CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- It takes an archeological dig to extract less hope for a Broncos win.
They have been underdogs multiple times over the past two seasons, but their defense always provided a measure of optimism. As it stands, the Broncos enter New Orleans as an underdog without cornerback Aqib Talib (back) and defensive end Derek Wolfe (elbow), and with a backfield with less experience than any in Gary Kubiak's head coaching history.
Other than that.
"I think the guys understand the challenge. We have had a really good week of practice," Kubiak said.
The Broncos sit at 6-3. Falling to 6-4 would not crush their playoff hopes, though it would be damaging in their pursuit of the AFC West title. They are desperately trying to massage the roster and use chicken wire and duct tape to plug gaps until the bye week.
It helps that linebacker Brandon Marshall (hamstring) and cornerback Kayvon Webster (hamstring) will play. After Sunday, Denver is off, which should create a path for Wolfe and Talib to return, Kubiak said, and allow needed rest for quarterback Trevor Siemian (left shoulder), center Matt Paradis (chronic hip) and receiver Demaryius Thomas (hip). Wolfe and Talib will travel with the team, providing support from the sideline.
The players have taken their struggles personal. Even if the Broncos are out-manned, their attitude is healthy. They are looking to prove critics wrong, which is when this group has been at its best. But the road to a win is difficult. The Broncos must find a way to score 30 points, which means the offense has to be significantly better than its been in recent weeks. Devontae Booker will start at running back, but Kapri Bibbs will get more reps.
They both are inexperienced. And oh yeah -- Siemian has never played in a dome in his life.
"Really?" Kubiak said with a smile. "That will help me sleep well tonight."
Want Broncos news? Denver7 Broncos insider Troy E. Renck is your source. He talks to the players, covers the games and reports scoops on Denver7 and the Denver7 app. He is a CU grad who has covered pro sports in Colorado since 1996, including 14 years at The Denver Post. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and TheDenverChannel.com’s Broncos page. Troy welcomes most of your emails at Troy.Renck@kmgh.com.