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Mile High Morning: With crucial divisional game waiting after the bye, Broncos look to return to their potential


The Lead

As they enter the bye week, the Broncos can let their mind drift, if only momentarily.

The frustrations that linger after Sunday's loss dropped them to 5-5 will not vanish, but at least for a few days, they can take a step back and refocus.

"This bye week is actually [at] a perfect time," Shelby Harris said Monday. "It's a time where we're 5-5 right now and, yeah, go away. Stop thinking about this stuff for a little bit. Go relax, have a mental reset and come back … because this seven-game stretch [is] going to be a crucial seven-game stretch. You need to go out and relax. Clear your mind and when we come back here, we're coming to run them off. I really think that for us this is literally the perfect bye week. Rest your bodies, rest your mind, come back and let's do it."

Following the bye, the Broncos will begin that seven-game slate with a critical divisional game that can reshape their postseason hopes. As ESPN’s Jeff Legwold argues, that Nov. 28 game against the Chargers is the most important one remaining on the schedule.

"This game will be the Broncos' first back from the bye and their first following the 30-13 loss to the Eagles on Sunday," Legwold wrote. "And it's at home, where the Broncos are just 2-3 this season, with of all three of their ugliest losses -- against Baltimore, Las Vegas and Philadelphia -- coming in front of the team's faithful. The Broncos need to come out of the bye with some on-field passion instead of postgame angst. If they are really going to be in the middle of the muddled AFC West race, they need to win this game to start a stretch run the right way."

The time to refocus — and to perhaps get a bit healthier — comes at a potential turning point in the season. In Week 9, the Broncos showed massive potential in taking down the Cowboys on the road, but they fell short of that standard on Sunday. To get in position for a postseason berth, they'll have to return to the mindset and consistent play of two weeks ago.

"It's a big divisional matchup we have coming up, [and we] have to move on," Lloyd Cushenberry III said Monday. "These past two weeks just goes to show you that you never know what happens in the NFL. It's any given Sunday, like I said last Sunday against the Cowboys. Anybody can get got every single game. You have to come out no matter what the record is, no matter who's starting, who's out or what the situation is. Anybody can win any game against any opponent."

Below the Fold

The group hit hardest by injuries at this point has to be Denver's offensive line, as starters Garett Bolles, Bobby Massie and Graham Glasgow have been sidelined in recent weeks. Glasgow has already announced that he's out for the season.

In their place, Denver looked to its reserves to step up. Rookie Quinn Meinerz filled in at right guard for Glasgow, Calvin Anderson played left tackle for Bolles and Cameron Fleming played right tackle in Massie's stead.

Even against a stout unit like Philadelphia's, which features a Pro Bowler in defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, the group held its own. Pro Football Focus graded out Fleming, Cushenberry and Meinerz as the Broncos offense's top performers on Sunday. Yet, at the same time, Cushenberry said the line is looking to create more consistency.

"I thought Quinn played well," Cushenberry said. "He had a great opponent in Fletcher Cox, and for the most part of the game, he played really well. Just shows some of the things that he can do. Cam and Calvin, they both stepped up just like last week. But all of us as a group … was inconsistent. There are things to clean up. But I feel like sometimes that can affect things, but as far as communication, we were on the same page. [We] just have to be more consistent."

The Unclassifieds

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