For the first three weeks of this NFL season, Jay Cutler was easily the best quarterback around. He was almost flawless in those first three games, having averaged just under 305 yards passing per game while throwing for eight touchdowns against just two interceptions. This added up to a quarterback rating of 110.6 and a perfect record of 3-0.
Over the past four weeks, however, Cutler has returned to Earth, and has been nothing more than an average quarterback. He has averaged 237 passing yards, and has thrown just as many touchdowns as interceptions (five) over the last four games, giving Cutler a mediocre quarterback rating of 77.7. The Broncos accumulated a 1-3 record over this span.
Overall, Cutler still has fairly decent numbers. He’s averaging 266 yards per game, has 13 touchdowns compared to seven interceptions, a quarterback rating of 91.7, and the Broncos are in first place in the AFC West at 4-3. However, Cutler’s current play cannot continue.
During the initial three-game stretch, the Broncos were undefeated, atop the AFC West with the best offense in the league. Their offense struck fear into any defense having to line up against them. The play calling was meant to attack defenses, and the Broncos were fearless.
Cutler was making the right choices, letting everything come to him and not forcing anything. He was bursting with confidence, and the Broncos were thriving because of it.
The past four games have been a completely different story.
The first loss of the season came at the hands of the 0-3 Chiefs. Throughout the game, the Broncos’ play calling was overly conservative, and has been since. We have not seen the fire, or the exciting and risky plays that we saw in the first three weeks. Cutler has been making too many mistakes, putting too much pressure on himself, and trying to force too many passes that aren't there.
As a result, the Broncos have slipped into mediocrity. They are sitting at an average record of 4-3, with one of the worst defenses in the league, and an amazing offense that hasn’t been in rhythm since Week Three. Something needs to change.
The Broncos must regain their confidence. They have given away games this season that should have been easy wins (Chiefs, Jaguars), and that has to end. When the team is attacking, rather than playing conservatively, they are unstoppable.
This team has arguably the best receiver in the league in Brandon Marshall and a potential rookie of the year in Eddie Royal; there is no excuse for their passing game to be off. Injuries have played a major role in the Broncos slide downward, but the trend began while Tony Scheffler and Brandon Stokely were healthy, so injuries cannot be the main reason.
In order for the Broncos to get out of their current slump, the coaches need to select a more aggressive game plan and our defense must step up. We saw glimpses of a good defense when we played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but the Broncos have an even greater task now that Champ Bailey is out for at least three games, and Boss Bailey is out for the rest of the season.
The most important part of the Broncos’ revival will be how Cutler plays. He needs to quit trying to force things and regain his confidence. When Cutler lets the offense flow, and lets things open up and come to him, he is arguably the best quarterback in the league, and he proved it in the first three weeks of the season.
Cutler could easily end up in the Pro-Bowl this year, and he could potentially lead the league in passing if he regains (and maintains) his confidence. This can only benefit the Broncos and their playoff hopes.