A weekly examination of the Broncos' ESPN.com Power Ranking:
Preseason: 3 | Last Week: 2 | ESPN.com Power Ranking since 2002
Bad wheel and all, quarterback Peyton Manning has helped push, along with a steadily improving defense, the Broncos back into the top spot of the ESPN.com Power Rankings.
With his aching right ankle encased in a brace as well as several yards worth of athletic tape, Manning still put up his ninth 300-yard passing game of the season as the Broncos defeated the previously undefeated Kansas City Chiefs 27-17 on Sunday night. The Broncos' defense, playing better in recent weeks with both Von Miller and Wesley Woodyard in the lineup at linebacker -- Miller missed six games due to a suspension to open the season and Woodyard missed two games in October with a neck injury -- also held Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles to 72 total yards.
And the prospects of having Manning (whose 3,572 yards passing and 34 touchdowns lead the league in both categories) paired with a defense that the Broncos believe is rounding into form, has Denver on the upswing. The Broncos (9-1), with a win in hand over the Chiefs, now lead the AFC West with games at New England and at Kansas City over the next two weeks.
“It was solid, a gritty effort,’’ said Broncos interim coach Jack Del Rio. “But this is a week-to-week league, we have to come in and get to work again. I like how they’ve worked and prepared so far, but we just have to continue to do that. If we don't do the work, we won't be successful. It's a simple equation and I think our players understand that.’’