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Senior NFL Columnist

NFL Power Rankings: Broncos finish on top but staying there will be tough

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Back when there were true dynasties in the NFL, they weren't picked apart by free agency like road kill by the vultures. When a team built a Super Bowl-worthy unit, it stayed that way.

The Denver Broncos showed with their dominance over the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 that they have a special unit on defense, one that could be dynasty good.

One problem: They can't keep everybody.

As we turn the page on the 2015 season, with Denver's 24-10 beating of the Panthers still fresh in our heads, we have to think the Broncos defense we saw make Cam Newton mortal will be no more.

Super Bowl MVP Von Miller will become an unrestricted free agent, but he won't be going anywhere. He will be given the franchise tag, which means he will be locked up, a wise thing.

But that leaves defensive end Malik Jackson, a rising star, as well as speedy linebacker Danny Trevathan as unrestricted free agents. Fellow linebacker Brandon Marshall is a restricted free agent.

Jackson is all but gone, even if the Broncos say they want to keep him. There are teams drooling to sign him already. The two linebackers might be tough to keep as well.

That means change.

But the Broncos have the main ingredients to stay dominant on that side of the ball -- pass rushers and cover corners.

So even if Peyton Manning retires or leaves, and Brock Osweiler is the starter at quarterback, Denver will have a chance to repeat, but they can't be as good if those three walk out the door. Denver finishes the 2015 season atop my final Power Rankings.

The offseason will go a long way in deciding if they stay there.

x (CBSSports.com Original)
x (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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