ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After an 0-3 start which included a 50-point loss to the Miami Dolphins, the Denver Broncos have won three of their last five games including a victory over Kansas City that ended a 16-game losing streak to the Chiefs.
They are a somewhat wobbly 3-5, but believe there may be an end to the current seven-year playoff drought in sight.
"We definitely have a chance ... (there are) still nine games of football left,'' Broncos defensive end Zach Allen said this past week. "That's our expectation, to make it there and there's really no reason we can't do it.''
The Broncos have walked this path before. They were 3-5 last season after a win overseas in London as they headed into their bye week -- then they lost their next five games.
In 2021, they were 7-6 and lost their last four games; in 2020, they were 3-4 and lost seven of the last nine; and in 2018 they were 6-6 and lost their last four games.
Safety Justin Simmons, who is the longest-tenured player on the team, has said, "It's a new team every year, unique years and I think that's the mindset. ... We have to play our season, not live in the ones before this.''
The Broncos have a locker room full of players who have yet to experience consistent success. It's why their 24-9 win over the Chiefs was so crucial.
"We're just working here every day,'' linebacker Josey Jewell said. "We have a lot of great core guys here; we're starting to pay attention to those small details and it's starting to show. Especially last week and especially on the defensive side of the ball. We just need to stay consistent and keep that momentum.''
This Broncos team has shown its ability to dig out from the lowest of spots. The Week 3 70-20 loss was historically bad, only the third time an NFL team had surrendered 70 points in a game.
The Broncos also had a significant defensive bobble in the first half of their Oct. 1 win over the Chicago Bears where quarterback Justin Fields had one incompletion, 231 passing yards and three touchdowns before halftime. They also played poorly on both sides of the ball in the 31-21 loss to the New York Jets with 234 yards rushing allowed on defense to go with a second-half stretch of five consecutive drives that ended with a punt or turnover in three or fewer plays.
"But I think we kept fighting,'' Broncos linebacker Alex Singleton said. "Guys have kept fighting.''
They will get a test immediately following the bye with a trip to Buffalo to face the Bills (5-4) Monday (8:15 p.m. ET, ABC/ESPN). Over their final nine games they will face five teams among the league's top 14 in scoring -- the Bills, Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers, Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns.
"I think we're a better team than we were four or five weeks ago,'' coach Sean Payton said Monday. " ... We're a lot further down the road and because of that you get much more invested and recognized. The next opportunity at hand - we're going to play a national TV game (against Buffalo) and another national TV game the following Sunday night and those will both be important games for us as a team.''
They play the Chargers twice and their season finale is against the Las Vegas Raiders, who fired coach Josh McDaniels, general manager Dave Ziegler and offensive coordinator Mike Lombardi last week.
Payton has said this season there are times when it's easier, and more prudent, to push a team harder after a win. And quarterback Russell Wilson's play and the team's offense, far better at running the ball than throwing it of late will be at the top of the list as well given Wilson has had two of his five worst passing performances of his career in the last three Broncos games.
"We set the standard (with the win over the Chiefs) by how good we can be,'' Wilson said. "We have a lot more season left ... We believe in who we are. We believe in the players that we have. We believe in the coaching staff that we have.''