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Broncos 2 and 0, With a Long Way to Go

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Okay, so the Broncos are 2-0 against Ohio.

Good start, but let's not get carried away here. That 2-0 start is a win at home over Cleveland (4-12 last season), and an undeserved, tipped fluke over Cincinnati. Hardly anything to write home, or gloatingly text me about.

Josh McDaniels has not been vindicated, and the Broncos season and my faith are far from saved.

In response to my lost Broncos faith, my friends have maintained that at the end of the day, whether it's with Jay Cutler or Kyle Orton, it's about the wins. That's mostly true. Despite the feelings of betrayal that I expressed last week, an 11-5 record and a playoff birth would heal most of those wounds pretty quickly.

Unfortunately I just don't see it happening.

It's harder to defend my pessimism this week. 2-0 is hard to complain about and the Denver defense has put together two very solid efforts. Giving up only seven points to a Cincinnati offense that surprised me in Week 2 by putting up 31 points against the Packers is certainly a laudable accomplishment. Holding Cleveland to two field goals is even more impressive on the scoreboard, but less so when you consider that the Browns have had just one offensive touchdown since November 17 of last year.

Defensive dominance seems to follow Cleveland's offense.

But still, 2-0 is 2-0, and the defense is much, much improved. So much improved, in fact, that this year the Denver D is covering for a very below-average Denver O, quite the reverse from last year. And this Denver O is very bad.

After just one touchdown in Week 1 (and again, can we really even count this?), the Broncos first touchdown drive in Week 2, a two-yard pass from Orton to Tony Scheffler, came after a full nine-yard drive after a turnover on a Brady Quinn fumbled snap. The Broncos later punched in two fourth-quarter touchdown runs from Peyton Hillis and Corell Buckhalter, for the first two legitimate scoring drives of the season, seven quarters in.

Yet, even with the offense struggling, Brandon Marshall stood watching on the sideline for almost the entire second quarter. His helmet was strapped on, and he looked ready to go, but McDaniels seems persistent on keeping The Beast on timeout.

I don't get it. McDaniels' reasoning: "[We have] a lot of guys that deserve to play. That's how we're going to play. Period."

When did this become Pee Wee Football?

Maybe I could understand it if, as Eddie Royal reasoned after the game, "You want to stick with the group that's moving the ball," but in that second quarter the Broncos netted a meager 83 yards and three points. And those three points came 15 seconds into the quarter when Marshall was still on the field.

It's a contract year for Marshall, a point that has been made very clear to Marshall and to McDaniels, so why you would keep him off the field only to fuel his frustration is just beyond me. It seems a forgone conclusion that Marshall will follow Cutler out of Denver next season, and that's a sad thing.

Orton managed well, 19-37 passing for 263 yeards, one touchdown and no picks. All McDaniels could manage about Orton's managerial performance: "He took care of the ball."
He did, but that's all he really did, and it was good enough against the Browns, and barely, kind-of enough against the Bengals. I'm not sure how much longer it'll be enough for anything.

These first three weeks are by far the easiest part of the Broncos' schedule this season. Week 3 the Broncos travel to Oakland, which could be a tougher game than expected against the 1-1 Raiders. From there, the Broncos have Dallas and New England at Invesco, San Diego away, bye week, Baltimore and Pittsburgh away, then Washington, San Diego and the New York Giants back at Invesco.

If the Broncos manage to defend their top-spot in the AFC West against the Raiders this week, they then embark on a nine-week stretch that could very feasibly, and likely will, drop their record to 3-8.

And after that they play Kansas City at Arrow Head (and we all know how that can go, even against bad Chiefs teams, cite September 28, 2008). From there, the Broncos play at Indianapolis and Philadelphia, and wrap up at home against Kansas City again.

That leaves four games that I think the Broncos have a fair chance in, all against the Chiefs and Raiders, and even two of those are historically difficult road games. If they win all four, the Broncos are sittin' at 6-10 by season's end, and that's where I predict they'll be.

So I'll say this: 2-0 against Ohio ain't bad, but there's still a long way to go.