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Broncos get Fox back after surviving tough stretch without him

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The Denver Broncos and John Fox were facing real trouble a month ago. Of course, the toughest stretch on the Broncos schedule was nothing compared to Fox recovering from open-heart surgery. Yet on Dec. 2, Fox returned to work just as Denver finished staying on top without him.

The day before, the Broncos beat the Kansas City Chiefs for the second time without their head coach. Under Jack del Rio's leadership, Denver won three games over Kansas City and the San Diego Chargers, while utterly collapsing against the New England Patriots in between.

Even with that inexplicable loss, the Broncos took a virtual two-game lead over the Chiefs in the AFC West. With Fox returning for four straight games against sub .500 teams, it would take a very unlikely bad stretch for Denver to lose the division. After going 3-1 against the Chiefs, Chargers and Patriots without Fox, it's hard to see the Broncos going 2-2 or worst against the Chargers, Oakland Raiders, Houston Texans and Tennessee Titans with him.

Unless the Patriots are one game better than the Broncos in the next four weeks, Denver should have home field wrapped up in the AFC. Of course, having home field didn't help Fox prevent an upset to the Baltimore Ravens a year ago. However, Denver and Peyton Manning weren't this dominant last year and didn't have to overcome quite as much adversity.

Nevertheless, Fox isn't coming back with no pressure on him and Denver. But despite the stressful times ahead, he proclaimed on Dec. 2 that he felt "tremendous" and would have returned sooner if not for his doctor's timetable. Still, he hasn't decided yet if he will coach from the sideline or the booth.

Fox will face the Titans at home on Dec. 8, which should help the Broncos avoid a letdown from their win in Kansas City. If Denver can take it easy like expected for the next month, it should ease the coach back in before the month that really matters.

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