Denver’s recent turnaround has the NFL dumbfounded.
After beating Cleveland on Sunday, 29-12, the Broncos, now 6-5, are on a five-game winning streak tying them with 11-1 Philadelphia for the longest current winning streak in the NFL.
After starting the season 1-5, including an embarrassing 70-20 thrashing by Miami on Sept. 24, the Broncos are now being called in some circles “the hottest team in the NFL.”
The Broncos Super Bowl odds have even climbed into the top half of the league.
Indeed, they have become a model of what’s called these days “complementary football” as they now occupy second place in the AFC West behind Kansas City (8-3), and in the scramble for an AFC playoff spot.
Wilson Has Broncos Rolling
Starting with quarterback, Russell Wilson — who came under heavy criticism last season with high expectations on his shoulders — has been a consistent and efficient game manager if not the highlight-reel force he had been in his 10 seasons with Seattle. And when the need occurs where Wilson needs to do something special — such as a 19-yard run against the Browns and later, a 2-yard TD scamper during Denver’s second TD drive on Sunday — he’s been doing it.
During the five-game winning streak, Wilson has averaged about 155 passing yards a game. While that’s hardly spectacular, his completion percentage has been almost 72% and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is eight TDs to zero interceptions. Even earlier in the season, Wilson was frequently doing his part. When the team was struggling through a 1-5 start, Wilson had thrown 12 TDs and only four interceptions.
Because of the turnaround, Colorado sports betting sites now list Sean Payton as +1600 to win NFL Coach of the Year.
Broncos Defense Doing Its Part
While the focus is frequently on the quarterback, in the Broncos’ case, defense has made a huge about-face.
Over the first six games, Denver gave up 200 points, or 33.3 points a game. Even taking out the outlier of the rout suffered against the Dolphins, the Broncos were giving up 26 points per game.
However, in the last five games, Denver’s defense has stiffened, giving up a total of 80 points, an average of just 16 points per game. The Broncos’ defense is also fourth in the NFL in takeaway-giveaway differential at plus-8.
On special teams, kicker Will Lutz has been reliable with 24 successful field goals on 26 tries, plus his kickoffs have sailed for touchbacks 91% of the time. Punter Riley Dixon is averaging a net of 41 yards and opponent return yards have been held to just about three yards per punt. And Denver return specialist Marvin Mims Jr. has a punt return average of 18.8 yards as well as a touchdown return on a kickoff, although that came in the blowout loss to Miami.
Overall, Denver has been orchestrating the season’s most remarkable comeback after being written off in October.
Their next three games are on the road and next Sunday, the Broncos are in Houston, which is also 6-5 and trying to make a playoff run. ESPN BET Colorado lists the Broncos as 3.5-point road underdogs. After the Texans, four of the remaining five games are against teams who currently have losing records, so the stage is set for a Denver late-season charge worthy of the Broncos’ glory days.