Two weeks ago, it looked likely that the Denver Broncos would be getting rid of their coach at the end of the season. Sitting at 3-6 with games against the Chargers and Steelers on the docket, most people had Vance Joseph packing his bags to leave town.
Now, two weeks and two wins later, the conversation has shifted to a potential playoff run for Joseph and company. The wins against the Chargers and Steelers were unlikely, but none the less they happened and it now leaves Denver with a favorable schedule the rest of the way. We caught up with Inside The NFL and NFL on CBS analyst Boomer Esiason to break down the schedule and what the Broncos have done well over the last two weeks, . You can catch Boomer along with analysts Ray Lewis, Phil Simms and host James Brown every Tuesday night at 9 p.m Eastern Time on Inside the NFL on Showtime.
CBS Local Sports: The Broncos have beaten two of the AFC’s top teams in the last few weeks. What’s the biggest difference you’ve seen from their play in the wins that have gotten them back in the playoff picture?
Boomer Esiason: This week against Pittsburgh it was all about the turnovers. They had three huge turnovers and still gave up over 500 yards. Let’s be honest here. They’re a good team and they play tough at home. The fact that they have a very favorable schedule moving forward gives them a really good chance to get to at least 9-7 or 10-6 and have a shot at that number six seed.
They’re not going to win their division. I don’t think they will leapfrog the Chargers. There is also the chance that by the time they play the Chargers in Week 17 the Chargers have already locked up the two seed or are potentially going for the division and they don’t have to play for anything. I would say it is a reprieve on the level of what the Cowboys are doing with Jason Garrett.
Vance Joseph and Jason Garrett have basically staved off all of the naysayers and the people that wanted them fired and their teams are reflecting their love for their coach by the way that they are playing.
CBS Local Sports: With games against the Bengals, 49ers, Browns and Raiders coming up, do you think Denver can go on a run to make the playoffs?
Boomer Esiason: There’s no question that the Bengals, the Raiders and the ‘Niners have three of the worst defenses in football. We know that. The thing about the Browns is, they are coming alive now and they’re coming alive because they have stability. They have a quarterback who is starting to believe in himself and has really become the leader of the Browns. I’m not saying that he’s LeBron James yet, but he has given Browns fans reason for hope.
That game is not going to be easy for them (the Broncos). The good news for them is that game is in Denver. As long as they have home field in these games against these lesser teams, I don’t see how they lose. This week, going against the Bengals defense without Andy Dalton on offense, I don’t see how they lose this week.
CBS Local Sports: Another team in the AFC that has been on a run lately is the Colts. What has Frank Reich done with this team that has allowed them to be so successful this season?
Boomer Esiason: There is no question that Frank has had a profound impact on Andrew Luck. We knew Andrew Luck was great, the question was whether he was going to be healthy and how healthy would he be? It turned out that he has been really healthy. The one thing I will say about Frank is that he is a great play designer and a fearless play caller. If you ask Carson Wentz or Nick Foles, they will tell you the same thing.
Frank wants to get the ball down the field. He is going to be designing plays to get quarterbacks many opportunities. The beauty of this is, Andrew is one of those players that is in the middle of his career. He’s not a Patrick Mahomes or a Carson Wentz or a Jared Goff. And, he’s not a Roethlisberger, Brady, Rivers or Brees. He is right smack dab in the middle. It’s him, Russell Wilson, Cam Newton, Kirk Cousins. He may be playing the best football of his career right now.
It also helps to have a great offensive line and a healthy offensive line. The draft pick of Quentin Nelson has turned out to be really genius by Chris Ballard.
CBS Local Sports: Finally, more generally, we’re getting to the time of the year where teams will begin to be eliminated from playoff contention. As a player and a leader in the locker room; how do you keep the team motivated when the goal of a Super Bowl is no longer attainable?
Boomer Esiason: You just have to hope everybody is professional about their job. They realize that they get a paycheck and realize that the fans are buying tickets to come see them play. And, even if they’re booing them, they are still coming to see them play.
It’s hard. I spent half of my career on losing teams and what I did at the end of my time with some of those teams was go up to the younger players and ask them to lay down individual goals that they had for each game. And, I asked for their overall goals for the rest of the season. I always felt like that give them something to shoot for then that would give me or give them the motivation to play hard.
The other thing is, you step on the field and go half-assed and you’re going to get hurt. You always have to play hard. You’re always playing for something. The camera is always watching and the coaches are always–other teams are always looking for other players. This is also a proving ground for a lot of young players. If it weren’t for situations like I had with Wayne Chrebet then I don’t know if he would have ever turned out the way that he was. I pushed him through a losing season and he learned how to be a professional and turned out to have a great career.