Maybe Peyton Manning needs to take a cue from Aaron Rodgers this week.
Everyone might need to R-E-L-A-X on the Denver Broncos a bit.
In this quickly changing NFL, it would be surprising if a team didn’t have a bad loss on its record. The Arizona Cardinals are 9-1 and even they have a 21-point defeat, to Denver, on their resumé (albeit when they played a decent part of that game with third-string quarterback Logan Thomas).
The Broncos’ 22-7 loss to the St. Louis Rams wasn’t good. It’s possible we look back on it as the game that cost the Broncos a first-round bye or the AFC West. But it’s also understandable.
The Rams played well. It happens. And when the Broncos lost Emmanuel Sanders, Julius Thomas and Montee Ball during the contest, it eliminated a big part of the game plan. Andre Caldwell and Jacob Tamme can’t do the things Sanders and Thomas do. The Broncos should have scored more than seven points, but one bad game doesn’t mean they’re not a good team. The Patriots have taken a couple bad losses. The Cardinals were blown out once. The Packers have a few uncompetitive losses. Now the Broncos have a couple, too.
If the Broncos’ injuries linger longer than expected, maybe we will have to re-evaluate them. And who knows, if the Kansas City Chiefs beat them in a couple weeks at Arrowhead Stadium (don’t discount that happening, with how well the Chiefs are playing), maybe the Broncos will just be one of those really good teams that has to settle for a wild-card spot.
But we’ll see about all that. For right now, the Broncos are just fine, even with two losses in three games. A few teams might be playing better, but I wouldn’t rank many ahead of them. The talent on that roster is too good for them to be average. Relax.
Here are the rest of the post-Week 11 NFL power rankings:
32. Oakland Raiders (0-10, Last Week: 32)
Every week that Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew get carries ahead of Latavius Murray, the Raiders are showing they don't get it. I don't know if Murray, a big, physical second-year player, is any good. But neither do the Raiders, and that's the problem.
31. Jacksonville Jaguars (1-9, LW: 30)
The Jaguars went 4-12 in Gus Bradley's first season. They'd have to go 3-3 the rest of the way to match that. I hope ownership doesn't overreact if their record is worse because Bradley is the right guy there.
30. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-8, LW: 31)
Mike Evans was the first rookie receiver with 200 yards and two touchdowns in a game since Anquan Boldin in 2003. Even in a potentially historic receiver draft class, Evans might be the best one. It's a debate that will be fun to track.
29. Tennessee Titans (2-8, LW: 29)
We're getting close to a point where Zach Mettenberger has locked up the 2015 starting quarterback job. After what he has shown, is there any chance the Titans won't use next season to give him a legitimate look?
28. New York Jets (2-8, LW: 28)
Is there a number of wins in New York's last six games that Rex Ryan could hit to save his job? I'd probably put it at a minimum of four.
27. Washington Redskins (3-7, LW: 26)
Jay Gruden's very specific criticism of Robert Griffin III on Monday seemed like him saying, "Nothing else is getting through, let me try this approach."
26. New York Giants (3-7, LW: 24)
Sadly, the Giants probably would have won Sunday's game against the 49ers had Eli Manning thrown just four interceptions. Alas, he threw five.
25. Carolina Panthers (3-7-1, LW: 23)
A team that has lost five straight is a half-game out of first place.
24. Atlanta Falcons (4-6, LW: 27)
There is, by the way, a scenario in which the NFC South could be won by a 5-11 team. That's mathematically possible. In related news, I better not get one "How can you rank a first-place team so low???" email or tweet this week.
23. Minnesota Vikings (4-6, LW: 21)
Sunday's loss to the Bears was the fifth time in six games the Vikings didn't reach 20 points. And it was against the Bears, who give up 14 by the time the national anthem is done. Lot of work to be done there.
