After a late night in the rain and a check in the loss column, the Denver Broncos enter week 2 as a team seeking retribution with its fan base.
The Oakland Raiders put a serious damper on the most optimistic Broncos fans' high hopes for the season.
Now, the Cincinnati Bengals are in town, and Denver needs a big win against a team that most everyone had surely checked as an easy game during the preseason.
Many improvements must occur this Sunday at Sports Authority Field at Mile High for Denver to have a chance at an even remotely successful season in 2011.
It's been argued that the weather had a large play in the outcome of Monday's loss. If it weren't for the slippery conditions, the ball may not have found it's way out of Kyle Orton's hand late in the game as TE Daniel Fells was wide open towards the end zone. Without the rain, Monday's game could have gone the other way entirely.
The forecast on Sunday is 77 degrees and mostly sunny for downtown Denver. Ideally, this should give Broncos fans and spectators nationwide a better and more accurate depiction of the Broncos play in 2011.
But, what will Denver need to improve upon to find themselves tallying a win after Sunday afternoon?
Monday night gave us all the impression that Denver had left it's rebuilt defensive line in the preseason.
Darren McFadden ran effortlessly through the front four of the Broncos and ate up more game clock than Denver's offense could make up for.
And if that wasn't enough, Michael Bush came in late to finish the game, and hardly had opposition while doing so.
This week the Denver defense faces the Bengals' Cedric Benson, and he's no slouch.
Benson has run for more than 1,000 yards in both of his previous years with Cincinnati. He's started the 2011 season with 121 rushing yards and a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns.
In perspective, the Browns do not possess a terrific defense—but as far as what we've all seen, neither do the Broncos.
Denver's coaching staff will need to reprimand, revamp, and rebuild their defensive line in a short week, unless they plan on another day of a big, fast, running back soaring right past them.
The interesting part is that Denver may have to do this without defensive star Elvis Dumervil.
Dumervil did not practice again on Thursday and is currently listed as questionable for this week's game.
Denver's offensive coordinator Mike McCoy called a boring game on Monday night against Oakland.
After abandoning the run during the first quarter, McCoy consistently relied on a passing game that, while acquiring some decent yardage and plenty of first downs, never seemed to really click.
Kyle Orton and his receivers experienced a slew of miscommunications during the game and failed to get on the same page.
Orton's sole interception was due to his poor read on the field. If his pass on the play was thrown 10 yards further down the field, his receiver has plenty of room to pass the safety that was diving underneath on the coverage, and may have ended with a touchdown.
After miscues, turnovers, and plenty of penalties, Denver remained with the passing game well into the third quarter where it had finally become necessary to pass the ball as Oakland was increasing their lead.
McCoy will need to keep the play-calling fresh on Sunday and do something, anything, to confuse the Bengals' defense.
With any luck, the Denver Tebowmaniacs will have their first shot of the regular season to see Tim Tebow take the field in some special packages. While John Fox has not officially designated a portion of his playbook to Tebow, they practiced the plays enough in practice to be able to pull them out in a game.
In addition to a stronger commitment to the run, and some influential play from Denver's most exciting playmaker, the Broncos need to involve their other players in more adequate roles for their talents.
It was clear on Monday that Knowshon Moreno was not having a good time running the ball into Oakland's front seven.
Cincinnati's defensive line is just as tough as Oakland's, so don't expect to see Moreno have a better game this week—if he plays; Moreno missed practice again on Thursday.
Moreno did excel in open space on Monday, though McCoy failed to return to these plays late in the game.
As for Willis McGahee, he was completely ineffective as he rushed four times for a whopping total of three yards.
McGahee was brought in during the offseason to take the load off of Moreno and to serve as the team's touchdown hawk. If Moreno doesn't make the game, there's hardly a chance that McGahee can take the bulk of the work, and somehow have a better game than he did on Monday.
Lance Ball was the only back that made a difference in the game on Monday for Denver, catching a pass in the middle of the red zone and hurdling into paydirt for Denver's only offensive score.
Against the Bengals, Denver must find a better way to utilize their backs. Whether it be a wildcat offense, delivering it to the backs outside of the backfield in open space, or simply finding a way for their offensive line to create some gaps.
Penalties and turnovers are the easiest way to take momentum away from your team, and cruise faster towards a loss.
Last Monday, the Denver Broncos committed 10 penalties for 91 yards and three turnovers, which came on two fumbles and an interception.
Each and every penalty came at the worst time it could. Whether it was during a third down stop against Darren McFadden, or after obtaining great field position on the end of a return, the Broncos could not avoid the yellow laundry on the field.
If it weren't enough that the field in front of Denver's offense and defense constantly grew, they had the unfortunate habit of giving the ball to the other team.
The Broncos will not keep such a close game on Sunday if they continue to turn the ball over. The conditions will be better, and they face a quarterback that's been more effective than that of the Raiders during the preseason and first week.
Andy Dalton will have an easier time keeping the score moving in the right direction for the Bengals if he's being handed gift-wrapped footballs all afternoon.
Kyle Orton's chance to silence his critics is still well within his grasp.
Orton's reputation did not fare well after the week one loss, but the season is young and he's got plenty of time to turn his record and his fans around.
An 0-2 start to the season won't win over anybody in Denver—especially considering half of the town already wants the third string quarterback to leapfrog into the starting position.
Against the Bengals, Orton faces a stronger secondary than he faced in week one.
However, he should enjoy the benefit of playing in better weather conditions. The sloppy play from week one cannot continue through the next or Orton will find the Tebow chants ringing in his ear once again.
Orton will have to continue his habit of producing a great statistical line while also adding the elements necessary to earn a win on his home field.
In each of his interviews this week, Orton seems to grow more and more intolerant of the quarterback controversy, even as Tim Tebow calls for his fans to dull down their fire.
Expect some inspired play from Orton two weeks into his newest offense, and with most of the game resting in the hands of himself and his receivers.
If Denver can make good on each of these improvements, my pick for the game is 27-24 in favor of the Broncos.