The Broncos’ road to the postseason will be grueling and arduous.
As was proven on Sunday.
There won’t be lollipops and candy corn awaiting the Broncos on their remaining trips this season.
Five of those NFL cities are authentic playoff challengers; a sixth is a division opponent, and the seventh likely will have its starting quarterback back before then, and that game is a short-week Thursday night game.
Despite coach Vance Joseph’s declaration last week that Sunday was not a "trap game," the Broncos were ensnared by the Bills, who aren’t threatening to become a division champion.
Still ahead: at Los Angeles (Chargers), Kansas City, Philadelphia, Oakland, Miami, Indianapolis and Washington.
Here are a few reasons why none of those Broncos’ excursions will not be vacations:
1.) Three more are in the Eastern time zone at 1 p.m. (11 a.m. on the Broncos clocks). It’s not a myth that crossing two time zones is difficult for anybody, including an NFL team, particularly when the game is in the visitors’ body-time morning. The Broncos didn’t play caffeinated at Buffalo in the first quarter – managing only a field goal. Joseph is trying to adjust by having the Broncos fly to eastern cities on Friday. But, then, teams can’t adjust coming to altitude a day early, or a week early.
2.) The Broncos have a three-game road stretch in October-November with consecutive trips to Los Angeles, Kansas City and Philadelphia. I didn’t remember the last time they were inconvenience so. But research shows the Broncos played three games in a row in 2014 and, before that, 2010. In the 2010 season, Josh McDaniels’ second year in Denver, the Broncos had to play at Kansas City, Arizona and Oakland in December. They lost all three. After the first (a 10-6 defeat against the Chiefs), McDaniels was fired. In 2014, during what would be John Fox’s final season as Broncos coach, the team had a string of road games in New England, Oakland and St. Louis. They were blown out in the first and last and overwhelmed the Raiders in between. It’s certainly not easy to win two or three in a row in those circumstances, even though the Broncos ended up 12-4 in ’14.
3.) Obviously, the Colts are awful this season because of the absence of Andrew Luck and the continued presence of coach Chuck Pagano (Boulder’s own), but the quarterback should be back when the Broncos are in Indy on Dec. 14. It’s a Thursday night game. Good news for the Broncos is that they are playing the Colts, and they are coming off a home game against the Jets. This should be the Broncos’ best chance of winning a road game this season.
4.) However, the Broncos play in Washington on Christmas Eve. And Kirk Cousins seems to have steered the D.C.’ers back on course, and Washington still should be in the hunt for a wild card position at the holidays.
5.) The Broncos, amid seven road games in 10 weeks, will be West Coast-East coach on Nov. 26 and Dec. 3 in northern California and southern Florida. They’ll confront their former defensive coordinator (Jack Del Rio) in the first and the ex-offensive coordinator (Adam Gase) in the second. And Jay Cutler will be front and center for the Dolphins. The Broncos already are 0-1 this season against a former coordinator (Buffalo’s Rick Dennison), and good thing they don’t have to face Wade Phillips.
6.) In the past 10 seasons the Broncos have won 52 percent of the road games, but Peyton Manning was available during four of those seasons. Without him in 6-plus seasons (three road games when Manning was injured in ’15), the Broncos had a 22-29 record. Trevor Siemian is now 3-5 in road games started.
7.) The Broncos’ defense is not as effective in sacks, interceptions and turnovers on the road. Crowds do make a difference.
8.) It should be noted that the Broncos fans have dominated stadiums on the road in San Diego in the past and in Tampa Bay last year. However, orange will not be as influential this season. Except, maybe in Carson, Calif. The Chargers’ new soccer stadium has been unfriendly confines because people who bought the 25,000 season tickets are selling them to loyalists for the visiting teams. Maybe the Broncos will have 12,000 or so fanatics for the Chargers game. And the Chargers are 0-3 to start the season.
Nevertheless, the Broncos had a team in Buffalo on a pleasant day (not in a snowstorm) they could and should have beaten, but Siemian interceptions (two), coaching fake punt mistake (one), player fake handshake (one) bad officiating calls (two), turnovers (two for the Broncos, none for the Bills) and rather timid overall play prevent the Broncos from being 3-0.
It won’t be easy being Orange on the road, and being road kill would kill the Broncos’ chances for the postseason.