CENTENNIAL, Colo. — This wasn't supposed to happen.
The New York Giants — the once mighty Giants — arrive in Denver this Sunday and Eli Manning owns as many wins as Peyton Manning this season. The elder Manning brother retired following the Broncos' Super Bowl 50 title and is now represented by a statue in Indianapolis. Eli looks forever removed from his pair of Super Bowl crowns, aging in dog years behind a porous offensive line.
For the Broncos, humility remains important. They started getting the feels after a 2-0 start and dissolved in Buffalo following a less-than-ideal week of practice, coach Vance Joseph admitted. The Giants represent a must-win because, well, they haven't won. Good teams take and make their layups when they show up on the schedule.
Losing to Buffalo should pay dividends this week.
"Trap game? I don't see it that way. Our team won't see it that way," said Joseph, while praising the Giants' pedigree, Manning and their stout defense. "Buffalo, we just didn't play good enough. That wasn't a trap game and this won't be either."
A message met the Broncos as they returned from parts unknown after their bye week: MORE.
Three wins in four games is a start, an appetizer. The meat of the schedule arrives with three consecutive road games looming at the Chargers, Eagles and Chiefs. Joseph wants more. More effort, detail, focus, and commitment.
"It's the same as championship habits. It trickles down to the players, to our leadership group," defensive end Adam Gotsis said. "I like seeing (the message) personally because it shows me where his mind's at. If I am coming in that day and my mind's not right, and I see coach I know I need to buckle it up."
The Broncos used the week to rest, recover and research. The danger with the Giants is now they have been typecast as ugly men in the fight. They have nothing to lose. And with so many of their top players gone, it creates mystery about their offense. A pass-happy team might try to run in back-to-back weeks after losing superstar Odell Beckham Jr. (broken ankle) and Brandon Marshall (ankle) to injuries.
"There's a little bit of uncertainty, but that's the NFL," safety Justin Simmons said. "We have to be ready for anything."
The Broncos recognize this is a time to build momentum. They are 15-3 at home following bye weeks. With brawls ahead against the aforementioned Chiefs, Patriots and Raiders, they can't afford a misstep.
They need more, not less.
Outside linebacker Shane Ray had the pins and screws removed from his left wrist. He will practice Monday, and plans on playing against the Kansas City Chiefs on Oct. 30. "It's been hard. But I can't wait to get back out there." ... Tight end Jake Butt, a former Michigan star, could return for the Chargers game. Like Ray, he will practice on Monday, creating the possibility of a quick return depending how his surgically-repaired knee responds. "It's been an adjustment having to sit back and watch. For me, I want to feel like I am contributing to this team and helping us win. I want to make this team. I don't want to be handed a spot." Butt could help provide another weapon in the red zone. ... Quarterback Paxton Lynch will throw from 10 yards later this week as he makes progress from a preseason shoulder injury. With Ray and Butt returning soon, the Broncos will need to clear two roster spots. It's fair to wonder if Lynch will land on the IR with Brock Osweiler serving as the backup. ... Receiver Cody Latimer remains bothered by a patella tendon issue in his knee. He did not practice Monday. Again, with two spots needed his health could place his roster spot in jeopardy as an IR possibility in the coming weeks. It is worth monitoring as Ray and Butt inch toward the active roster.