Kiz: Coach Vic Fangio wants us to believe the Broncos are improving. I’m not so certain. While there’s no doubt key injuries in the secondary allowed Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan to carve up the defense Sunday, Denver often looked unprepared and disjointed in a 34-27 loss to the Falcons. With a 3-5 record at the midpoint of this season, the Broncos aren’t terrible. But they aren’t good. Should we expect them to be better than 3-5 down the stretch, giving Fangio tangible proof this team is actually on the rise?
O’Halloran: Winning three of the final eight games should be considered a moderate achievement because the schedule is difficult … and that should also signal that this program’s progress has stalled. We can point to injuries because it’s a reality, but to use Fangio’s postgame phrase, why the Broncos looked “out of sorts,” is unacceptable. Beat Atlanta and everything was in front of the Broncos. Instead, they laid another first-half egg.
Kiz: While taking a sip of Orange Kool-Aid, I readily acknowledge the Broncos have lost to top-level competition. The cumulative record of the five teams that have beaten Denver is a gaudy 31-12. But when I put my half-full glass down on the table, there’s the sobering realization Drew Lock and the gang have beaten three teams with a pathetic 4-19 record. What’s more, the schedule between now and the holidays is no cakewalk. There are six teams with winning records. The Broncos might not be favored to win again this season, with the possible exception of when the Dolphins visit town.
O’Halloran: And after watching some of Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s highlights from Sunday’s win at Arizona, I’ll make the Dolphins (5-3) a favorite later this month at Mile High. Check out the other opponents — Las Vegas twice (5-3), New Orleans (6-2), Kansas City (8-1), Carolina (3-6), Buffalo (7-2) and the Chargers (2-6). Depending on the Broncos’ record, they may be favored against the Panthers in December, but that’s it. Derek Carr. Drew Brees. Patrick Mahomes. Josh Allen. Justin Herbert. Fangio The Defensive Play-Caller will have to create some magic for Fangio The Head Coach.
Kiz: I think the Broncos can find three more victories in the second half. But going 2-6 isn’t out of the question, especially if the injury bug bites again. I’m not certain special teams coordinator Tom McMahon survives the season. But the bigger question: How many games must Fangio win this year so Broncos Country doesn’t grouse about regression, putting pressure on John Elway to contemplate an even bigger overhaul of the coaching staff? If Denver finishes 5-11, I suspect more than a few season ticketholders that sat out 2020 during the COVID storm might not return next year.
O’Halloran: If the Broncos can find a way to go 3-5/4-4 in the second half to finish 6-10/7-9, fans will still grouse, but a 10,000-foot view will be required by Elway to assess the season — was the under .500 record a product of a) injuries, b) youth or c) coaching? If it’s ‘C,’ Elway has some decisions to make. If it’s ‘A’ or ‘B,’ — which is how I think Elway will look at it, he should say, “OK, this year wasn’t good enough, but the circumstances were extraordinary so let’s bring back the staff for continuity and add more good players.”