ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — While Denver's playoff chances took a significant hit with a Week 16 loss, the Broncos can still see value in finishing the season strong.
The Broncos finish the 2023 season with two divisional matchups, and they can post their first winning season since 2016 with a pair of victories to end the year. With wins over the Chargers and Raiders, Denver would also post its first sweep over a division rival since 2019 and snap a seven-game skid against Las Vegas.
"Obviously, those things are incredibly important, and it's certainly important to who we want to be as an organization and as a team, especially what we want to be moving forward," tackle Mike McGlinchey said Tuesday. "To be able to be a true professional, you have to be able to put your best work in in the hardest times and the biggest times of adversity, and certainly we're going through that right now. I believe that this team is capable of great things, and obviously things didn't go our way this past Sunday, but we've got to put our best foot forward for these next two games and certainly finish the season on a great note."
A pair of division wins would give the Broncos a 4-2 mark in the division, which would be Denver's best division record since 2015. As inside linebacker Alex Singleton noted, the ability to play well in the AFC West was among Denver's chief priorities to begin the year.
"They're division games," Singleton said. "Those are the most important things. Your original goals when the season starts are to win the games in the AFC West. That's obviously foremost. It sets us up for where we want to go, and it's our jobs at the end of the day."
The Broncos' focus will begin with earning a home win over a Chargers team that pushed the Bills in Giff Smith's first game as Los Angeles' interim head coach. Denver is 4-4 at home this season, and Head Coach Sean Payton acknowledged the importance of finding more success at Empower Field at Mile High. Denver last posted a winning record at home in 2019.
"When these guys come in here tomorrow morning, the message is going to be about winning this game — our last home game," Payton said Tuesday. "We haven't played well at home, or at least to the expectations certainly from Broncos fans and then from my experience of playing at home. This is our last opportunity to play a home game, and it's going to be about getting this win."
While the Broncos remain mathematically alive in the playoff race, Payton said their focus will be "short-sighted" and solely on the Chargers.
"[It's about] the next seven days, and then [we'll] kind of go from there," Payton said.
With only a narrow path remaining toward either a division title or wild-card berth, Singleton said that's the only approach the Broncos can take in Week 17.
"We've just got to prepare to beat the Chargers this weekend and let everything else take care of itself," Singleton said.
As Denver looks to earn its third consecutive win over the Chargers, Payton said his team is still learning how to consistently succeed.
"I think the ongoing step is understanding how not to lose games before you learn how to win them," Payton said. "Two-thirds of the games we see each weekend are lost before they're ever won. We're still learning that the hard way."
'IT'S NOT GOOD ENOUGH'
Though the Broncos' offense surged to two late touchdowns — and a pair of two-point conversions — against the Patriots, Denver struggled for a prolonged stretch of Sunday's loss.
Denver scored seven points on three first-quarter possessions that all started in New England territory, and the Broncos then went seven consecutive possessions without scoring.
The Broncos' offense was held scoreless in the first half of their previous game, and Payton acknowledged the unit's performance has not met his standard.
"So many times, when we look at some of that stuff, it's self-inflicted problems," Payton said. "That has to get cleaned up. That's communication. That might be having to reduce [things] — is there too much in? Right now, we're average to below average in a lot of things offensively, and it's not good enough."
The Broncos' up-tempo attack in the fourth quarter helped lead to success, but Payton noted that it's difficult "to make a living that way as your base offense."
No matter which style the Broncos play, McGlinchey said their performance must be better in a number of areas.
"It's a matter of playing consistently, it's a matter of playing with great detail and knowing how to protect better, how to run the ball better, how to throw the ball where it needs to be, how to get open better," McGlinchey said. "Whatever the issues have been, it's just about doing it better and being more consistent. We've shown great things at times on offense this year and certainly was a huge part of the reason we turned this thing around, but we've got to be more consistent when it matters the most."