It gives the team a chance to improve upon its deficiencies.
Here are five areas where the Broncos can make adjustments. If they do, a trip to the Super Bowl is within reach.
Play a More Consistent First Half
The Broncos have ended up on the right side of some very lopsided games this season. However, they seem to struggle getting out of the starting gate.
|Denver Broncos: First Half versus Second Half|
|Half||Points For||Points Against|
Though they have won seven of eight games, they have trailed at halftime three times. Even poor teams that they were beating in the first half kept it too close for comfort. Against the New York Giants, they held just a 10-9 lead. Against the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars, they were up by a mere two points at the break.
The team deserves credit for making the proper halftime adjustments and coming out looking like a rejuvenated squad, but good teams will take advantage of slow starts.
Denver trailed by 12 points at halftime in its only loss of the season to Indianapolis. After the Colts added another score in the third quarter, it proved to be too big of a deficit for the Broncos to come back from.
The team needs to find a way to play a solid four quarters in order to keep the pressure on its opponents. The second half of the season schedule is considerably more difficult than the first.
Stick with Knowshon Moreno
The first four years of Knowshon Moreno's career were fairly forgettable, so it is understandable for the coaching staff to take a cautious approach with him.
But in 2013, few running backs have been better than Moreno, especially when you consider that the rest of the Denver running back corps has been ineffective.
|Denver Broncos Running Backs|
|Player||Rushing Yards||Yards Per Carry||TDs||Receptions||Receiving Yards|
|All other Denver RBs||381||3.8||2||14||146|
Of the eight rushing touchdowns scored by him this season, five of them have come from inside the 5-yard line.
So why was Ronnie Hillman in the game in a crucial spot against Indianapolis? Why was Montee Ball getting work around the goal against Washington?
Moreno has silenced all his critics to this point. He has put away the notion of a committee at the running back position.
He's proved he can carry the load. So leave those other guys for trash time and let him carry the ball when it matters.
Step up the Pass Rush
Yes, Von Miller was suspended for the first six games of the season, but the loss of Elvis Dumervil seems evident.
The Broncos have gotten good production out of Robert Ayers and free-agent acquisition Shaun Phillips, who have 4.5 and 6.5 sacks, respectively, but they haven't generated the kind of pressure they did last season.
Miller will help, but teams are going to double-team him now that there is no major threat on the other side.
With 121.5 career sacks, he would have instantly made the Broncos' pass rush more effective. Instead, they'll have to find a way to get heat on the opposing quarterback with the players they have.
Improve the Pass Defense
This has to be the team's biggest concern.
The Broncos are ranked No. 30 in the league in defending the pass, giving up 299.1 yards per game. They have also allowed 15 touchdown passes—only four teams have allowed more.
The team has been without Champ Bailey for much of the season, but he didn't look great when he did play.
Who will step up in the secondary to make key stops and prevent big plays? Denver has a good nucleus of young defensive backs; they just need to learn to communicate better.
Creating a better pass rush would help the secondary immensely, but the defensive backs all must do a better job of tackling. Numerous missed tackles have led to big plays this season.
The pass defense looked much better against Washington. The Broncos just need to maintain that level of play.
The next time a quarterback throws for more than 500 yards against them, as Tony Romo did in Week 5, it could mean the end of their season.
Hang onto the Ball
The Broncos have been plagued by fumbles this season, and they can look at them as being one of the main reasons for their only loss this year.
Against Indianapolis, a fumble by Peyton Manning after a hit by defensive end Robert Mathis and Hillman's late fumble in the fourth quarter were two of the biggest plays of that game.
Hillman was placed on the inactive list for the game against Washington and replaced by C.J. Anderson.
The Broncos lead the league with 11 fumbles this season. No other team has lost more than nine, and no other team in the AFC has lost more than seven.
Due to this, the Broncos have a minus-1 turnover ratio on the year. Denver won't win games in the playoffs by turning the ball over like that, so the team needs to get a handle on this sooner than later.
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