Denver Broncos: 5 Reasons Why They Will Win AFC West
The Denver Broncos are once again relevant in the league after starting with a dismal 1-4 record in 2011.
Coming into a Thursday night matchup with the New York Jets, the Broncos stand only one game out of first place in the AFC West.
I wrote a similar article during the preseason about Denver's chances to win this division.
Now, 10 weeks later, I'm on the same note but for entirely different reasons.
Kyle Orton is long gone after playing terribly to begin the year.
Knowshon Moreno is as far from being the starting running back as he can be. After losing his position to veteran Willis McGahee, Moreno is now riding the pine all year with a torn ACL.
Remember the star wide receiver that was going to carry the offense again in 2011? Well, Brandon Lloyd is carrying his offense right now—in St. Louis.
The only thing about this team that's remained even remotely consistent since the beginning of the year is the outstanding play from its star defenders—Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey—and the fans' hopes for a division title.
The rest of the AFC West is on the decline, while the Broncos continue to climb the ladder.
Here's why the Denver Broncos will win the AFC West in 2011.
Continued Success from Read-Option Offense
The Broncos and head coach John Fox have managed to pull out two consecutive wins by running a pure ground attack, read-option, spread offense—an offense that is basically unheard of in today's NFL.
Plenty of critics of the system—including myself—have speculated that eventually an NFL-caliber coaching staff should be able to figure out and stop this option offense.
But, there is a big difference between figuring a system out and stopping it altogether.
The Broncos have shown in three different games that even when the defense knows Tim Tebow is going to run, there is little they can do to stop him.
When Denver required a two-point conversion against Miami, the entire stadium knew Tebow was going to run the ball—except for the Dolphins.
When the Broncos ran eight straight plays to get within the five-yard-line, you would think the Chiefs knew what was coming next. They might have, but they did nothing to stop Tebow from running the ball directly into the middle of the end zone.
The Jets are coming off of a huge loss to their division rival New England Patriots and have only 92 hours between the end of their game with the Pats and kickoff on Thursday.
Having to plan for a week against the pass-happy offense of Tom Brady and only have three days to revamp a game plan for a Tebow-led option offense is not an ideal situation for any team.
This is what the Jets face coming into Week 11.
I don't believe the Jets and Rex Ryan have what it takes to turn the little time they have into a win against a Broncos team that is on fire.
Raiders Will Miss Playoffs in 2011
The Oakland Raiders were looking like one of the most powerful teams in the league going into the sixth week of the season.
Now, in Week 11, they've lost their starting quarterback and replaced him with an aging and rusty Carson Palmer.
Palmer looked terrible for two games. In the first, he played only the second half on his way to a loss and his first three interceptions for the Raiders. The second was his first full game and another loss to the Denver Broncos at home in addition to three more interceptions.
Palmer rebounded well to beat the San Diego Chargers last Thursday night, but he still faces the entire NFC North this year.
The Minnesota Vikings, who happen to be playing like a high school junior varsity team at this point, will most likely prove an easy victory for the Raiders in Week 11, but the next string of losses for the Raiders isn't far away.
If the Raiders can manage to beat out the Kansas City Chiefs and the Miami Dolphins later this year, the most they can hope for at this point is a total of three wins to end the season before the Chargers deliver a bit of revenge with a win in Oakland in Week 17.
Chargers Are Playing Backwards in 2011
Normally, the Chargers are expected to take a very slow start into the season and eventually rebound into a division title.
This year, they started 4-1, then quickly dropped four in a row to reach their current record of 4-5.
Based on what we've seen from the Chargers over the last four weekends, it looks like they have maybe two games left on their schedule that they can win.
Other than that, they could come away with a win against the Oakland Raiders to finish up their season.
The Chargers should finish with a final record of 6-10 and find themselves without a coach in the offseason after completing what should be Norv Turner's final dismal year in San Diego.
Yes, you're correct Rivers, and plan on being there again next year as well as you attempt to rebuild the destruction that ensued after Turner took over a 14-2 team.
Kansas City Is out of the Picture
As if a slide was even needed for this part of the article.
The Chiefs are done. They were done when they lost Jamaal Charles to injury to start off the year.
They surprised everyone with four consecutive wins after starting 0-3.
Now, they've lived up to exactly what their expectations were in 2011 and are continuing their slide back down to the bottom of the division.
Matt Cassel will most likely miss the remainder of the season, but the season itself won't be missed by anyone else—especially the fans.
With some luck, and getting some players back from injury in 2012, the Chiefs can make another run for the playoffs next year.
Broncos Are Only Team Moving in Right Direction
Since Tebow took the helm halfway through the game against the San Diego Chargers, the Broncos are 3-1.
Over the last five games, they've led the league in rushing yards and currently place second in rushing yards per game over the entire season.
This is, of course, due to the run-heavy option offense that Denver runs. But nevertheless, the Broncos are producing yards, winning games and moving closer to the top of the division.
They also have the luxury of having an easier remaining schedule than that of the Raiders or the Chargers—only because of what we've seen from the team in recent weeks.
The Jets are certainly a tough opponent. Fortunately for Denver, the Jets are playing on the road on a very short week after getting trashed by the Pats.
After beating the Jets on Thursday, Tebow gets to travel to Qualcomm and finish the job he started against the Chargers just a few weeks ago.
A week later, and another win is coming Denver's way when they face the incapable Minnesota Vikings.
At this point, the Broncos should be 7-5 heading into two very tough home games against the Bears and Patriots, which they could very easily lose.
The Bills game should be a winnable one if Buffalo continues to fall back into mediocrity in 2011, and, of course, they'll finish the season strong with another victory over the Chiefs.
A 9-7 or 8-8 record is enough to win the AFC West in 2011.
If everything goes as expected—at least how I expect it—the Broncos should finish either one game ahead of Oakland or tied for the lead with a better division record.
After Jan. 1, Denver will be headed into the playoffs with the worst record of any team in the postseason in 2011.
But, with the momentum that they've been gaining and carrying since Week 6, and considering the unexpected nature of the playoffs, the Broncos could make a little bit of noise before the end of their season in January.