Kyle Newman, Broncos beat reporter
Let’s rewind to Sept. 10, when four of five Denver Post sports staffers picked the Broncos to make the playoffs (hat tip to deputy sports editor Matt Schubert for being the lone holdout from buying the Let’s Ride propaganda). Now, the Broncos are 2-3, riddled with injuries and they’ve burned the early-season buffer that we all thought could help them break a six-year playoff drought. Russell Wilson’s shoulder is hurting. They currently have eight starters on IR, four of them with season-ending injuries (Javonte Williams, Garett Bolles, Ronald Darby, Tim Patrick). And their offense has looked hapless. I originally went with 11-6, an already sour prediction. This Broncos team finishes 7-10. K.C. beats them twice again, for a 15-game winning streak. And Nathaniel Hackett will be lucky if he sees Year 2.
Parker Gabriel, Broncos beat reporter
Kyle’s right that the task of making the playoffs isn’t getting easier – and flying home from Los Angeles in the wee hours of Tuesday morning sporting a 2-4 record would make the challenge one notch more difficult. But it also isn’t out of the question. Far from it, considering 12 games remain in the regular season. A 9-8 mark doesn’t guarantee anything, but 7-5 is doable. Denver’s offense doesn’t need to suddenly become Kansas City’s. It needs to be a unit that can score enough to give what has been a pretty salty defense enough breathing room to finish games. The Broncos certainly can’t afford to wait around for the offense to find its footing much longer, though. Take the final 12 games, split them down the middle, and you’ll see the next six on paper look much more manageable than the final six. There’s still time for operation postseason, but time is a tickin’.
Sean Keeler, sports columnist
Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs! You kidding me? Let’s do what Nathaniel Hackett should do with the playbook and strip things back to basics. How about scoring more than 25 points in a game before Christmas? Somehow getting Russell Wilson to 16 touchdown passes for the season? Having George Paton call Hogwarts to wizard him up a left tackle or a second cornerback who won’t end up being exposed when the game’s on the line? Instead of having 2012-13 Broncos flashbacks with this offense, my brain keeps running back to the 1999-2001 Bengals. Save us, Jon Kitna! (Come on, Jerry Jeudy. Show me you’re not the second coming of Peter Warrick. ‘Cuz I’m seeing the same dude.) Statistically, nine or 10 wins are still on the table, sure. But they’re sitting on a cloth that’s being pulled off of said table by one of Patrick Saunders’ adorable puppies, and it’s three seconds from crashing to the floor. This defense keeps hanging in there, but you’re running out of teams against whom you can score only 17 points and beat. To paraphrase an old chestnut about suckers, if you look around the table and can’t tell who the 7-10 team is, it’s probably you.