After a 29-49 beat-down of the division-leading Kansas City Chiefs, the Denver faithful have put away their pitchforks, torches, and "Fire McDaniels" signs, at least for one more week.
The Broncos knocked the Chiefs out of sole possession of first place, and even though the victory put the Raiders on top of the division, it was still a nice change of pace from the losing streak we had almost gotten used to.
Although most of the starters for this game were the same Denver has started week in and week out, I spent most of the game trying to figure out who had stolen these orange jerseys and was pummeling Kansas City into submission.
It appears the bye week came at just the right time, as Denver has revamped the team and is ready to make a second-half push for a respectable finish, if nothing else.
Here are 10 things I think the Denver Broncos will accomplish over the course of their final seven games.
Hey, I said these were going to be bold. Last year Moreno led all rookies in rushing with 947 yards. With seven games to go, he currently needs 589 yards to match his total from last year.
It isn't out of the realm of possibility for Moreno to break 1,000 yards, as he currently needs to average a little over 91 yards a game from here on out. If the revamped offensive line can continue to create the holes it opened against Kansas City, he should accomplish this without a problem.
Secondly, as long as his hamstrings stay relatively healthy and he continues to get the bulk of the carries, he will make a run at it. I'm sure all of the Denver faithful can agree that this is really the first game Moreno has looked like the true No. 1 back that his draft status reflects.
Orton was sacked a total of 29 times last year, and he has already been sacked 21 times in 2010. With seven games to go, if this line can stay healthy and intact, he will not exceed his sack total from last year--especially with an increase in running plays.
There is nothing more painful to watch than Kyle Orton trying to scramble for a few extra yards.
Now that Ryan Harris is healthy and able to return, Zane Beadles can shift back to his natural position at left guard, and the Denver offensive line can continue to give Orton all day to throw the ball.
This was one of the few games that Orton had all day to throw the ball, and he meticulously picked apart the Chiefs secondary. If the offensive line can keep up this production--not only allowing Orton time, but opening holes for Moreno--this offense will become very scary.
So as it turns out, Kyle Orton really likes throwing to guys named Brandon. After the loss of Brandon Marshall in an off-season trade, all the talk seemed to be about Denver's receiving corps and its lack of a No. 1 guy.
Not only did those claims turn out to be wrong, they could not have been further from the truth. Brandon Lloyd has stepped up as the go-to guy, as everyone who has faced him this year in their fantasy leagues has found out.
Last year Marshall caught 101 passes for 1,120 yards. Through nine games, Lloyd has caught 48 passes for 968 yards. Wait, what? That is correct. With less than half the passes, he is a mere 152 yards away from equalling Marshall's total from all of last year.
How can this be?
Very simply put: GO DEEP.
Lloyd is currently leading the league in passes of 20+ yards with 18, and is dominating the rest of the league with seven catches of over 40 yards. The most surprising and encouraging part of these stats is the fact that he is doing it with the league's worst rushing offense. Teams can sit back and wait for the pass, and Lloyd is still burning them.
Lloyd is averaging over 20 yards per catch (20.2) and even more impressive, 93 percent of his catches are for first downs. Lloyd has led the league in receiving for awhile, and Denver fans don't expect that to stop anytime soon.
At first when Tebow would run in at the goal line, I'd get anxious. Is he going to run it? Throw it? Walk through the offensive and defensive line and score through the process of osmosis? Now that he has found the endzone several times, the Denver faithful has gotten used to it and is calling for more.
Sensing this, McDaniels finally allowed Tebow to throw the ball against the Kansas City Chiefs, and to no surprise, he threw a touchdown pass. 1-1, 1 TD. Could Timmy have it any other way?
Now that McD has introduced that wrinkle, I predict he will turn Tebow loose for the remainder of the year outside of the redzone.
If you analyze his TD pass, he first faked the run before tossing it to a wide open Spencer Larsen for the score. Expect him to do this a lot more, only around the 30-40 yard line for the long score.
Tebow currently has 4 touchdowns (3 rushing, 1 passing) on the season in very limited time. Expect him to finish somewhere around 12 touchdowns, with 9 rushing and 3 passing.
All year, the Broncos pass rush has been as awful as expected at the hands of its depleted defensive front. With Elvis Dumervil out early, and Robert Ayers out as of late, the Broncos have not been able to put together a formidable pass rush to help out their overworked and aging secondary.