22. Chicago Bears (4-6, LW: 25)
Four of the Bears' last six games are at home. If they can win those, and upset the Lions on the road on Thanksgiving, then go into Week 17 at Minnesota with nine wins ... I'm sorry Bears fans, I don't know why I just did that to you.
21. New Orleans Saints (4-6, LW: 19)
Rookie receiver Brandin Cooks wasn't dominating this season, but he was pretty good, and it's going to be very hard for the Saints to replace what he does while he's out four-to-six weeks with a broken thumb.
20. St. Louis Rams (4-6, LW: 22)
They should be in so much better shape than 4-6.
19. Houston Texans (5-5, LW: 20)
The first question of Bill O'Brien's Monday news conference was why Ryan Mallett didn't start before Week 11. His answer was basically that he wanted to make sure Mallett was ready. But he probably has to wonder if things would be different if he had pulled the trigger earlier.
18. Buffalo Bills (5-5, LW: 17)
Nobody checked the expiration date on Kyle Orton. It has passed.
17. Cincinnati Bengals (6-3-1, LW: 18)
How do you evaluate a team that looked so bad at home against the Browns and so good on the road at the Saints in an 11-day stretch?
16. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-4, LW: 16)
It just shouldn't be that hard against really bad teams.
15. Cleveland Browns (6-4, LW: 13)
The good news is Josh Gordon is back. The bad news is they won't get that loss to the Texans back. They really could have used that one.
14. San Diego Chargers (6-4, LW: 15)
There were a few times on Sunday when it didn't seem like Philip Rivers would be getting up. It's no surprise to hear he has been playing through injuries.
13. San Francisco 49ers (6-4, LW: 12)
NaVorro Bowman was cleared to return to practice. Hopefully he makes it back this season because that would be a great story for a great player.
12. Miami Dolphins (6-4, LW: 14)
Well, if you have to play Denver this might be a good time for it. The Dolphins could use an upset like that, too.
11. Baltimore Ravens (6-4, LW: 11)
In the AFC North logjam, it seems like the Ravens have the best team. They could take a huge step by winning at New Orleans next Monday night.
10. Detroit Lions (7-3, LW: 9)
It's clear they're heading toward a wild-card berth, but I'll say this: They're going to be a tough out in the opening weekend (unless Matthew Stafford plays like he did at Arizona, of course).
9. Seattle Seahawks (6-4, LW: 8)
A lot is being made of Marshawn Lynch, like he's a reason for the Seahawks' issues. Let's think this through. Do we think Lynch debuted a new personality this year? No. And how were the Seahawks with all of Lynch's "distractions" or whatever you'd like to call them the past few years?
8. Dallas Cowboys (7-3, LW: 7)
They still have four road games left, but the good news is that three come against bad teams (Giants, Bears, Redskins).
7. Indianapolis Colts (6-4, LW: 5)
You can't discount Andrew Luck getting hot and carrying this team deep in the playoffs, but they're just not one of the elite teams in the conference.
6. Kansas City Chiefs (7-3, LW: 10)
They beat the defending champs with 11 completions and 108 yards. Old-school football fans, this is your squad.
5. Philadelphia Eagles (7-3, LW: 3)
A close loss at Lambeau would have been no big deal. But that blowout loss? Not a good look.
4. Denver Broncos (7-3, LW: 2)
The running back situation is an issue. Ronnie Hillman and Montee Ball are out a while. The Broncos can't just ditch the run, like they did at St. Louis.
3. Arizona Cardinals (9-1, LW: 6)
Maybe Drew Stanton is just one of those stories, where his NFL history doesn't matter and he has a great season. He looked just fine against the Lions.
2. Green Bay Packers (7-3, LW: 4)
I hear you, Cardinals fans. But I pick Aaron Rodgers and this team over the Cardinals on a neutral field right now. Simple.
1. New England Patriots (8-2, LW: 1) The gap is pretty wide between Nos. 1 and No. 2 at this point. They could lose a game (and with that schedule, it's likely), and I'm not sure I'd drop them from this spot.
- - - - - - -