"We're 5-6; that's it," coach Vance Joseph said earlier this week, via The Denver Post. "We've done nothing up to this point. If we don't win Sunday (in Cincinnati), we're 5-7 -- that's ugly."
The victories saved Joseph's job for now and put the Broncos in position to possibly swipe the sixth playoff seed.
Denver plays just one team in the final five weeks that currently has a winning record. The next four games are against the floundering Bengals (backup quarterback starting his first game; sieve defense), the 49ers (backup QB; injury-ravaged roster; porous defense), the Browns (surging but still young roster), and the Oakland Raiders (dumpster fire). Then the Broncos close out the regular season with the Chargers, who might have a playoff spot secured and could be resting players.
The expectations for the Broncos have flipped. They were a team left for dead with a coach walking the plank. Now it would be a disappointment if they lost any of their next four games and weren't in the thick of the playoff hunt down the stretch.
Joseph is wary of the expectations. The same Denver team that got walloped by the lowly New York Jets in Week 5 can't take anything for granted.
"We understand where we've been," Joseph said. "The guys are still [ticked] off we're not better. That's the way I feel when we win these games. I look at the Houston game and say, 'OK, this is nice, but what happened against Houston?' We have to make better happen. [A] 5-6 [record] is not satisfying for them and not for me, especially. Let's get to 6-6 and see how that feels."
Eight of the Broncos' 11 games have ended in one-score affairs, including five losses. If Denver can turn those coin-flip games into wins the next four weeks, it should be in good position to have a shot at the playoffs.
One stumble, however, and the entire endeavor is lost.
"We're at a whatever-it-takes-type mindset," Keenum said. "We said that for the last two weeks. We're going to try and go 1-0 [each week]."