It's a pretty sad statement when your leading tackler on the team is also leading the team in sacks with 3.5. It's an even sadder day when that player gets popped for his second DUI a few days before the game against the division leader.
Even though D.J. WIlliams only sat out the first series, he still did not make much of an impact on the game.
Mario Haggan, however, did. Making the most out of this opportunity, Haggan sacked Matt Cassel 3 times, coming up just short of the teams SEASON leader.
Expect Denver to get after the quarterback a lot more and alleviate the pressure off of the secondary as they finish out the second half of the season.
Seeing limited time as a wide receiver, Thomas has made the most of his opportunity to return kickoffs. Against the Chiefs, he averaged 34 yards per return, with a long of 38. He has the type of speed and elusiveness that will eventually break free and find the endzone, helping out an offense that before the Chiefs game had trouble putting points up.
Another important aspect of this return average is the field position he gives the offense. Starting at around the 35-yard line compared to the 20-yard line is a huge advantage, and even if Denver does not successfully score points on the drive, they are still able to punt the ball and give their opponents poor field position.
Look for Thomas to break a few of these runs for touchdowns as he gets more familiar with this role.
For those of you that don't know who Spencer Larsen is, he is the lucky recipient of the Tim Tebow TD pass.
For those of you that still don't know, he is one of the few people in this league tough enough to play fullback AND linebacker.
Although he has only carried the ball three times thus far, he has 18 yards, putting him at a whopping six yards per carry. As the Denver Broncos continue to improve and hold leads, look for Larsen to come in and pick up those 3rd-and-2's, something the Denver offense has been terrible at for the past few years.
As bothered as I have been with how this season has started, I have never really felt McDaniels himself was the problem.
Coming into a new organization and getting the players you want, developing those players, and introducing them to your system is by no means a quick process.
With that being said, I certainly thought we would be much better than this...or at least no worse than the Raiders and Chiefs. As the Raiders and Chiefs have slowly progressed into respectable teams, so will we.
The blowout against the Chiefs gave us all a realistic vision of what I expected from a McDaniels regime all along: shootouts.
I'm really surprised that Haley was upset. It was almost like he was shocked by the score himself.
After watching him wag his fingers at McD, my first thought was: is he unaware McDaniels was behind the curtain of the Patriots dynasty? The same team that would routinely put up 45 points on you and not care if you were in the game, or if it was the 4th quarter?
Tom Brady defended his team by saying he isn't out there to run out the clock, he is out there to score points, and I agree.
I was in no way offended by the Raiders destroying us at home by an even wider margin, because I'd want the same. It's the NFL--teams put in hours of practice on a weekly basis to go out there and do the best they can with what they've got. If you don't like it, do a better job preparing.
As a result of this game and a 2nd-half turnaround, Josh McDaniels will get to keep his job for yet another year, and if he decides to draft some defense, watch out.
4,500 yards and 30+ touchdowns is one heck of a season, especially considering you were told that you don't have a No. 1 receiver to throw to, and that you are a weak, noodle-armed dink-and-dunk type of passer.
9 games later, and Kyle Orton is second in the league in passing yards with 2,806 and tied for fifth in the league in touchdowns with 16. Orton is averaging almost 312 yards per game and would only need to average 242 per game to hit 4,500.
If he keeps up this blistering pace of 312 per game, he will finish somewhere around 5,000 yards. Now that the running game is looking up, look for defenses to actually honor it, leaving Orton with even more opportunity to find his receivers deep for touchdowns.
After this season, Orton will finally be able to call himself a Pro-Bowl quarterback.
PLAYOFFS?! BOLD! Okay, this is a bit of a stretch.
But what do you get when you mix in a ridiculously tough schedule to start the year, combined with an easier schedule to finish the year, and an underachieving division that allows you to lose four in a row and only be two games out? Hope.
If the Broncos can maintain a running game, they will have no problem staying competitive and getting to the playoffs.
The Chiefs are struggling, the Raiders have a ridiculously tough schedule ahead, and Josh McDaniels has a lot to prove.
Realistically, the Broncos simply need to win out within their division and hope for a little bit of help from the outside. Even if Denver sneaks in at 8-8 via a tiebreaker, they can still make some noise once they get in.