Amidst the offseason turmoil that dominated any and all press concerning the Denver Broncos, the consensus opinion emerged that Denver was in a "rebuilding stage" and that coach Josh McDaniels wouldn't last more than one season.
One major poll on ESPN projected Denver to win just three games all season. If that is to be the case, then the Broncos will have to close 1-13 after their solid 27-6 handling of the Cleveland Browns.
In all fairness, the Bengals and Browns are not playoff-caliber squads, so Denver's early season success should of course be taken with a grain of salt. But it seems that Denver's consistent, blue-collar schemes don't have the flair that most major networks and commentators want to talk about.
Jay Cutler gave them fireworks, big plays and touchdown passes that made weekly highlight reels. But he also gave up way too many red-zone interceptions and wore his defense out by putting them on the field for 35-40 minutes per game.
Kyle Orton's journeyman success on the other hand, will continue to be ignored. No one is going to mistake his skill set for Jay Cutler's. But Orton has eclipsed 200 yards passing in both contests, and more importantly, has managed both wins without throwing any interceptions. His patience has prevented costly turnovers, gave the defense time to rest and kept the Broncos in the game.
Denver's run game is still taking time to develop, as aside from Correll Buckhalter's late 45-yard TD scamper, Denver hasn't had any explosiveness to their ground attack. Knowshon Moreno has been battling injuries and needs to show that he was worth a first-round selection as he has split time with the veteran Buckhalter.
The committee approach this week by Denver bared a strong resemblance to McDaniels' New England heritage, with Peyton Hillis and Lamont Jordan getting some situational snaps as well.
Something to consider is that the Denver run game may produce less this year as defenses dare Orton to throw against thin secondaries that load the box. This could come back to hurt them however as the Broncos had eight different players register receptions against Cleveland and Cincinnati, with a near even distribution of throws to receivers and RBs/TEs.
The pass-catching ability of the Broncos TEs and backs cannot be ignored, and McDaniels knows from experience that an offense that uses all its players is more difficult to defend than a team with just one or two main targets. Despite not having Cutler's cannon arm, Orton is still more than sufficient at throwing short safe passes that can turn into large gains after the catch.
Lastly, Denver's defense has made significant strides compared to last year's squad. While the defensive line is hardly scary, they have still produced enough pressure to keep the secondary from having to run with receivers for ten seconds every play.
Additions Andra Davis and Mario Haggan both have made plays in the first two games, and team with Elvis Dumervil and D.J. Williams to form a linebacking unit that is much better than they will get credit for.
Like the offense, these guys haven't made a bunch of highlight reel plays, but have played sufficiently well to manage the game and keep the Broncos in contention.
Next week's matchup at Oakland will show if the Broncos are going to separate themselves once more from their rival and annual AFC West doormat, or if they will fall victim to the inevitably doomed season most experts have called for.
After JaMarcus Russell managed to complete only seven passes against an equally lowly Chiefs team, fans have to think that the Broncos have a great chance at opening 3-0, and for the moment, silencing all the doubters.
At the very least, the Broncos will know they can lose the next 13 and haven't let any analysts down.