ENGLEWOOD • A few weeks ago nobody on the Denver Broncos wanted this week’s game to determine sole possession of first place in the AFC West, and especially now that starting quarterback Kyle Orton’s availability is in question.
That’s what the Broncos face after the Chargers have erased a three-and-a-half game lead in four weeks. The winner of this week’s Broncos-Chargers game will be atop the AFC West. Broncos coach Josh McDaniels pointed out his team is 6-3 and playing for first place, and he isn’t too upset with the big picture.
“I don’t know why we wouldn’t like to be in this situation,” McDaniels said. “I wish we had won the last three games. I think everybody in this building does, but we didn’t, and there are reasons why we didn’t. We’ve got to go fix the problems and play good football from here on out, starting with this week against a great team.”
The Broncos have two big concerns heading into their biggest game of the season: the myriad of problems such as run defense and second-half failures that have cropped up over a three-game losing streak, and the health of Orton, who hurt his left ankle against Washington and missed the second half.
Orton hasn’t been ruled out of Sunday’s game, and McDaniels termed him questionable. McDaniels said he wasn’t sure when Orton would be able to practice this week, if at all.
If he can’t go, the starting job would fall to Chris Simms, who is coming off a poor outing in relief of Orton, completing 3-of-13 passes for 13 yards. The Broncos won’t change the offensive plan much depending on which quarterback plays.
“There will be a couple little wrinkles we’ll have that might be different with each guy because of their strengths, but you try to go in there and say ‘What does our offense do best?’” offensive coordinator Mike McCoy said.