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NFL Power Rankings: Free-agency hits knock Broncos out of top five

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This is a quarterback league, and the Denver Broncos have major questions there, which is why I am breaking a tradition in my latest Power Rankings:

I am dropping the Super bowl Champions down.

Normally, I like to keep the champs in the top spot until at least the preseason, and especially in these post-free agency rankings. After all, they earn it.

But the Broncos saw quarterback Peyton Manning retire, then botched -- yes, botched -- the Brock Osweiler situation, allowing him to sign with the Houston Texans.

So now the Broncos are left with Mark Sanchez and probably a rookie quarterback. Good luck with that. Coach Gary Kubiak probably thinks he can fix Sanchez, make him limit his mistakes, and win a title. I don't buy it.

That's why I have the Broncos all the way down to the sixth spot in these latest rankings. They also suffered some serious hits on defense, losing Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan.

They can handle that. I am not sure they can handle having Sanchez play quarterback. Some will say Manning wasn't good when he won last season's Super Bowl, but he knew how to get into the right play. When he had to read a defense, he could -- and he found the open receivers, even if the ball didn't get there with the same zip it had earlier in his career.

Can Sanchez do that? I have my doubts. That's why I have moved the Patriots, who lost to the Broncos, into the top spot. They have Tom Brady back. They have Bill Belichick back. That's good enough for me.

The Pats, Cardinals and Panthers top the NFL food chain after free agency. (CBSSports.com Original)
The Pats, Cardinals and Panthers top the NFL food chain after free agency. (CBSSports.com Original)

RANK TEAM MOVE (LW)

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.
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