Riding High: 10 Factors that Will Put the Denver Broncos in the Playoffs

Mike WasowskiCorrespondent IAugust 11, 2010

Riding High: 10 Factors that Will Put the Denver Broncos in the Playoffs

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    There is a buzz in the air at Dove Valley. Despite all the injuries, whether minor or major, despite the departure of The Beast and T-Scheff, the excitement level is through the roof. The fans can feel it,but aren't voicing it just yet. The players are feeling it, the Coach is feeling it. So are these feelings justified, or just a pipe dream? Lets take a look.

10: The AFC West IS up for Grabs

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    Whether you like it or not, San Diego, This division is hardly yours for the taking, and without Vincent Jackson and Marcus Mcneil, there is no way you are shoo-ins.

    Oakland and Kansas City have both made major strides towards better organizations, and the AFC West could see major turnover in the standings this season.

    The AFC West is up for grabs, so which team will seize their opportunity?

9: The Schedule

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    @ Jacksonville
    VS Seattle
    VS Indianapolis
    @ Tennessee
    @ Baltimore
    VS Oakland
    @ San Francisco (in London)
    BYE
    VS Kansas City

    @ San Diego

    VS St. Louis

    @ Kansas City
    @ Arizona
    @ Oakland
    VS Houston
    VS San Diego

    The schedule is kind early, but after what should be a quick 2-0 start, the schedule gets tough. Let's just say that the Broncos split the next four games, that puts them at 4-2.

    Oakland at home should be a win, but in years past, the Raiders have found their way under Denver's skin. Denver should win in London against the Niners, so Denver should be around...wait for it...6-2 at the bye. Sound familiar? Here's where they finally get over that hump.

    Kansas City at home should be another win, and I believe Denver will finally have the Chargers' number this year. 8-2 going into a match-up against St. Louis.

      Though the Broncos traditionally play poorly against poor teams, McDaniels will keep this team focused to lock up their first winning season in four years. Visits to Kansas City, Arizona, and Oakland will result in a 2-1 record from the road trip, putting Denver's record at 11-3 The Houston game intrigues me greatly. I believe this is a playoff preview. For the sake of argument, we'll say Houston wins.

    In a meaningless game against San Diego to close out the season, Denver rests their starters and loses a close game in Tim Tebows first start.

    Denver can finish the season with something between an 11-5 record and a 9-7 record. It all depends on the four game stretch of Indy, Tenn, Bal, and NYJ. That stretch could be the difference between becoming division champs, and missing the playoffs.

8: Matt Prater

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    The Broncos are going to play some games down to the wire this season, they seemingly always do. So it helps greatly that they have a young, strong legged, accurate kicker.

    Matt Prater hit 30 of 35 field goals last season. He was perfect from 20-29 yards, hit 6/8 from 30-39 yards, and hit 10/13 from 40+ yards.

    The bottom line: Matt Prater will win games for the Broncos this year. You can take it to the bank

7: Impact Rookies

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    Tim Tebow: one could write an entire article on the great debate of bust or great. Whatever it turns out to be, make no mistake: Tebow will see the field this year. A lot. It will likely be running the "Wild Horses" offense and special Red Zone packages. (think Jump Pass)

    Eric Decker has impressed many people this year in camp, with comparisons already being drawn to Mccaffery. 

    The entire draft class will have the opportunity to make impacts early.

6: The Royal Treatment

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    In 2008, Eddie Royal had 91 receptions and 980 receiving yards. To say Royal saw his production drop significantly in 2009 is an understatement. Royal caught just 37 passes for a mere 345 yards.

    This year he's moving to the slot, in a system where the slot is vital. See: Wes Welker. Welker leads the league in receptions over the last three years. 

    In training camp, Royal has had the ball thrown his way a lot in situational drills. Expect that to cross over to the regular season, and when the ball is thrown his way, his speed makes him a deadly weapon.

5: BAY BAY

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    Thought I forgot about him in the rookie slide, huh?

    First off, one can not appreciate just how big and fast Bay Bay is until you have seen him in person. The guy looks like a tight end, and runs like a gazelle. 

    Though not as tall as The Beast (that's Brandon Marshall for those of you who don't know) Thomas is just as beastly. He can go up and get the ball and has made some spectacular catches throughout training camp. 

    Thomas is quickly becoming the favorite target of whoever is taking snaps. And for those of you who believe Bay Bay has route running issues, he ran a sharp flag route and put a move on fellow rookie Perrish Cox, who was havin a pretty good practice himself.

    Thomas will be the go-to-guy in Denver no matter who's under center, and he has an excellent chance to be rookie of the year.

4: Kyle Orton

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    No matter what he does, Kyle Orton can't get a break. He almost threw for 4,000 yards last season, with a 21/12 touchdown to interception ratio, exceptional numbers for any quarterback. 

    Yet Denver went out and brought in two young Quarterbacks to compete for the job. 

    All he has ever done is manage games, take care of the football, and put his team in a position to win. Yet he gets no respect. And through it all, how does he react?

    He goes to work. Absolutely nothing seems to phase this guy. Reports state that he has separated himself from Quinn and Tebow considerably. Watching him in training camp, Orton seems a hundred times more comfortable in this system, and he is making all the throws. 

    Kyle Orton is going to have the best year of his career, and by the way he is conducting himself in camp, you kinda get the sense that he knows it. 

3: Knowshon Moreno and the Depth at RB

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    Knowshon Moreno rushed for 947 yards, and averaged 3.8 yards a carry. His numbers should be even better in 2010. Moreno spent the offseason working on his footwork and his patience, the two biggest things that hindered his production.

    The Broncos also have Lendale White, Corell Buckhalter, and newly acquired Justin Fargas. If all stay healthy, the Broncos will be more than set at the position.

2: The Orange (and Blue) Crush

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    Led by all pro safety Brian Dawkins and all pro cornerback Champ Bailey, the Broncos defense unit is a nice mix of Seasoned Veterans and young players looking to make a name for themselves.

    Though they will be without sack leader Elvis Dumervil, Denver's defense should be just as good if not better than last year. It happens all the time in this league, a star goes down, and a previously unknown player steps up. 

1: The COACH

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    When Josh McDaniels arrived in Denver, he dismantled one of the leagues top offenses. He had many people scratching their heads, including me. But I get it now, and you should too. McDaniels' philosophy is simply "No one individual is bigger than the team." His players are buying into it, the fans are beginning to buy into it, even the media is begining to understand the McDaniels' philosophy. 

    He has loaded this team with hard working, good character individuals who put the team first. With Winners. And the team is buying into it, following their coach, and above all, they WANT to play for him.

    A year ago, many people had questions about the direction of this team under McD, including some of his own players. Now, they get it, now they understand. They are ready to rally behind their head coach. That is the reason for all the buzz and excitement, and nothing is more dangerous than a team that rallies behind and fights for their coach.