NFL Playoff Push: Breaking Down The Denver Broncos' Remaining 10 Games

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NFL Playoff Push: Breaking Down The Denver Broncos' Remaining 10 Games
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Even with the extra week off to let it sink in, it's still hard to believe that we're actually where we are.

The Denver Broncos are 6-0 and hold a three-game lead over the Chargers in the AFC West.

The Broncos and their fans have been on cloud nine all season long, but as head coach Josh McDaniels reminds the media every week, a 6-0 record doesn't mean squat. It doesn't give the Broncos the AFC West, a conference championship, or the Super Bowl ring all coaches and players are after.

All it means to McDaniels and the team is that they had a solid start to the season and they need to be playing their best football in the final weeks. Plenty of teams have started fast throughout NFL history only to crash and burn at the end of the regular season and/or the postseason.

That said, the Broncos are in prime position to make the postseason for the first time since the 2005 season. However, they still face a tough slate of games ahead that will test their mettle and make sure they are playing the best football each and every week, regardless of the "significance" a game holds.

Here's how the Denver Broncos remaining 10 games should shape up as the Broncos make a push for a division title and a postseason berth:

Nov. 1, at Baltimore Ravens

Many outside observers look at the Ravens as a team in a bit of trouble after their sizzling 3-0 start to the season. The Ravens defense has been anything but fierce and the suddenly explosive offense, led by second year quarterback Joe Flacco, has gone back into its shell. 

However, if there is one thing any coach in the NFL should know is that you never underestimate a defense that has Ray Lewis on it. Lewis is one of the all-time great leaders in NFL history and he will have his unit ready to play against the undefeated Broncos.

Still, I like the Broncos No. 1 defense better here as the Broncos remain undefeated for at least one more week.

Prediction: Broncos win

Nov. 9 vs Pittsburgh Steelers

The Broncos' second appearance on Monday Night Football in four weeks is a home affair against the defending Super Bowl champion Steelers. The Steelers got off to a bit of a sluggish start in 2009 after All-Pro safety Troy Polamalu went down with an injury, but they have since come roaring back with Polamalu back in the lineup.

If there is one defense in the NFL right now that more dangerous than the Broncos, it's the Steelers. One only needs to look at the drubbing they put on the previously unbeaten Vikings in Week Seven. Dick LeBeau's unit swarms from all over the place and will be giving Kyle Orton fits all day.

All in all, I think the Broncos unbeaten streak stops at seven.

Prediction: Broncos lose

Nov. 15 at Washington Redskins

Ever since the Broncos started their magical run, fans have been openly wondering how this team would handle adversity. What would the team do once it lost its first game?

While there is no shame in losing to a solid team like Pittsburgh, Denver gets a chance at what should be an easy bounce back game against the Washington Redskins. I'm not going to re-hash all the Redskins' problems because every other sportswriter has been writing about them ad nauseum.

That said, this still has the potential to be a trap game for the Broncos. I don't see that happening, however, as the attitude McDaniels has instilled in this team shouldn't allow such a thing to happen.

Prediction: Broncos win

Nov. 22 vs San Diego Chargers

The last time the Broncos met the Chargers it was the Eddie Royal Show on Monday Night Football. Royal returned a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the Broncos' 34-23 win. The Broncos were behind at the half, but behind Royal and some great halftime adjustments made by the coaching staff, the Broncos were able to come from behind for the win.

This time the Broncos have the home field advantage and the Chargers could be a very desperate team at this point facing a potential huge deficit in the division. It's likely Norv Turner could be coaching for his life coming into this game.

I like the Broncos here to do yet another "impossible" task that no one gave them a chance to do at the start of the season: Sweep the series against the Chargers.

Prediction: Broncos Win

Nov. 26 vs New York Giants

The Broncos return to the slate of Thanksgiving Day gamesthis year playing in the nightcap against the Giants. The Giants got off to yet another strong start this season by winning their first five games. They fell back to Earth the past two games though, getting blown out by the Saints in New Orleans and losing a squeaker at home against the Cardinals.

