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NFL Power Rankings Week 4: Can the Broncos climb out of the cellar?

Where do the Broncos go from here?

NFL: Denver Broncos at Green Bay Packers
Risner and Lindsay were the definition of clutch.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Another week, another Broncos loss. At this point if you’re a pessimist you’ve probably joined the “Fire Elways” and/or “Trade Von!” bandwagon(s). If you’re an optimist you look around the AFC and realize only six teams in the entire conference have winning records. Denver’s hardly out of the running if things make a drastic turn.

There’s a bit of movement this week. I base the rankings off how I see each team’s chances at the Super Bowl this year. So the Bills are still sort of low because I don’t believe in them, the Browns are pretty high even though they have a losing record. Don’t like it, then let me have it in the comments!

Let’s dive in:

Dumpster diving

32. Miami Dolphins (0-3)

One of the things I can’t help but think about everytime I see these #TrustthePorpoise tweets: At different points this past offseason Miami tried to sign Teddy Bridgewater and trade for Jadaveon Clowney.

31. Cincinnati Bengals (0-3)

In a fair and just world where tanking was punished, the Bungles would be the clear favorite for Tua Tagovailoa. They’ve tried to stay competitive and just don’t have the talent to do more than serve as someone else’s punching bag.

30. New York Jets (0-3)

Gase has his built in excuse ‘til Sam’s back.

28. Washington (0-3)

You know, suffering through watching the game last night really made me appreciate the kind of performance Denver put up in week two. They were a horrific call one play away from exposing beating da Bears.

29. Denver Broncos (0-3)

Definitely have a feeling I’m going to be caught writing between two distinct feelings in Broncos Country the next couple weeks. The win-at-all-cost diehards are still holding out to this idea that Fangio’s 0-3 Broncos will follow the Houston Texans model and become the 7th team to start winless for three weeks and make the postseason.

On the other side of the divide are the “TRADE VON!” crowd who want to fire Elway, scrap the roster #TrustthePorpoise style and yell at everyone who disagrees.

Immediately following the loss to the Packers I took a long walk with my dog to let the disappointment settle a little. At the end of it, I came back to the same thought I had back in training camp. I expected this roster to hover around 8-8, maybe a little better or worse depending on luck.

0-3 certainly means they’ll probably be on the lighter side of that, but even then there’s plenty of reasons to root for the team. Elway said he wants to “win from now on” when he was hired and each of the Broncos losses have had enough moments from young players that there’s reason to believe better days are coming.

This season may wind up with a disappointing win-loss record, but if core players emerge on both side of the ball the team can build around for the long term? It’s a huge win.

27. Pittsburgh Steelers (0-3)

At least Elway didn’t trade a top 10 pick instead of saving it for a potential heir to their 30-something quarterback.

26. Arizona Cardinals (0-2-1)

I’ve seen murmurs here and there from some in Broncos Country wishing the team still had Vance Joseph. I dare you to watch a Cards game in its entirety and get back to me on that.

Good-bad, or bad-good?

25. Oakland Raiders (1-2)

So I know the Broncos lost to Oakland in week one, but it’s going to be interesting to see how close Denver keeps their games against Kansas City and Minnesota, or how Gruden handles Green Bay.

24. New York Giants (1-2)

Still very early, but it looks like I’m going to have to eat some serious crow on Daniel Jones. If he keeps this up I plan to go back to his 2018 tape and see how I missed on him. My initial thought is I docked him way too hard for his subpar supporting cast against superior competition.

23. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-2)

This weeks game with the Broncos is going to say an awful lot about both teams. It’s hard to get a real bead on this Jaguars defense. They were toasted by Patty melt in week one, sacked Deshaun Watson a bunch in week two and suffocated Marcus Mariota.

Even more intriguing will be how Gardner Minshew plays against the Fangio defense. He’s had his moments, but looks like the kind of rookie a little deception could really mess with. Will Vic dial up the confusion?

If the Broncos can’t slow down Minshew, I’ll be concerned.

Early crossroad teams

22. Tennessee Titans (1-2)

If Von Miller and Bradley Chubb can’t get to Marcus Mariota in week 6, I’m all-in on the panic wagon.

21. Carolina Panthers (1-2)

The NFC South looks to have a 3-team race for second place with New Orleans running away with the division. I want to see how Kyle Allen looks against a real NFL defense before I consider them legitimate contenders though.

