ESPN releases initial Power Rankings, Broncos have work to do in AFC

Aug 24, 2022, 10:27 AM
Russell Wilson...
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
(Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

NFL Power Rankings are always an interesting exercise.

They don’t dictate who goes to the playoffs and who doesn’t. But they are a great barometer of how your favorite team is viewed around the league. And when they come from ESPN, you know people are paying attention.

The worldwide leader released their preseason Power Rankings, and the Broncos are in the top-half of the NFL. That’s a welcomed change from the last five years, when Denver usually found itself somewhere in the 20s. The latest version has the Broncos at No. 12, but behind six other AFC teams. If the standings mimic the rankings, Denver would be the No. 7 seed, barely sneaking into the postseason.

The playoffs seem to be the metric on which the Broncos will be judged this season. Make the dance in Russell Wilson’s first season, and it will be a successful year. Miss them, and some questions will be asked about if Nathaniel Hackett is the right head coach and if the Wilson blockbuster trade was a good decision.

The AFC teams in front of the Broncos include the Bills (No. 1), Chiefs (No. 4), Bengals (No. 5), Chargers (No. 8), Ravens (No. 9) and Titans (No. 11). It’s hard to argue with any of those first three, but the last three I have questions about.

Justin Herbert has loads of potential, but a 15-17 career record as starting QB. Baltimore is dealing with a huge distraction in the Lamar Jackson contract situation. And Tennessee seems poised for a big fall as Ryan Tannehill gets a year older and both A.J. Brown and Julio Jones are no longer on the roster.

Here’s part of what ESPN’s Jeff Legwold wrote about the Broncos and their No. 12 ranking, plus the pressure on Wilson in 2022:

The locker room, the city, the state and the region expect Wilson can take the Broncos where Peyton Manning did. Wilson embraces pressure, but the Broncos acquired him in a franchise-changing trade. A slow start for him or a first-year coaching staff would certainly bring about grumbling from the team’s faithful — as there was in 2012, when Manning opened his first season with the team 2-3.

It’s fair take, as what Wilson does will absolutely be compared to how Manning’s four years went in Denver. While that first one got off to a rocky start, Manning and the Broncos finished 13-3 and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. We don’t need to mention how it ended — one of the most painful losses in franchise history.

Manning won the AFC West every year, played in two Super Bowls and won one. At least making a Super Bowl should be the floor for Wilson, regardless of how long his tenure is in Denver. Some would argue he has to win one for the trade to be considered a success.

No. 12 isn’t a bad spot for the Broncos to be right now. But hopefully that gets higher and higher as the season goes on, and they’re not sweating a playoff berth come January. To check out ESPN’s full list, click here.



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ESPN releases initial Power Rankings, Broncos have work to do in AFC