In their first three games, the Broncos scored an average of 38 points per game and were 3-0. In the last four, they averaged less than 15 and went 1-3 in those games. Therefore, for the Broncos to be AFC West Champions they need to have consistency in the second half.
Five of the last nine games for the Broncos are on the road. Three of the five have winning records, including the Carolina Panthers at 6-2. Three of the Broncos’ last four home games have losing records with the Oakland Raiders (2-5) and the Kansas City Chiefs (1-6) being the worst. The Buffalo Bills (5-2) are the only team with a winning record that the Broncos face at home. For Denver to do well in the second half they have to take advantage of their home schedule.
Second year starting quarterback Jay Cutler looks like he is on the verge of a breakout season. He has completed 163 passes out of 254 for 1,862 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. In the Broncos’ four wins, Cutler has been strong, with 1,141 yards passing completing 67.6 percent of his passes, nine touchdowns and only two interceptions.
However, in the games the Broncos lost Cutler has only 721 yards passing, four touchdowns and five interceptions. For the Broncos to win Cutler, must perform like his first three games and limit mistakes.
The Broncos have been running back by committee this season. Michael Pittman has 69 carries for 316 yards and four touchdowns. Selvin Young has 47 carries for 266 yards and one touchdown. However, has missed the last two games with injury. Andre Hall has 34 carries for 137 yards.
Young’s absence in the last two games has had an effect on the running game. Young has 217 yards on 36 carries, and one touchdown in the Broncos four victories. Denver needs to have a solid ground game so they take the pressure off Cutler to win games.
Brandon Marshall, Eddie Royal, Brandon Stokley and Tony Scheffler lead the Broncos’ receivers. Marshall has 49 for 598 yards and three touchdowns; Royal has 39 receptions for 392 yards and two touchdowns. Stokley has 24 receptions for 262 yards, and two touchdowns, and Scheffler has 16 receptions for 259 yards and two touchdowns.
Scheffler has had the biggest impact on the Broncos’ receivers. In the Broncos’ wins, he has had 15 receptions for 233 yards and two touchdowns. In the Broncos’ losses, he has only caught one pass for 26 yards. Scheffler will have to get open so Cutler can get him involved in the passing game.
The Broncos’ defense is what could cost them the playoffs if they continue their play in the second half. Eight categories they are in the bottom 20 percent of the League. They rank 26th in points allowed, 28th in total yards allowed, 25th in first downs allowed, 26th in passing yards and touchdowns, 29th in rushing yards allowed, and 30th in turnovers.
The Broncos are second to last in turnover margin. The defense has only forced seven turnovers and only forced more than one in a 24-17 loss to Jacksonville. The offense has turned the ball over 16 times including 13 in their last four games. Therefore, if the Broncos are going to hang on to their lead in the AFC West they have to cut down on turnovers and force their opponent to make more mistakes.
2008 could be a defining season for the Broncos, if they fail to make the playoffs a third consecutive season there could be change in the Mile High City.