Posted 10/15/2009 at 01:02 PM
The Denver Broncos are one of five undefeated teams remaining the NFL yet for the third straight week the Broncos will play as underdogs. Certainly Denver has been a surprise as the off-season was filled with bad news and a young new coach seemed to find himself in all sorts of trouble. At a certain point the product on the field has to overtake the preseason projections and Denver and in the opposite case Tennessee, need to be valued for what they have done this season on the field rather than what most people expected them to do or based on last season.
Denver has the top ranked scoring defense in the NFL allowing just over eight points per game while allowing only 253 yards per game. Denver was awful against the run last season but has been outstanding this season while also featuring an excellent secondary and an overall strong tackling team. On offense Denver has scored just under 20 points per game but they are one of the top rushing teams in the league and have averaged 377 yards per game. Kyle Orton has not been flashy but he has been very effective and he thoroughly out-played Tom Brady last week. Orton has seven touchdowns and just one interception while completing 63 percent of his passes.
Denver has played a weak schedule you say? Well Denver’s opponents have combined to go 12-13. Denver has won twice on the road including giving Cincinnati its only loss as well as beating playoff contenders Dallas and New England the last two weeks. For comparisons sake, the undefeated Saints have played just four games, beating opponents that are a combined 8-10. The Colts have beat five teams that are a combined 7-16, the Vikings have beaten teams that are a combined 7-17, and the Giants have beaten teams that are a combined 6-19. So on a purely record standpoint the Broncos schedule has not really been as weak as most assume. The Broncos have not picked up the style points that some of the other teams have with lopsided wins but it doesn’t mean they haven’t been just as good.
The Broncos have caught some breaks to win some close games. The opening win at Cincinnati certainly featured some good fortune but Denver solidly out-gained Dallas and New England. The Broncos had to overcome a turnover deficit against the Patriots last week and also had a few killer penalties but in the end came out on top. While some of the other teams get more credit for posting 40 plus points Denver has been just as dominant against the two bad teams they have faced. Cleveland was held to just 200 yards and six points and Oakland was held to just 137 yards and three points.
Although no one is putting the Broncos at the top of their subjective power ratings, the objective Sagarin ratings call the Broncos the #1 team in the NFL and as we have argued also rate Denver’s schedule stronger than any of the other four undefeated teams. The Broncos have wins over two teams ranked in the top seven of the Sagarin ratings as New England and Cincinnati are the top ranked teams with losses.
Denver’s schedule will be tough in the coming weeks with three of the next four on the road and the next three home games against Pittsburgh, San Diego, and the New York Giants. The Broncos are not likely to hold up this run of great play but at this juncture they should be considered a serious threat in the AFC and a win on Monday will give them a great cushion in the AFC West. That cushion was something Denver enjoyed last season as well but couldn’t finish out so a lot can still change.