20. Atlanta Falcons (1-2)

Talk about injury to insult. They suffered a painfully close loss to the Colts Sunday, but also lost Keanu Neal for the season once again. For how promising this season looked back in camp, things are threatening on spiraling out of control for Dan Quinn. He hired new assistants in the offseason so there’s nowhere to point the finger if he falters again.

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-2)

Tale of two halves for Bruce Arians’ Bucs. Going into halftime Tampa Bay was looking at a 28-10 lead and Jameis Winston had 3 touchdowns to Mike Evans. They lost the game 32-31 after Daniel Jones and the Giants offense stormed back without Saquon Barkley.

18. Chicago Bears (2-1)

I know Trubisky played well against Washington, but I still have a hard time buying that he’ll do it often enough to serve as more than an anchor. If he can, the pieces are definitely there for the Bears and Matt Nagy to make some real noise.

17. Indianapolis Colts (2-1)

If Jacoby Brissett can pepper some more games like Sunday in, the Colts could be a really tough matchup. Not only did he complete 75.6% of his passes for 310 yards and two touchdowns, he hit 9 different receivers along the way.

16. Los Angeles Chargers (1-2)

Stat that may interest only me: Against the Texans Keenan Allen had 13 receptions.

No other Chargers’ receiver had more than three.

15. Philadelphia Eagles (1-2)

The Iggles are trying to fly with broken wings right now. Going to be an interesting flight for the next couple weeks.

14. Cleveland Browns (1-2)

On the surface, the loss to L.A. is about as good as a loss can be when you’re chasing the postseason. It isn’t a division or even conference game, after all. It certainly leaves some questions to be answered, however. The Browns offensive line looks every bit as bad as the doubters pointed out all summer.

Even worse is how Freddy Kitchens seems to have lost his magic play-calling touch.

13. Detroit Lions (2-0-1)

Technically undefeated. It looks like the NFC North is going to be tough to shake out ‘til they start playing each other.

Probably Playoff Contenders

12. Buffalo Bills (3-0)

Still think they’re fools gold squeaking all these bad teams, but at some point all the wins may give them a real chance at a darkhorse playoff hunt. Especially when you realize they got a similar cakewalk schedule to what New England gets to exploit.

11. Seattle Seahawks (2-1)

Have to wonder if this year’s Seachickens are good enough to overcome Pete Carroll’s baffling game decisions.

10. Minnesota Vikings (2-1)

Kirk Cousins against bad NFL defenses in 2019: 23/31 for 272 yards and two touchdowns, one sack and two fumbles.

Kirk Cousins against a legitimate Super Bowl defense in 2019: 14/32 230 yards one touchdown, two picks, one sack and two fumbles.

Going to be interesting to see how Kevin Stefanski and Gary Kubiak manage their $84 million quarterback over the course of the rest of the season.

9. Houston Texans (2-1)

Rarely if ever do I give pace stats much consideration. This one seems a bit ominous though: Last season Deshaun Watson was sacked 62 times, only three quarterbacks had taken more in a season ever. This year he’s on pace for 64. Something has to give.

8. New Orleans Saints (2-1)

Turns out if you give Sean Payton a week to prepare a gameplan for Teddy Bridgewater, the offense looks okay. Surely helped that Pete Carroll’s special teams had a meltdown.

7. Baltimore Ravens (2-1)

So it turns out Lamar Jackson still bleeds.

6. San Francisco 49ers (3-0)

What kind of year it would be if the Elway’s second coaching hire since passing on Kyle Shanahan posts a losing record while the pass rusher he pushed out the door by drafting Bradley Chubb leads the league in sacks.

5. Los Angeles Rams (3-0)

What would you say if I told you Aaron Donald didn’t have any sacks until deep into the Cleveland game?

4. Dallas Cowboys (3-0)

Cowboys didn’t suffer any major injuries beating up on a practice squad. Next.

3. Green Bay Packers (3-0)

Matt LaFleur’s playcalling after his opening script remains a reason for concern. It’s fair to wonder if the Broncos could have stolen the game if not for any one of their three costly turnovers.

I mean this kindly when I say good teams are supposed to beat bad teams badly, Green Bay should have pummeled Denver.

2. Kansas City Chiefs (3-0)

Because of the Broncos game I didn’t get a chance to watch this live, but it will be fascinating to break down how the Chiefs defense managed to slow down Jackson. On the other side of the ball, it sure is starting to look like the “he only played one year” crowd is going to need to find something else to critique.

Almost mortal

1. New England Patriots (3-0)

What are the odds New England goes undefeated the same year Miami blanks?