Why the Denver Broncos are suddenly the NFL's most surprising team
It's no big surprise that AFC West is set to be one of the toughest divisions in the NFL this season. It's home to the conference's two-time reigning champions, the same team that won the Super Bowl in the 2019 season.
AFC West has two undefeated teams: the Las Vegas Raiders, who couldn't easily take any of their three wins, two of which went into overtime; and the Denver Broncos. The reigning conference champions, the Kansas City Chiefs, are the last in the division.
That can of course change quickly. If this year's edition of the Chiefs is something like the last few years, they could tear off a winning streak of 10 games and everything will be in K.C.
Denver is the most surprising of the NFL's five undefeated teams to enter the regular season with such low expectations that two of my Yahoo Sports colleagues picked head coach Vic Fangio as the first to lose his job this season. That was certainly a logical choice, given that Denver was 12-20 in Fangio's first two seasons and last year's Broncos defense - Fangio's bread and butter - was terrible, allowing for nearly 29 points per game.
Luckily for Fangio, Matt Nagy is Matt Nagy, and if anyone's hot three weeks into the season it's Nagy's in Chicago.
In Denver it's almost the other way around. Not only would Fangio's job seem safe without a massive collapse, there is a high chance the Broncos will be post-season tied for the first time since 2015, the season they won the Super Bowl.
How high According to Statheads from ProFootballReference, 74.8 percent.
From 1990 to 2020, 155 teams started their respective seasons 3-0, 116 of them reached the playoffs. There were two teams that started off with three wins and only won two games, but let's stick with the positive.
Denver Broncos' Mike Ford celebrates a game against the New York Jets in the first half of an NFL football game in Denver on Sunday, September 26, 2021. (AP photo / Bart Young)
On Sunday Denver clicked and knocked out the New York Jets 26-0. Steady Teddy Bridgewater did a 19v25 pass for 235 yards, completed passes to eight receivers, and watched his defensive teammates beat poor rookie Zach Wilson with eight quarterback hits, five sacks, and two interceptions.
(Not to brag, but someone - we're not going to name names - predicted that Bridgewater would lead the Broncos to the playoffs this season, as you can see here.)
Bridgewater was the starter for the Panthers last season, but Carolina was so eager to walk away from him that she pays $ 14 million of his salary this year. Well, he was nothing but solid. In three games, he's completed 76.8 percent of his 95 pass attempts, with four touchdowns and no picks and a career high of 8.7 yards per attempt.
Denver has been unstoppable so far in fourth place, converting in all five attempts and having an average of 13 minutes in possession time.
The defense was stingy, allowing only 222 yards per game and a total of four drives within the red zone this season, keeping quarterbacks at 52.4 percent pass and only allowing 3.6 yards per rushing attempt.
But. Yes, there is a but.
But with all the good feelings in Denver that everyone deserves, the Broncos didn't have a tough schedule. Their opponents, the New York Giants, Jacksonville Jaguars and the Jets, are all 0-9.
It's not Denver's fault; You can only play who is on the game board. And had the Broncos lost to the Jets in Jacksonville last week or on Sunday, fans would have been upset that their team lost what should have been a win.
In Week 4, when the Broncos host the Baltimore Ravens, we should get a better sense of who they are and whether they benefited from a cheap schedule or really are among those annual teams that unexpectedly show significant improvement in the Victory Column. In week 5 it is against Pittsburgh and in week 6 the Broncos play for the first time against a division opponent, the currently undefeated Raiders.
If there are areas that the Denver coaching team points out as potential trouble spots, the third on the offensive, where the Broncos only took 13 chances out of 37, must be among them. The defense allows a third-down conversion rate of 38.9 percent, which can always be improved. And while the Broncos have protected football well, the two ball losses they have are within the red zone.
These are all looked at if they are not already. Fangio told reporters after the game that he would start working on the Ravens as soon as he got home Sunday night.
But 3-0 is 3-0. There are worse places. Just ask the chiefs looking up to Denver in the chart.
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October 3, 11:25 p.m.
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