Swagger Regained, the Denver Broncos Must Step Up Once Again

Henry HAnalyst IDecember 7, 2009

44-13 over the Kansas City Chiefs. The way it should be.

With their four-game freefall and the depths of depression feeling far off, the Denver Broncos have now won two games in a row to move their record to 8-4.

They currently sit at the fifth seed in the AFC, occupying the first of two wild-card openings. They are second in the AFC West, behind the red-hot San Diego Chargers, winners of seven straight.

The final four weeks of the season will prove challenging for the Broncos, and they will need to continue playing at the level exhibited on Sunday in Kansas City.

First on the schedule is a trip to "the Oil Can" or Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the undefeated Indianapolis Colts.

The Denver pass defense will be put to the test by Peyton Manning and the extremely high-powered Colts offense. It will be imperative for the Broncos to keep pressure on Manning, and the defensive backs must continue the exceptional play they have shown over the past two games.

As the New England Patriots and Houston Texans have both demonstrated, no lead is safe when Manning and the Colts' offense is on the opposite sideline, and the Broncos will have to score early and often to keep the pressure on for all 60 minutes.

If the Broncos end up on the short side of a relatively close game, it would be a respectable showing.

The following week, they must play the suddenly-upstart Oakland Raiders. With shocking last-second wins against the Bengals and Steelers, the Raiders have become a semi-legitimate opponent.

This will be a critical game for the Broncos, especially if they fall in Indy. A win at home against the Raiders would put the hypothetical record at 9-5, likely retaining the fifth seed.

Two days after Christmas, the Broncos will visit Philadelphia in Brian Dawkins' much-anticipated homecoming. In a game that could go either way, the Broncos will need to play physical football and put pressure on Donovan McNabb.

If the Broncos are able to leave Philadelphia with a 10-5 record, both players and fans should be very proud of their team.

More importantly, the team would then have the opportunity to give some starters a much-needed rest during the regular season finale against the Chiefs.

The Denver Broncos have re-focused themselves, worked hard, and righted the ship. As bad as the four game losing streak felt, in hindsight it may have happened at exactly the right time.

Losing streaks that begin a season can be detrimental to team and fanbase morale, and losing streaks to finish the season can knock a competitive team out of the play-offs, a situation that is all too familiar in Denver.

Losing streaks that fall smack in the middle of the season, however, can be enough to force the players to "wake up" and refocus without damaging either morale or even play-off hopes.

The Denver Broncos have a very real shot at finishing the 2009 season with an 11-5 record, far better than anyone would give them credit for in the preseason.

With this in mind, it is time to once again step things up. Step up practicing, step up effort, step up with the leadership.

The time is now for this team to drive away the demons of last year and regain their status as one of the AFC's strongest contenders, maybe even venturing to say "AFC's elite."