The Giants' defense is still their strong suit even with new defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. Eli Manning has struggled a bit as of late and it is taking time for him to gel with his new receivers. 

I look for the Broncos to give Eli fits, but Kyle Orton might need to have a career day against the Giants to win. I think Denver loses its second game of the year here.

Prediction: Broncos lose

Dec. 6 at Kansas City Chiefs

Once again after a potential loss to a solid team, the Broncos face what should be an easy game to bounce back against an inferior opponent. The Chiefs are in a rebuilding process under first-year head coach Todd Haley with former Tom Brady backup Matt Cassel under center. 

They also have a potential major headache in running back Larry Johnson, whose Twitter escapades earned him a suspension by the team this week. With no solid backup, the Chiefs offense is one of the weakest in the NFL.

In another potential trap game, Denver should win this one no problem. The defense should have no trouble containing the Chiefs' offense, and the Broncos' offense should run all over the Chiefs.

Prediction: Broncos win

Dec. 13 at Indianapolis Colts

In what could be a preview of either an AFC divisional playoff game or even the AFC Championship, the Broncos undoubtedly face their toughest task of the 2009 season: Stopping Peyton Manning. No one has been able to do so thus far, and frankly I am not sure if anyone can.

What has been remarkable about the Colts this season is that Manning is working with all new wide receivers, especially with Reggie Wayne out with injury. Manning has his young wideouts looking like seasoned vets. That's the mark of a truly great quarterback.

With home field advantage throughout the playoffs possibly on the line, Denver will keep this closer than many think it will be. I don't think it will be enough.

Prediction: Broncos lose

Dec. 20 vs Oakland Raiders

Unbelievably, the Raiders showed signs of life two weeks ago, upsetting the Eagles 13-9.

Then the following week they were promptly shutout by rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez and the Jets, 38-0.

Such are the Oakland Raiders. Who knows who will be under center for the Raiders. Should JaMarcus Russell continue his putrid play? I say who cares? Denver should win this one, too.

Prediction: Broncos win

Dec. 27 at Philadelphia Eagles

In this game, the Broncos face their their last true tuneup before the playoffs start.  The Eagles could still be in the midst of a three-way battle for the NFC East at this point, so the Broncos should expect to see an intense Eagles squad.

The Broncos likely would have the AFC West sewn up at this point, but it seems like that won't keep McDaniels from getting maximum effort out of his team. Teams that go flat towards the end of the regular season are usually one-and-done once the postseason begins.

I think this game will be a real toss-up, but I like the Eagles here just because they will have more on the line than Denver. It will be a close game throughout.

Prediction: Broncos lose

Jan. 3 vs Kansas City Chiefs

In the regular season finale, the Broncos likely will be resting many starters for the playoffs. That said, I still think the Broncos second-teamers are better than most of the Chiefs' starters, so I look for the Broncos to win this game.

Prediction: Broncos win

If you tally it all up, I have the Broncos going 12-4 although that could easily be 13-3 depending on the outcome of the game against the Eagles. In a season in which the Broncos were expected to not win more than five games or so, a 12 win season will be cause for celebration in Denver.

The team won't be celebrating though unless they are able to win the ultimate prize, Super Bowl XLIV in Miami. Could this team be one of the greatest Cinderella stories in league history and bring home the Lombardi Trophy?

With the AFC being ultra-competitivean 11-5 record did not warrant a playoff trip in 2008I think the Broncos stand a good chance of getting a first-round bye. They own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Patriots because of the win earlier this season. 

I think the Colts get home field, and the No. 2 seed will come down to Denver and whomever wins the AFC North, which I think will be Pittsburgh. If that's the case and they beat the Broncos during the regular season, they get the No. 2 seed and Denver faces a wild card team in the first round. 

This is how I see the Broncos finishing the 2009 season, but if there is one thing this team has taught us it is to expect the unexpected and to believe. This team could still go 16-0 at this time.  t's still a possibility and as long as it still is, the Broncos will continue to pursue that goal.

Buckle up Broncos fans, the fun has just begun.

You can follow Kris Burke on Twitter @KBurkeNFL

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