ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Broncos have one game remaining in the 2020 season — a matchup against their division rival Las Vegas Raiders — but it's nearly time to turn their attention to a new season.
In 2021, the Broncos will aim to snap a five-season skid without a playoff berth, and Head Coach Vic Fangio knows that will require the team to improve in lots of areas.
"We just have to make a lot of improvements, obviously," Fangio said Monday. "We have to get healthy; we have to improve as players and coaches — we're all in this together. I say many times that players and coaches are teammates, and we have to improve in those areas. We have to make the plays when they're there to be made. We have to call good plays. We have to execute better, and obviously getting guys back healthy will play a big part in that, we hope."
Fangio pointed to several different areas where the Broncos could've made winning plays against the Chargers, whether that was in the kicking game, making tackles or catching the football.
On the season, the Broncos have several areas where they can make big strides. The team ranks last in giveaways, 30th in takeaways, 27th in third-down percentage, 30th in points per game and 25th in points allowed.
Fangio said the Broncos' coaching staff will evaluate all options as it tries to figure out how to help the team make more positive plays that swing games.
"We definitely will look hard and long at it," Fangio said. "I just think you have to keep practicing, put the players in those situations and be able to convert them and make them when the opportunities come. Doing it in the game and doing it in practice is two different things. We have to be able to carry it from the practice field to the game field."
Fangio, who would enter his third season as the team's head coach in 2021, said he fully expects to return to lead the team next year.
"That's been the indication all along, yes," said Fangio when asked if he's been told by Broncos management that he'll return in 2021.
The Broncos also may head into 2021 with Drew Lock under center.
"I thought he made a lot of good throws," Fangio said Monday of Lock's performance against the Chargers. "Obviously, his numbers would be better if we had caught a few of them. I thought he made a lot of good throws, I thought there was some throws that could have been a little more accurate, but I haven't lost my enthusiasm for Drew at all. I think he can be a good quarterback in this league. He's shown flashes of it and he's shown periods and stretches of it, we just have to become more consistent."
If the Broncos as a team can make those winning plays on a more consistent basis, perhaps the playoffs will await in 2021.
Lost in Jerry Jeudy's tough game against the Chargers was the extent to which he was featured.
Jeudy was targeted a season-high 15 times and caught six passes, which was the second-highest total of his young career. Fangio said Monday that the performance showed Jeudy can be a focal point in the team's offense.
"He's proven during this season at different times that he can be a hell of a receiver in this league," Fangio said. "Like I said, he's a good route-runner, he can catch. He had a bad day yesterday in that regard, but he's proven he has good hands, and I'm sure he'll come back from this and be a better receiver throughout his career because of this day."
Fangio also believes Jeudy has the mental makeup to respond to the adversity he faced Sunday.
"Yeah, I do," Fangio said. "I think he's got the right makeup. When I say it's a defining moment, sometimes a guy drops a pass here and there, but yesterday he had a few of them and I think he'll learn a lot from that, that the focus needs to be on catching the ball before anything else happens, regardless of if you're in traffic or not. I think he'll come out a better receiver for this."
The Broncos' 2021 opponents will be finalized Sunday when Denver's game against Las Vegas and the Chargers' game against the Chiefs go final.
If the Broncos lose or the Chargers win, the Broncos would finish in fourth place in the AFC West and play the fourth-place teams in the AFC East and AFC South. That would result in the Broncos hosting the Jets and traveling to face the Jaguars. If the Broncos beat the Raiders and the Chargers lose to the Chiefs, the Broncos would hold a tiebreak over the Chargers for third place in the division and would play the third-place teams in those divisions. That would lead to a home matchup with the Patriots and a road date with the Texans.
According to a report from Albert Breer, if the league moves to a 17-game schedule in 2021, the Broncos would play the respective team in the NFC North. With a fourth-place finish, they'd face the Lions. If they were to finish in third place, they'd play the Vikings. It remains unclear where that 17th game would be played.
The Broncos are also slated to play every team in the AFC North and NFC East next year, as well as their traditional six games against division foes.
Stay tuned to DenverBroncos.com on Sunday for updated information on the team's 2021 opponents.