Denver, CO. 37-6 is a great way for any NFL team to come out victorious, regardless of when it might occur during the regular season. But for the Denver Broncos, this blowout win over Oakland may have meant more than it normally would. It ended a two game losing skid and gave this team some much-needed momentum heading into week 5. Denver is now 2-2, and they did exactly what they should have done on Sunday. They thoroughly defeated a Raiders squad that was hoping to build on their stunning win over Pittsburgh last week. Oakland had come out on top in each of their past four trips to the Mile High City, but that is where the streak ended. The Broncos pulled away in the second half, dismantling the Raiders in every way possible in route to a resounding win. This was a game that Denver absolutely had to have, as they are squarely in the thick of things in the AFC West. San Diego blasted Kansas City with ease, and have a one game lead over the Broncos with a 3-1 record. Just one month into the season, this division has separated itself into two very clear groups, the haves (Chargers and Broncos) and the have-nots (Chiefs and Raiders). The matchup between Denver and San Diego on October 15th now looks to be an early season showdown, and may very well give everyone an indication of who the real favorite to win the West will be. But before the Broncos can even begin to look ahead to that battle, they must first deal with having to face the vaunted New England Patriots, and in their building. Although this game this week in Foxboro would be an enormous win for Denver, winning this particular game is not critical for them to reach their goals in 2012. But for the Patriots, it is a must win to reassert their dominance as one of the few elite AFC powers.
The blowout victory over Oakland was nice and got Denver back on track to a certain degree. However, it may have also misled Broncos fans into thinking that their team is just fine after two rough losses by a combined 12 points. The Broncos did exactly what they were supposed to do, nothing more, nothing less. They won a home divisional game against a bad team. They took care of business, and did so in impressive fashion. So now at 2-2, a real test comes this Sunday. Everyone will truly find out if this Broncos team is a legit contender in the AFC, or just a pretender at this point with a lot more to work on. After losses to Arizona and Baltimore, and falling behind to Buffalo, something seemed to click in the second half for the Patriots against the Bills. They destroyed their division rivals in a hostile road atmosphere, racking up 52 points in the process. New England has shown to be very inconsistent so far this year, and have struggled at times during the first month of the season. Coming from behind at Buffalo may be exactly what this team needed to get it kick started for the rest of the year. This is a team that rarely loses at home, and will be returning to Foxboro for just the second time this year to host Denver in week 5. At 2-2, the Patriots are easily the best team in the bad AFC East. The Jets are turning into a complete mess, the Bills are just not quite ready to be taken seriously, and the Dolphins are in complete rebuild mode. Whether or not New England finishes at 10-6 or 13-3, it is a forgone conclusion that they will win this division this year with ease. This game against the Broncos is a big one for a few different reasons, however. It is a perfect opportunity for them to flex their muscles with all of America watching, and remind fans that they will once again be a team to deal with come January. A win for New England would also put them at 3-2, with a ton of momentum to dismantle the rest of their division as the year moves on. For Denver though, a win would wake up NFL fans to the fact that the Broncos are for real, and should be considered a contender for AFC supremacy. As great as a victory over the Patriots would be though, coming out on top is not critical when considering the grand scheme of things. A road loss to a favored New England team would not do much harm, if any, to Denver going forward. It would just remind them there is still a lot of work to be done, and they will have to continue to get better if they want to be a factor later in the year. The real critical game for the Broncos is actually in week 6, as they face the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football. Whether or not the Broncos are 2-3 or 3-2 after this week is really not crucial. Finding a way to beat the Chargers though, who are currently atop the AFC West, will be a much bigger game in the long run for Denver. When the schedule came out back in April, yours truly has always felt that if the Denver Broncos could manage to be 3-3 after six weeks, that would put them in position to make a big-time run after their bye in week 7. In the next two weeks, a win over New England would be really nice, but a win over San Diego will prove to be much, much bigger.
Oh yeah, this week we also have another meeting between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Throughout the years, these two have had several memorable encounters, often times with a ton on the line. Brady has the overall edge in wins and team success, as his Patriots have gone through Manning and his Colts on a few occasions. So now that Peyton is with his new team, can he reverse things a bit and deal Tom and his Patriots a loss this week? Although it’s not the playoffs, and the outcome won’t make or break either the Patriots or Broncos, it is still something that all NFL fans will want to see. These two QB’s will be linked together forever to an extent, as they are the two best signal callers in the NFL over the last decade. Whichever team you are rooting for come Sunday, take a moment or two to realize what great players they both are, and have been, for so many years. However it plays out a few years from now, somehow it would be nice to see them both retire at the same time. Brady and Manning, in their tan Hall of Fame blazers, giving their induction speeches on the same night…..that would be a fitting conclusion to one of the greatest individual rivalries this league has ever seen.