ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos return to work Monday after a bye week that served to help heal a variety of bumps and bruises.
It could be a November to remember for the Broncos. Quarterback Peyton Manning is poised to break the NFL’s career mark for passing yardage and may be playing his last game in Indianapolis. The Broncos also travel to Chicago to face former coach John Fox and have games against the undefeated Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots.
“Everybody knows what’s there,’’ cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “But the good thing about this team is we just go play. Everybody knows we can’t do what we want to do if we don’t go play.’’
The Broncos open November against the Packers Sunday. In addition to Aaron Rodgers, the Packers have the only other defense -- in addition to the Broncos -- that closed Week 6 with at least 23 sacks.
The Broncos coaches wanted to make the players understood the bye was to rest and re-calibrate.
“Words of wisdom?’’ said Broncos coach Gary Kubiak when asked what his advice to the team. “Be smart. They deserve time, they need time. They've been working hard. It will be good for them and just basically told them that I think everybody is smart enough to know what type of game we're in when we come back.’’
A look at the next five weeks:
Nov. 1: The Packers come to Denver for the first time since Green Bay’s overtime win in 2007 – Brett Favre’s last career start in Denver – and it will be just the second time Rodgers has faced the Broncos. Rodgers was 29-of-38 for 408 yards and four touchdowns in Lambeau Field in 2011 against the Broncos. The Packers led 28-17 at halftime, 42-17 at the end of the third quarter. Rodgers will easily present the biggest mobility, throw-on-the-move challenge for the Broncos' defense.
Nov. 8: It won’t be the first time Manning has faced the Colts as a Broncos quarterback in Indianapolis – he did that in the 2013 regular season. And Manning has had a postseason game against Indianapolis as the Colts shoved the lackluster Broncos out of playoffs last January. But at 39 years old, this is almost certainly Manning’s last regular-season trip to Indianapolis as a player. The Colts have their own in-house issues – pass protection and the uncertainty with coach Chuck Pagano – but put Manning in the lineup in a stadium that wouldn't exist had he not played for the Colts, and toss in some playoff revenge, you have quite the emotional mix.
Nov. 15: The Kansas City Chiefs come to Denver and at his current pace – 254 passing yards per game – Manning will pass Favre for the NFL’s record for career passing yards, putting yet another slice of the league’s record book into Manning’s hands. Manning needs 624 yards to pass Favre as Manning went into the bye week at 71,215 yards, behind Favre’s 71,838 yards. Dan Marino is the only other quarterback to have topped 60,000 career passing yards. Drew Brees entered Week 7’s games with the highest active total, other than Manning’s, with 57,649 passing yards.
Nov. 22: The Broncos make their first Soldier Field appearance since a rain-soaked 2007 game. And the mutual divorce between Fox and the Broncos certainly hasn’t worked out for Fox in this season’s early going. The roster he left behind in Denver was, and is, far better than the one he has now. And the Broncos’ offense hasn’t found its expected rhythm with Adam Gase’s departure as well. Gase, too, doesn’t have the same kind of depth chart to call the plays in Chicago he had with the Broncos. But there is some drama here, because no matter how many times the word “mutual’’ is used to describe this past January’s change, there are plenty of hard feelings on both sides.
Nov. 29: And a month that will have a great deal to say about how things go for the Broncos closes with the Patriots’ trip to Denver. It has it all with Tom Brady and the New England offense against the Broncos' defense, Manning against Bill Belichick and two AFC powerhouses that, if all goes to plan, will likely have to face each other again in January.