ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — When new Broncos outside linebacker Jacob Martin traveled to Denver as a member of the Jets in Week 7, he got a firsthand look at this year's Broncos.
And while Denver lost that football game, Martin's impression was that the Broncos were built to make a playoff push.
"A very talented team," Martin said Monday. "A team that is one step away from making a big run."
As the Broncos enter the second half of their season, they're focused on doing just that. Despite the team's 3-5 record, Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett still believes in his team's ability to turn the fortune of the season.
"It's a new season," Hackett said. "Nine games. Everything's ahead of us. In this league, to be able to get to where you want to go, you have to win a bunch of games in a row — whether it's in the beginning, whether it's in the end — to put yourself in position to get to the playoffs. You've got to win, and you've got to win a bunch of them."
The Broncos have yet to win more than two consecutive games, but they'll have an opportunity to build on a Week 8 win on Sunday against the Titans. After Denver's game against the 6-3 Titans, the Broncos will host the Raiders (2-6) and travel to play the Panthers (2-7). If the Broncos can pull a road upset against the Titans, it's possible — and perhaps likely — that they'll be favored in those next two games.
The Broncos' task is far from easy, but they're focused on finding ways — individually and collectively — to reverse the course of the season and start stacking wins.
"We have nine games available to us," Hackett said. "So, I think it's about, what can you do individually to make yourself better to get us those one or two plays, 'cause we've been in so many games. It was a great start this past game vs. Jacksonville. We had a couple opportunities, guys made some big plays and we've got to build off that, both offense and defense and special teams. I think it's about what we can do as an individual, and as a unit, as a team, because we've got nine games left. … Long season ahead."
Denver's hope stems, in part, from its proximity to victory. The Broncos have played seven one-score games in their first eight contests, and three of their losses came by seven combined points.
As the stretch run approaches, the Broncos still believe in their ability — even following the trade of Bradley Chubb.
"It hurts the locker room, because you build a relationship with [him], but at the same time, guys understand," safety Justin Simmons said. "The guys weren't coming in pissed off, upset, [feeling] like the season was over. None of that even crossed their mind. That wasn't even mentioned. The fact of the matter is, hey, it's part of the league. It's unfortunate, but we do have all the guys capable of still winning in this room, and it's time to buy in and lock into that."
The Broncos will soon reach a point where they'll face direct competitors in the wild-card race, but as they battle with the Titans, Raiders and Panthers, the rest of the AFC wild-card hopefuls could pick up losses. Denver currently ranks 12th in the AFC, but several of the teams ahead of the Broncos in the standings either play each other or face tough tests in the coming weeks. As such, the wild-card race could look significantly different by the end of November.
The rest of the wild-card picture, though, hardly matters if the Broncos cannot get on a roll and find their rhythm. They know they have to start stringing wins together, and they believe they can do it.
A Week 10 game against the Titans will be the first chance to prove it.