If streaking Broncos win next two, they are in playoff conversation

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- When the Denver Broncos were reeling at 1-5 with a 50-point loss on their résumé, running back Javonte Williams took a short pause before calmly assessing the situation.

"I've kind of been saying we're in a bad spot right now,'' Williams said then. "And a lot of people might be losing hope and all that, but you can't just go home and say that's it. We can do some things, we can get right; we just have to work.''

Quibble about style points and pick at the bobbles that still appear, but six weeks later, the Broncos are 5-5. Denver is nudging its way toward the playoff conversation and one of two teams in the league with a four-game win streak underway. Considering the Philadelphia Eagles (9-1) are the other, the Broncos are now keeping much better company.

Which now presents them with a different problem than they had just over a month ago. Then, the chief concern was holding together what had started to look torn and frayed. Now, it is remembering exactly how and why the first six weeks of the season looked the way they did.

"You can never be caught up in good or bad. ... You can't get caught up in the here-we-go-again mentality,'' Broncos safety Justin Simmons said. "You put your head down and work. ... It's cliché maybe, but it is what you do. The choice is do that or keep feeling terrible.''

The Broncos' journey to 5-5 is a testament to resiliency, but the next seven games -- the next two in particular -- will show where they really fit.

The Broncos' next two games -- Sunday against the Cleveland Browns (7-3) and Dec. 3 in Houston against the Texans (6-4) -- are against two of the teams in front of them in the AFC's playoff race. With a win or two in the next two weeks, the Broncos could be smack in the middle of the postseason conversation.

"You never know who can get hot,'' Broncos tackle Garett Bolles said. " ... You want to be one of those teams that gets better and better and better.''

The Broncos have won their past four, five of the last seven, and what was easily the league's most beleaguered defense has surrendered 22 or fewer points in each of the past five games. And in the quirkiest of statistical turnarounds, the Broncos surrendered more touchdowns against the Dolphins -- 10 -- than they have in the past five games combined (eight).

"It's nice to feel that in that locker room right now, it's nice to feel that momentum ... there's nothing like it,'' Broncos coach Sean Payton said. "There's nothing like winning. ... Man, they've had a tough season, many of these players have had a handful of tough seasons. I want them to win.''

The Broncos have benefited from one of the most basic of tipping points each week. They have forced 12 takeaways in the last three games alone -- wins over the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings -- and have climbed into a tie for fifth best in the league at plus-six in turnover margin.

"You have to learn how not to lose,'' Simmons said. " ... This is the same team, the same team, we just weren't executing the details and if you think that doesn't matter, look at then and look at now. But in this league the next week is waiting for you to do it again.''

Simmons has a particularly unique view as the longest-tenured player on the team. The Broncos' last four-game winning streak happened to be the first four games of Simmons' career in 2016. He was in the first draft class after the Broncos' Super Bowl 50 win to close out the 2015 season and hasn't been to the postseason.

"The best thing is we're getting a small taste of what winning feels like around here,'' quarterback Russell Wilson said. "[But] there's a lot more winning that we have to do.''