SAN DIEGO, CA - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach John Fox of the Denver Broncos discuss play on the sidelines with Tim Tebow #15 during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on November 27, 2011 in San Diego, California. The Broncos won 16-13 in overtime. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
It may just be stating the obvious, but it's still worth repeating: Just one game at a time.
The Denver Broncos are enjoying a very entertaining four game winning streak and five of the last six games have been some of the more entertaining games in recent team history. A comeback against the Dolphins for the ages, road wins against the Raiders, Chiefs, and Chargers, and of course, the prime time win at home against Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets.
The Broncos and the fans have a lot to be positive about right now, especially with the way the defense is playing, and the offense not turning the ball over. Tim Tebow makes the Broncos popular and relevant nationally, causing recent performances by guys like Von Miller, Elvis Dumervil, Britton Colquitt, and others to go slightly unnoticed.
Still, that doesn't really matter. If Broncos fans are arguing about who should be getting more credit for our victories, I think we are all being more than slightly greedy, but that's just me. Instead, I think we should focus on the task at hand, which is winning football games.
Or, winning a single football game, I should say.
The Broncos are 6-5 and currently trail the Oakland Raiders by one game in the AFC West race, but with just one divisional contest left, Denver has the best overall divisional record at 3-2, and they face a huge game against a really battered but dangerous Minnesota Vikings team.
Denver has had a ton of trouble against the NFC North this season losing in Green Bay 49-23, and then getting hammered by Detroit at Mile High 45-10. For those of you keeping track at home, those are the two worst defensive outputs by the Broncos this season, and that is a combined score of 94-33 in favor of the NFC North this season.
There is a difference with Minnesota, however than the two previously mentioned teams (Packers, Lions). The Vikings start Christian Ponder at quarterback. Ponder is a smart, athletic kid who has a strong arm and can make all the throws. That being said, Ponder still makes some terrible decisions and is clearly still learning the NFL game. Minnesota fans seem to like him pretty well and feel like he has a lot of potential to succeed, but he's going to need more help.
Running back Adrian Peterson is nursing an ankle injury and is hopeful that his pain will have subsided enough to be able to play on Sunday. Even if the Vikings have a 70 percent Adrian Peterson, he will still be better than a fully healthy Toby Gerhart. Peterson is the best back in the league, and he is capable of absolutely dominating a game. Just ask the San Diego Chargers, who allowed Peterson an NFL record 296 rushing yards just four years ago.
Overall, this is a really banged up Vikings team. They just placed four players on injured reserve, including wide receiver Michael Jenkins who has been a very solid offseason addition for this team. That will leave the focus offensively on Percy Harvin and Peterson, who are undoubtedly the team's top playmakers.
This is an offense that clearly goes through Peterson and Harvin, and Harvin especially gets a lot of touches. He is the team's primary kick returner as well as number one wide receiver, and he will even line up in the backfield at times. The Broncos have the speed defensively to be able to keep up with him, but they need to limit the big plays because Harvin runs really hard and is able to make people miss with his blazing speed and elite quickness.
The Broncos are going to need to be on their toes defensively, and I think it's going to be critical that Von Miller dresses and plays, even if he is limited. The Broncos need his speed defensively to be able to keep other teams honest, especially a Vikings team that struggles to protect the quarterback. This could be a huge game for Miller and Elvis Dumervil, who have been teaming up to tear apart opposing quarterbacks the last few weeks.
Miller is the unquestioned rookie of the year this season, and is being given consideration for defensive player of the year in general.
Still, the Vikings are opportunists and while they haven't really beaten anyone worth mentioning to this point (Cardinals, Panthers) this is still a dangerous game, especially if Adrian Peterson plays. The Vikes always play tough on their home field, but they really struggle to finish games. That's good news for the Broncos, who have been true finishers ever since Tebow was inserted into the starting lineup.
To beat Minnesota, the Broncos are going to have to establish an early lead and force Christian Ponder to beat them. He is a young, still mistake-prone quarterback and like I mentioned before, the Minnesota offensive line isn't anything to write home about.
The Broncos absolutely have to keep their focus, and with the core of this team having a serious veteran presence in the locker room, I think they will be more focused than ever. It has been a while since Champ Bailey, Brian Dawkins, D.J. Williams, Andre' Goodman, and Willis McGahee had much to play for other than pride, and as the veteran leaders of this team, those guys have to be able to step up and keep their peers prepared for this matchup.
Tim Tebow is improving as a passer, so I think it would be nice to see the passing game continue to develop. I'm not much of a fan of the quarterback draw on third and long, but I can't argue with the final results until the Broncos don't finish games. The Vikings have a really good defensive front led by Jared Allen, Kevin Williams, and Chad Greenway, so Denver is going to have to be on top of its game.
This game has the potential to be a let-down or "trap" game because of the Vikings' record, but the Broncos cannot read into that. They have to go into Minnesota and take care of business, especially with Oakland playing Miami this week.
Obviously, it's cliche' to say this, but the Broncos really have to approach the rest of this season one game at a time, and it starts with closing off this circus-style road trip with one more victory before they return home for the majority of the rest of this season.