It has been a roller coaster ride of a season for the Denver Broncos, as cliche' as it may sound. After starting 6-0, the Broncos were sky-high heading into their bye week. They had just gone on the road and beaten the San Diego Chargers, and were ahead in the division by 3.5 games.
Little did they know that history has a nasty habit of repeating itself.
Coming back from their bye week, the Broncos were absolutely crushed by the Baltimore Ravens, and a team that won six straight games to start the season has suddenly lost seven of its last nine.
The Broncos are on the outside looking in at the AFC playoff picture, and they need a win this weekend plus a little bit of help to get themselves to a place they have not been since the 2005 AFC Championship game.
Despite the inconsistency from the Denver Broncos as a unit, this team has achieved more than most anyone this past offseason could have ever anticipated. Many thought the Broncos would vie for the top pick in the 2010 NFL Draft after trading away former quarterback Jay Cutler, firing Mike Shanahan, and having a disgruntled superstar wide receiver.
The Broncos have served crow on a platter all season long, though lately they seem like the team many of those critics thought they would be.
Denver is one win and a little help away from a postseason birth, and here are some of the great players who have helped get them there.
This pick was probably the easiest, seeing that Moreno was really the only Broncos rookie to see a significant amount of playing time. Though the Georgia product has not been productive of late, he has been the best rookie runner all season long, and has been a workhorse for the Broncos this season.
Moreno has carried the ball 233 times for 897 yards and five rushing touchdowns this season. He has also caught 25 passes for 165 yards and two more scores.
Some questioned the Broncos' drafting of Moreno, but he has become a very productive player in this offensive scheme, though he has a lot of room to grow as an inside runner. He has a promising future in this league.
Amidst the trading of Jay Cutler this past offseason was lost the signing of safety Brian Dawkins for the Denver Broncos.
In fact, it seemed as though the Broncos received a bit of negative publicity for signing Dawkins to such a lucrative deal despite his age and recent injuries. The 14th-year safety did not disappoint.
Dawkins was an instant fan favorite after coming over from the Philadelphia Eagles, from his pregame antics to sideline leadership. Dawkins has been the complete package for the Denver Broncos.
He is the emotional leader of the defense, one in which he helped bring from the bottom of the NFL all the way to the top. Denver's defense, which ranked as close to 32nd as you can be without drafting in the top five is now in the top ten in three of the four major categories, including scoring, total yards, and passing yards.
Individually, Dawkins is having one of the better seasons of his career. He is second on the team with 108 tackles, two interceptions, two passes defensed, and a forced fumble.
Dawkins is the heart and soul of this resurgent Denver Broncos defensive effort.
For years, the Broncos have been looking for the perfect compliment to All-Pro cornerback Champ Bailey, and for years, they have failed. The closest they have come to finding a solid number two corner was probably Darrent Williams, may he rest in peace.
This offseason, the Broncos brought in little-known Andre' Goodman, formerly of the Miami Dolphins and Detroit Lions. Goodman led the Dolphins in 2008 with five interceptions, and his acquisition went largely unnoticed by NFL fans accross the country.
Goodman really burst onto the scene for the Broncos, making a huge splash in training camp and the preseason.
In the regular season, he has not disappointed, and he has given the Broncos the number-two cornerback they have craved ever since Champ Bailey came to Denver.
Goodman leads the Broncos with four interceptions, and also has 39 tackles, 15 passes defensed, a sack, and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. He has taken a lot of pressure off of recently-named Pro Bowl-cornerback Champ Bailey, and may be the most underrated offseason acquisition of any team in this league.
This one is pretty much a no-brainer. The Broncos' offensive line has dropped off since 2008, but Ryan Clady is still one of the most dominant left tackles in the game, and he was rewarded for it with a Pro Bowl selection in 2009.
Clady is the anchor of the Broncos' offensive line, and will be for years to come. He is a soft-spoken player, and there is not a lot to say about the kid. His play does all of the talking.
Initially when thinking of special teamers, players like David Bruton and Wesley Woodyard came to mind. I almost completely forgot that kickers and punters are equally as capable of winning this award, and when I came to that realization, the decision to choose Matt Prater was absolutely a piece of cake.
After a disasterous finish to 2008 in which many thought Prater had lost his job, the Broncos' kicker has come back to have a phenomenal 2009 campaign. His field goal percentage is up nearly 12 percent from 2008, as he has connected on 29 of his 34 attempts in 2009.
Prater is really an all-around kicker, as he not only has a reliable field goal kicking foot, he also is a booming kickoff specialist, kicking 25 balls for touchbacks so far this season.
Though Prater's contributions go largely unnoticed because many are disappointed when he has to line up for a field goal after failing to score a touchdown, he really has been a great weapon for the Broncos this season.
Is there really any question about this decision?
Elvis Dumervil is having the best season in terms of pass rushing in Denver Broncos team history, racking up a team-record 17 sacks in 2009.
Dumervil has been a feared pass rusher ever since he came into the league in 2006, but this season he made the switch to outside linebacker and he has flourished under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.
In addition to his NFL-leading 17 sacks, Dumervil has also totaled a career high 48 tackles, three passes defensed, and a whopping four forced fumbles.
Dumervil may be undersized, but his excellent arm length give him the ability to gain leverage on his opponents with his short stature, and for 2009, he has become the best pass rusher in the NFL.
I figured it was appropriate for Marshall's picture to come on his record-setting day against Indianapolis earlier this season, as it really is a good example of how dedicated he is to his craft.
Though the offseason was once again not so kind to Marshall, or Marshall to it, he has bounced back to have his best season as a Denver Bronco, though that wasn't always going to be the case.
Before Marshall's breakout year, there were rumors that he might be traded and even Marshall might not have believed that he was going to be a Bronco in 2009. When asked if he would be wearing number 15 for the Broncos in 2009, he answered, "I'll be wearing number 15."
Marshall then proceeded to get suspended for the final two games of the preseason after missing most of the offseason workouts with an injury because of detrimental conduct to the team.
Though the loss of Jay Cutler seemed to indicate Marshall would have the worst season of his career, he has become the favorite target of Kyle Orton and has posted great numbers in his fourth season in the NFL.
Marshall has caught 101 passes for 1,120 yards and a career high ten touchdowns. "The Beast" has been the best player on Denver's offense this season, and has single-handedly helped them win games (see New York Giants game).
The former UCF star is three receptions away from breaking his own career mark of 104 in a single season, and is one of only five players in NFL history to have caught over 100 passes in three straight seasons. Marshall is a special player and is one the Broncos need to lock up after this season and build their offense around.
This one might be debatable, but when it comes down to it, it only makes the most sense.
The only reason the Broncos are in contention for anything this season is because of their stellar defensive effort and turnaround this year. Though many free agents and draft picks have been essential to that turnaround, no player has been more instrumental in the Broncos' defense than middle linebacker D.J. Williams, who may earn his first Pro Bowl bid as an alternate in 2009.
Williams is the most underrated linebacker in the NFL, period. He consistently leads the Broncos in tackles, and this year is no different as he is tops on the team with 111 stops. In addition to his 111 tackles, Williams also has 3.5 sacks and three fumbles forced this season, both career highs.
He has been the best player and the leader of the Denver defense in 2009, and it is only fitting that the biggest contributor on the Broncos' biggest strength should be the team's most valuable player.