After the Denver Broncos' thrilling 21-20 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday Night Football, they have emerged as the hottest team in the NFL. They have won four straight games and have gone from a disappointing 1-5 record to a .500 team at 5-5 and in the midst of the AFC playoff discussion.
As for the power rankings, the Broncos were bottom-feeders for a good part of the year. However, four straight wins, including victories over the Chiefs, on the road vs. the Bills, and against a hot Vikings team have them rising up the rankings.
So, here is where the experts around the web have the Broncos ranked in their power rankings after their fourth straight victory.
In the past three games, Denver’s defense has forced 12 turnovers — that’s more takeaways that six teams have produced all season. In related news, the Broncos are suddenly rolling, winning four straight after the 1-5 start. It should be noted the run defense has been a problem in the past couple games, but they’re making it work. The offense moved the ball fairly well against the Vikings, and though settling for five field goals (four in the red zone) will sometimes come back to bite a team, Denver finished it off with the late TD drive. It was Russell Wilson to Courtland Sutton again, their fifth straight game connecting for a touchdown and the second straight that they did so in spectacular fashion. Four of the final seven games are on the road, but the Broncos have completely turned their season around.
The Broncos have some issues on offense — coach Sean Payton isn’t always as committed to the run as he says he wants to be, and the Broncos rank 18th on third-down conversions (38.2%) and 21st in red zone efficiency (48.6%). But Wilson has played winning football, including Sunday’s winning drive in the final two minutes for the team’s fourth victory in a row. He has the second-lowest interception percentage in the league (1.3%), is third in touchdown passes (19) and leads the league in fourth-quarter comebacks, and Sunday was his league-leading fourth game-winning drive this season. It ain’t always pretty, and there are some rough edges that need smoothing, but Wilson has lifted his game for a resurgent team. — Jeff Legwold
And no one is more surprised than us. After a 1-5 start, the Broncos have won four in a row. During that stretch, Russell Wilson has completed 74.1 percent of his passes and is eighth in the league in EPA per attempt (.19), and the defense is 15th in yards per game allowed (339.8). That doesn’t sound great, but that same defense gave up 440.3 yards per game in Weeks 1 through 6
Courtland Sutton epitomizes the Broncos’ awakening. There were times last season and early this season when he was far from an above-average receiver. Now he has scored a touchdown in five straight games and had a phenomenal game-winning touchdown Sunday. He suddenly came alive, just like the Broncos.
Broncos (5-5, No. 18): Sean Payton’s vision of a playoff berth suddenly isn’t so crazy.
Still wondering where Minnesota defenders thought Denver WR Jerry Jeudy was going to throw that ball. But maybe such a juke is apropos after the Broncos faked an early season death.
They’re officially .500 and three of these four straight wins have come against winning teams. I’m not trying to tell you the Broncos are a pretty watch, but they do look like a pain in the butt for every team they play. Looking over the long list of mediocre teams in the AFC right now, there aren’t many I like more than the Broncos.
After a woeful 1-5 start that saw plenty of criticism leveled at both quarterback Russell Wilson and head coach Sean Payton, Sunday night’s victory in Minnesota was Denver’s fourth straight. Wilson has looked more like the quarterback the Broncos mortgaged their future to obtain. The defense has been excellent. And as Moton wrote, the Broncos look less like a tomato can and more like a potential wild-card contender.
“Remember when doubters said that head coach Sean Payton rode the wave of his 2009 Super Bowl-winning New Orleans Saints into a bloated contract and that he couldn’t fix a washed-up Russell Wilson? Well, look at what Payton has done with the Broncos and Wilson since a Week 6 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Some of you owe apologies,” he said. “Denver avenged its loss to Kansas City. Yes, Patrick Mahomes played through that game with the flu, but the Broncos snapped a 16-game losing streak to the Chiefs. As an underdog by more than a touchdown, Denver beat Buffalo, and the club just knocked off a red-hot Minnesota Vikings team that had won five consecutive games.
“The Broncos have come a long way since the Miami Dolphins fed them a 70-burger in Week 3. They’ve won four straight outings and battled back into the AFC wild-card playoff race. The Broncos have pulled themselves out of the power rankings basement, and they could be ‘Danger-Russ’ with Wilson, who’s played at an efficient level, throwing for 13 touchdowns and just two interceptions since Week 4.”
Sean Payton has this team back on track with four straight victories, and he has indeed fixed Russell Wilson after last year’s disaster. Can they really make a playoff push?
I can’t say the Broncos are good, but they most certainly are no longer bad. Sean Payton’s team is learning how to win ugly, and it’s doing it on the strength of a defense that just keeps getting takeaways (it had three Sunday night against Minnesota). The Broncos are tied for second in the NFL with 19 takeaways—13 of which have come since their winning streak began in Week 7. That sort of formula might not be sustainable long term, but for now, it’s working, and it’s giving the Broncos offense a margin for error. —Lindsay Jones
This demands noting: I have been hyper-critical of this Broncos team, both coach and quarterback. However, the sight of Russell Wilson and his receivers, post-game winning touchdown, has shown the first real glimmer of hope that I’ve had relating to a scenario where Wilson is QB1 next year. Maybe I’m late to the party with respect to the Broncos fans who have been enjoying this win streak more intimately. But I am seeing the Sean Payton effect.