2009 NFL Surprise Teams: Broncos and Bengals

Donna CavanaghCorrespondent IOctober 15, 2009

CINCINNATI, OH - SEPTEMBER 13: Quarterback Kyle Orton #8 of the Denver Broncos is sacked by Antwaan Odom #98 of the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on September 13, 2009 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)

When that crazy tipped pass ending gave the Broncos their first win, many of you probably thought, like most of the humans around the office here, “Well, somebody had to win.”

We have to admit that we never thought that we would be heading into week six and that game would have provided the only loss by either team.

Although PossessionPoints.com is based on the East Coast, we do what we can to follow teams nationwide. We are avid listeners to Sirius NFL radio so we hear fans from all over the country voice their biased opinions about their teams.

As early as August, even the most optimistic Broncos fan was only expecting maybe an 8-8 season. The team had dealt away their young “franchise” QB and seemed to have gotten the short end of the deal. They were feuding with their top wide receiver, and it appeared to many that their rookie head coach may be in over his head.

The Broncos went 1-3 in the preseason, and they failed to score over 20 points in any of the four games. So, we were not expecting much out of the Broncos this season. We will admit that we said that “the AFC West was the Chargers' division to lose.” We expected the Broncos to win their first game against the Bengals because our expectations for the Bengals were a bit lower than our expectations for the Broncos.

In the Bengals' case, we thought that they would have a tough time competing in their division with the two teams (the Steelers and the Ravens) that we expected to be quite strong, like they were in 2008.

So, here we are and five weeks are gone, and the Bengals are 4-1 with wins over both the Steelers and Ravens to their credit. The win over the Ravens was in Baltimore too.

The Broncos and Bengals sit at No. 6 and No. 7, respectively, on our Performance Ranking Chart, and now we have to say we would not be surprised to see both of these teams in the playoffs.

Looking ahead at the Bengals’ schedule, you cannot count them out of any game based on the way they have been playing. And you would have to count them as the clear favorite in the games against the Raiders, Browns, Lions, and Chiefs. That would give them eight wins.

The other teams left on the Bengals’ schedule are the Texans, Bears, Ravens, Steelers, Vikings, Chargers, and Jets. No pushovers there, but if they can win just three of those seven games, it would be an astounding feat and an 11-win season. Don’t tell the Patriots, but 11 wins usually makes the playoffs.

The road ahead for the Broncos is equally promising. They have five wins in the bank and still have two games with the Chiefs, one with the Redskins, and one with the Raiders ahead of them. With these opportunities in mind, let us say that the low expectation for the Broncos is nine wins.

They just beat the Patriots, so you have to count that game as well as the games against the Cowboys and Bengals as quality wins. Their immediate future is the toughest as they face the Chargers, Ravens, and Steelers in the next three games.

The Broncos get a break in that their bye falls right after the Chargers’ game, and that will give them a rest to prepare for the Ravens. The game with the Redskins follows the Steelers’ game and then the Broncos once again face the Chargers. However, this time the contest is in Denver. Denver still has the Giants, Eagles, and Colts on their schedule, so they do not have a “soft” schedule.

If they win the games we now expect them to win to get to nine wins, they only need to win two of the games against the Steelers, Ravens, Chargers (twice), Giants, Colts, and Eagles.

Hey, the Bengals beat both the Steelers and Ravens, and they have about the same “Relative Performance Number” (RPM) as the Broncos. (For more information on our RPM see our article on Week Two Performance Rankings, where we explain them in more detail.)

We actually enjoy “surprises” in the NFL. We find it interesting as our stat-based projections put out predictions that the humans in the office sometimes do not believe.

We shook our heads each week that our Matchup Chart picked the Bengals and Broncos, but so far they have lived up to their stats and won. The Matchup Chart did pick the Patriots to win last week, but the computer thought the game would be close enough that it had the Broncos with the points. That served us well anyway.

We can't wait to see what surprises the remainder of the season brings.

The full Week Six RPM chart is below: