DENVER — A funny thing happened while the Broncos were playing catch up in the AFC West.
The AFC West fell back to the Broncos.
You can find a bunch of reasons why Sunday’s matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles is a biggie. One, it’s Parents Weekend. That’s right, Parents Weekend. The Broncos invited the parents of all the rookies to Empower Field at Mile High, and it’s always nice to play well in front of Mom and Dad.
Plus, Denver next has a bye, and going into the bye at 6-4 sure beats going into the bye at 5-5.
“There’s nothing like winning, and we’ve won two in a row,” as Vic Fangio said.
Then there’s the landscape of a division that was supposed to be ornery but now is just OK.
That’s a biggie, too.
The Chiefs are just OK, 5-4. The Chargers are just OK, 5-3. The Raiders are just OK, 5-3. Beat the Eagles, and the 5-4 (for now) Broncos would be in a real, live division race. That would be better than OK. That would be new and exciting.
The Broncos haven’t been OK for a long while now. They finished five games back of first place in 2017, six games back in 2018, five games back in 2019 and seven games back in 2020. Since 2015, the AFC West champion has averaged 12 wins. The Broncos in that time averaged six. Broncos fans sure could use a December to remember. It’s on Fangio and the Broncos to make that happen, because nobody in the division, so far, appears capable of winning 12 games — even with 17 available.
The Broncos and Chiefs would have to go 7-1 the rest of the way. Can anyone see that happening? The Chargers and Raiders would have to go 7-2. That’s possible in Los Angeles, I suppose, but not in Las Vegas. Given the results so far, the champion of the AFC West won’t be a world beater — just better than just OK.
“We’re still in the thick of it,” GM George Paton said when he traded away Von Miller.
What probably contributed to Paton’s line of thinking was how the AFC West is shaping up.
It’s been just OK. Strange enough, all the way to Week 10, the Broncos have the best point differential, plus-34. They’ve beaten the teams they should beat, lost to the teams they should lose to, and threw in a surprise. Except for the win in Dallas, they’re not a surprise.
The surprise is how the Chiefs and Chargers have allowed more points than they’ve scored, and the Raiders are in a rough state. Las Vegas had its coach resign and star wide receiver released.
The Eagles are a trap game for the Broncos, and, yes, trap games exist. But trap games exist in the sense people like you and me are trapped into thinking there’s a noteworthy difference between a 3-6 NFL team and a 5-4 NFL team. There’s really not. They’re pretty much the same.
Just for reference, the Eagles already played the rest of the AFC West. Didn’t go well for them. The Eagles were competitive into the fourth quarter but lost to the Chiefs. They got blown out by the Raiders, and last week they lost to the Chargers on a field goal with 2 seconds left.
Sunday won’t be an easy one for the Broncos.
The Broncos, meanwhile, can sweep an NFC division for the first time since the Super Bowl 50 season. The Giants were mush, the Washington Football Team incapable, the Cowboys stunned.
Beat the Eagles, and get back to the important matters at hand — a division that’s just OK.
The AFC West is the only division without a really good team or without a really bad team. All four teams are over .500, but all four teams have five wins in Week 10. It’s there for the taking.
Five of the final seven games on the Broncos’ schedule are against AFC West rivals.
Just to be clear, whatever happens the rest of this season should not preclude the Broncos from pursuing a quarterback. Good news is, general manager George Paton spent the week or so on the road scouting Liberty’s Malik Willis, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral, Pitt’s Kenny Pickett and North Carolina’s Sam Howell. It seems as though the Broncos are being responsible and realistic when it comes to future quarterbacks.
First things first. Beat the Eagles, and the Broncos enter the bye week "in the thick of it."