After two weeks of losses, that Tebandwagon has cleared out a bit, hasn't it? The haters get to have their fun. The die-hards stick around, regardless. We'd all rather have wins and big performances -- it's only narrow consolation that fairweather bandwagoneers have moved along to other things.
And yet here is the testament to the mid-season run: Even after two straight losses, Tim Tebow and the Broncos are still in a massively commanding position -- win this weekend vs. the Chiefs, and the Broncos are in the playoffs. And even if Denver loses, if the Raiders lose, too, the Broncos still win the division and host a first-round playoff game.
Let's keep all of this in perspective: If you told NFL pundits (or even Broncos fans) in August that the Broncos would be in position to earn their way into the playoffs and a division title in Week 17, you would have been laughed at. The guffaws would have been even more pronounced if you had brought up this scenario in early October, when the team was 1-4 -- when even John Fox and John Elway figured that inserting Tim Tebow as the starter would only position the team more favorably to pick a QB at the top of the NFL Draft in April 2012.
Then Tebow and the team flipped the script. They won. And won again. And won again. And kept winning, right up until they put themselves in a spot to control their own destiny for a playoff spot (and even have a halfway decent chance to make the playoffs even if they lose).
Somewhere along the way -- as Tebowmania got larger and larger -- the experts and bandwagon fans completely lost sight of where this team was before the season started (or a month into it). The expectation was NEVER that this team was going to win a Super Bowl this season. Heck, the expectation was NEVER that this team was even going to make the playoffs, let alone win the division. Most folks figured that it was a 6- or 7-win team... at BEST.
Instead, Tim Tebow and the defense and Matt Prater have led the fans on the best kind of ride -- the unexpected run into playoff contention by a team everyone else had written off.
Tebow fans figured that he would give the team a puncher's chance -- if only HE was given the chance (and given the chance within an offense that played to his strengths... let's not even get into how/why Fox went away from the successful run-based offense last week) -- the team would have that chance. And that's why you've enjoyed this one so much.
Confounding expectations has defined the Tebow experience in the NFL, ever since his final play at Florida, when the NFL "experts" immediately pounced that he could never be a first-round pick, never be an NFL starter, never be a successful QB in the league... never lead his team to the playoffs (let alone lead them to the playoffs in only his second year).
As we look back on 2011, "Tebowmania" became one of the top stories of the year -- it has been the biggest story in the NFL this season (even bigger than Aaron Rodgers and the Packers -- that doesn't change, no matter what happens next Sunday.
No one can take away the magical run that put the team in a position to simply win a game in the final week of the season to clinch a division title and a spot in the NFL Playoffs.