The Broncos defense is carrying too much weight | VailDaily.com

The Broncos defense is carrying too much weight

Holy cow.

That is what you said, or some more colorful variant, after the Broncos escaped New Orleans with a 25-23 win on Sunday.

Entertainment-wise, that's a great win.

Getting out of New Orleans, whether the Saints play defense or not, is always good — the Superdome is an infernal place for visitors.

And yes, the Broncos are 7-3.

And, yes, here it comes … all is not well for everyone's favorite team.

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And, yes, this space told you exactly why before the season started.

Let's recap, shall we?

• Trevor Siemian is struggling. Essentially a rookie quarterback, he's had one 300-yard game this season (Week 3 at Cincinnati). The league has him figured out, and he has yet to counter.

Yes, he had a 69-yard pass against the Raiders, but that was well after the matter had been decided. Opposing defenses crowd the line for the short pass, and his completion percentage has dropped as the season has progressed.

• The Broncos don't have a running game, particularly after C.J. Anderson got hurt. They are 24th in the league with 97 yards per game with 64 per contest during the last three weeks.

And, of course, both of the above items can be traced to the offensive line. Siemian can't go deep because the line isn't giving him time. The Saints beat the heck out of him physically, and New Orleans isn't a defensive powerhouse, and the line isn't opening hole for whoever is running.

• The question remains can Denver's superb defense keep pulling rabbits out of the hat? The D is responsible for the team's last two wins (San Diego, part II, and New Orleans.) Denver could well be sitting at 5-5, instead of 7-3, going into its bye this week.

There's also the matter of the AFC West — it seems to be the best division in football, and might send three teams to the postseason — Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders. The Broncos are 1-2 within the division, and host K.C. coming out of the bye on Thanksgiving weekend.

Nothing is assured for Denver.

The elite

Did anyone watch Sunday Night Football? Well, there you go. The Seahawks spent a good portion of the first half looking so-so, but quarterback Russell Wilson appears healthy again and that bodes well for Seattle, which beat New England.

Despite the loss, the Pats seem to be the class of the AFC.

Seriously, Broncos fans, watching the Seahawks-Patriots game, do you think your team is at that level now? Be honest. The Broncos doe host the Pats next month in a must-see matchup, and that's in Denver, which is a big factor. Work on the AFC West first.

And, yes, the Dallas Cowboys appear to make it three in the elite category. I hate the Cowboys. I doubt the Cowboys, especially when it comes to the late-season collapse. But they are 8-1, and that was a good win in Pittsburgh.

The contenders

The AFC West is here — Broncos, Chiefs and Raiders, as is the rest of NFC East — Giants, Redskins and Eagles. Truthfully, I feel better about the AFC West.

If the Falcons or the Steelers could play defense, I'd like their chances.

Pretenders?

The NFC Central seems to have bagged the season. Minnesota is in free fall, even with Sam Bradford in one piece. Green Bay? I have a hard time calling the Pack done with Aaron Rodgers, but holes are there.

The Arizona Cardinals continue to struggle, needing a last-second field goal to beat the Niners.

And I simply do not buy the Houston Texans (6-3) with Brock Osweiler.

The dumpster

The Browns will not lose the week. Yes, they have a bye, and the bye is favored by a touchdown. Cleveland has the Steelers, Giants, Bengals, Bills, Chargers and Steelers left in the quest for 0-16.

The Browns are in Buffalo, so is it the Chargers on Christmas Eve, delivering some holiday cheer?

The Niners came precariously close to victory last week, but we still wonder how they beat the heck out of the Rams in Week 1. And let's just leave the Bears and Jags in a tie for third here.

On to Week 11.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.