Denver Broncos: Is There Hope In The Mile High City?

Kris BurkeCorrespondent IOctober 12, 2010

BALTIMORE, MD - OCTOBER 10:  Members of the Denver Broncos take the field for pregame warmups before the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 10, 2010 in Baltimore, Maryland. Players wore pink in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The Ravens defeated the Broncos 31-17. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)
Larry French/Getty Images

After a 31-17 beating at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens, the Denver Broncos are bruised and battered—both physically and mentally.

Is there a medic in the house?

Not only did the Broncos lose two more defensive starters for more than a week with linebacker Robert Ayers and safety Brian Dawkins, but the team was mentally beaten to a point that they looked like they were ready to curl up in a ball and start sucking their thumbs and asking for their bottles.

That may sound a bit harsh, but even coach Josh McDaniels admitted that his team's mental toughness really had been drawn into question for the first time. When the head coach begins to question such things, the Broncos could be seen as being a team in deep trouble. Throw in the fact that the 4-1 New York Jets come into town this weekend, and people will begin running in circles yelling "THE SKY IS FALLING!."

Yet there is reason for optimism in Denver.

First, the Broncos schedule is about to get much easier. After the Jets game, the Broncos face each team in a very weak AFC West twice, and then the toughest game not including those would be either at home against Houston in Week 16 or at Arizona in Week 14 and even those teams look flawed.

The Broncos, assuming they are 2-4 after this coming game, likely will not run the table to finish 12-4.  However, in such a weak division, 9-7 or 8-8 could be good enough to win the division and get into the postseason.  That is a much more feasible possibility

Next is the arm of Kyle Orton.  Despite the loss, Orton continued his ridiculous start to the season and is still on pace to smash Dan Marino's passing yardage record in a single season. Even more impressive is that he didn't commit a single turnover against the Ravens and the offensive line kept him upright for the most part against an incredibly aggressive pass rush.

That said, the Broncos still struggled to run the ball. In fact it seemed like McDaniels didn't even bother to commit to the run at all. Laurence Maroney unsurprisingly no luck against a stiff Ravens rushing defense. With a Rex Ryan defense coming to town, it's highly unlikely the Broncos will have much more luck this week.

Still, the running game can and should get going. Once Knowshon Moreno comes back, combined with a softer schedule, you should see the Broncos make a much more concrete effort to commit to the run. Despite what some fans may say, McDaniels is not so stupid as to believe he can make a playoff push with such an incredibly one-dimensional offense.

The injuries on defense are an obvious cause for concern as well. With Elvis Dumervil already on injured reserve, the loss of Ayers, who was starting to show some potential in his second year, and Dawkins, who has brought tremendous leadership to the defense, forces the young players on the defense to step up before some may be ready.

Even with the youth on defense, linebacker D.J. Williams is having a career year and cornerback Champ Bailey remains as dangerous as ever despite being banged up recently himself. Defensive tackle Jamaal Williams and linebacker Mario Haggan continue to improve, so the Broncos pass rush while weakened should still be able to get the job done.

The final reason for Broncos fans not to lose hope is that they are still only a game and a half behind the Chiefs for first place.  It's not like the Broncos are trying to dig themselves out of an 0-5 hole in a weak division like the San Francisco 49ers are in the AFC West.  Taking out the loss in Baltimore last week, the Broncos have been competitive in each game and could easily be 3-2 or even 4-1 had they had a few breaks go their way against the Colts.

Once again, step back from the ledge Broncos fans.  This season is not over and the Broncos will not go down without a fight.  The team still is solidly in McDaniels' corner and the team will not roll over to anyone, even in garbage time as show by the Broncos late drive against the Ravens last week.

The saying goes that "Hope springs eternal."  Despite the team's late season struggles the past few years, perhaps this is the year the Broncos surge into the playoffs thanks to a late season hot streak. Either way you look at it, the season is barely 25 percent complete and anything can happen in the NFL.

That's why they play the games.

Follow Kris Burke on Twitter @KBurkeNFL