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Final power ranking: 14
Preseason Power Ranking: 27
Biggest surprise: The Denver Broncos are the AFC West champion. Denver became the eighth team in NFL history to make the playoffs with three straight losses to end the season. Say what you want about them backing into the playoffs, but the truth is no one expected the Broncos to make any sort of noise in the first year of the John Elway-John Fox era. The fact that this team went from 4-12 to qualifying for the playoffs in one season is impressive. The future is bright in Denver.
Biggest disappointment: It has to be the late-season setback of quarterback Tim Tebow. He was making strong strides as an NFL quarterback until the past two games where he has regressed badly. He was 6 of 22 for 60 yards in the Week 17 home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Tebow has thrown five interceptions in the past three games and he has also lost a fumble in each of the past five games.
Biggest need: Despite the progress, Denver's biggest area to improve is its defense. It needs another impact player, either in the secondary or at defensive tackle. It was ranked No. 32 in the NFL in nearly every statistical category in 2010, so the unit has clearly improved. There is no way Denver would have made the playoffs without its defense, but at the least, one more stud is needed.
Team MVP: Running back Willis McGahee. He was one of the best free-agent signings of the summer. Signed to be a complementary back, the 30-year-old turned out to be a star. After running a combined 209 times in the past two seasons in Baltimore, McGahee had 1,199 yards on 249 carries this season. He made the Denver offense a threat.
QB future is still unclear: It is strange for a playoff team to be unsettled for the future at quarterback. But after the past few weeks, you have to think that Tebow is no sure thing to be Denver’s starter in 2012. The Broncos probably will give him a full offseason and a full season (plus an improved supporting cast) to show he can be the long-term starter. But if he stumbles in the playoffs, all bets are off.