DENVER -- So jarring the turn in this season, it forced an editorial adjustment. Until further notice, this preview space belongs to Denver7 Things to Watch For, not Keys to Victory.
The last time the Broncos won, the MLB playoffs had not started and a Halloween costume idea remained a twinkle in the eye. Kids ask your parents. It was a a long time ago -- Oct. 1 against the Raiders. Eight games and counting. Nine is the longest during a single season, coming in 1967.
The good news is that Denver's most recent victory came at home where the Broncos return Sunday. They have a chance, unlike on the road where they are threatening to become the first Broncos team since 1964 to go winless in visiting parks. This week is not about matchups. For those playing in fantasy league playoffs, you have already analyzed those. This is about the future, looking forward to next season with evaluations:
1) Vance's status
Players like coach Vance Joseph. They respect and believe in him. But they have not won for him in a results-oriented business. General manager John Elway maintains a strong relationship with Joseph. He does not want to fire him after one season, leading to four coaches in five seasons. But no one is naive, either. If the Broncos finish the season on a 12-game losing streak, no one is safe. Joseph, for me, has to win at least one if not two of the final four games. Winning those at home would help. The Broncos recognize they placed Joseph in a tough spot with the quarterback position. However, nothing accelerates change more quickly than losing ugly at home with thousands of empty seats masquerading as fans.
2) Line 'em up
Quarterbacks exist as the Broncos' top priority. Without certainty at the position, a Denver rebound requires an unhealthy leap of faith. As I have said, the Broncos should prioritize left tackle this winter. If Nate Solder becomes an option, pursue him. Insert him on the left side and move Garett Bolles to the right. Who are the core pieces moving forward? I say Ron Leary (and please move him back to left guard next season), center Matt Paradis and Bolles. The Broncos have to keep all options open at right guard (Connor McGovern receives another audition at guard today with Leary hurt) and left tackle. The Broncos rank tied for third worst with 39 sacks.
3) Running man
The Broncos' best chance of winning today involves playing C.J. Anderson. This could be his last opportunity. The club has been phasing in Devontae Booker, and planned to play extensively last week before he became ill during the game. Is Booker the man going forward? There can be no doubt, or the Broncos need to address the position in the draft.
4) Shaq Attack
Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett becomes a restricted free agent. It's good news for him, but it will make it difficult to keep the former Colorado State star. Barrett remains sneaky good, and I want to see how he performs over the final month. With Shane Ray experiencing a lost season because of a wrist injury -- the screws should come out of his hand in two weeks -- Barrett will continue to receive valuable reps.
5) Talib's future
Aqib Talib remains a unique player. He brings energy, attitude, and occasional missteps that prove costly. Few cornerbacks offer his versatility. I love Talib's game. Still, it's not hard to envision the Broncos moving on from Talib's $11 million salary next season, leaving a $1 million cap hit. Bradley Roby played his best game as a Bronco in Miami. A strong finish, in my opinion, almost guarantees he moves into a starting role next season.
6) A helpful assistant
Assistants, too, are coaching for their jobs. Coordinators Joe Woods and Brock Olivo have experienced wild inconsistencies, and offensive boss Mike McCoy was fired weeks ago. Olivo, in particular, has overseen arguably the worst special teams season in franchise history. Woods knows the game. He coached the No Fly Zone to its potential for years. However, he has been slow on adjustments as the defensive boss. If Woods survives, I would not be surprised if the Broncos look to add a veteran defensive coach like the Colts' Chuck Pagano, if, as expected, the Colts let him go.
It seems simple. It has been anything but for the Broncos. Of the eight straight losses, four have come by at least 20 points. The Broncos offense remains the key to allowing the team to compete Sunday. Denver has scored 34 first-half points in the last eight games. That used be a good first half for Peyton Manning.
Renck's prediction: Jets 23, Broncos 17