Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
The Denver Broncos are close to locking up a first-round bye after clinching a spot in the postseason with Thursday's win over the Raiders.
The Denver Broncos began the season in uneven fashion, struggling at times on defense while quarterback Peyton Manning became used to a new team and playing for the first time since 2010. Since that 2-3 start, however, the Broncos have reeled off eight straight wins and now face the realistic possibility of a first-round bye in the postseason.
"I think you need to get on a roll," coach John Fox sad on Thursday. "To wrap up the division and get into the tournament, teams I've been associated with, you have to string some victories together. This team has stuck together and been able to do that."
The streak was extended thanks to Thursday's 26-13 victory on the road against the Oakland Raiders, a win that locked up the AFC West division title with the Broncos facing a relatively mild schedule in the final three games of the year.
"We're rolling," said receiver Demaryius Thomas. "We've just got to keep going and keep getting better. Hopefully just keep rolling."
Denver will have 10 days off the recuperate for a big game against the Baltimore Ravens next Sunday. The Texans currently hold the No. 1 spot in the AFC and a win over the Ravens (9-3 heading into this weekend) would likely further help to lock up a first-round bye in the playoffs. It's a possibility the players aren't allowing themselves to think about, though.
"Not at all," Champ Bailey said when asked if the players have addressed the possibility. "I think that will take care of itself. You can't do anything about that except win games and just keep trying to get better. That's all you can do."
The Broncos will finish the season against the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs, both home games. Denver players have said they won't allow themselves to look too far ahead, however, in what has become a surprisingly successful season.
"It's great. We're just going to keep taking it one game at a time," said linebacker Von Miller. "That's what's been working for us all season -- no need to change. Just keep taking it one day at a time, keep preparing well, keep going to work with those guys in the locker room and I'm sure we can do whatever we put our minds to."