Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Archive for October, 2009

Week 8 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 30, 2009

Broncos Chargers FootballLittle did I know how much producing a major college football radio broadcast every Saturday would add to my weekly workload.  Let’s just say there is a lot more to it than game day (but I wouldn’t trade it for anything, even though the CU Buffs have struggled to win games this season).  At any rate, the Denver Broncos have now had the bye week to rest and relax after their stunning 6-0 start, and they will continue with their rugged stretch of games that everyone thought would be their downfall.  I still think the next two games (at Baltimore and home against Pittsburgh) are two of the hardest games on the whole slate, so in some ways the Broncos still have a lot to prove.  However, I also think the Broncos have finally gotten the respect nationally that they deserve.  They are in the top five of virtually every power ranking out there, and people are acknowledging that last year’s embarrassing collapse is unlikely to repeat itself with this coaching staff and this group of players.  Think about this, if Denver goes just .500 the rest of the way, they would finish with an 11-5 record, which would virtually guarantee them the AFC West title unless San Diego were to win out or close to it.  The Broncos have their sights set on home games in January, and that certainly wouldn’t be a picnic for anyone that would have to come in and play them.  We’ve talked about many of the numbers that have made this team successful so far this year, but more than that I think it is a good blend of veteran leadership (Brian Dawkins in particular), great coaching, and a confidence that the team is never out of the game.  I think an overlooked factor also is the team’s outstanding conditioning level.  The Broncos have completely owned every team they have played in the second half on both sides of the ball.  That is a very good trend for the Broncos going forward.

Sunday’s game in Baltimore is needless to say a difficult proposition for the Broncos.  Denver has never won a game in Baltimore since the Browns became the Ravens in 1996.  Never, not one.  The last trip there was a complete disaster as the Broncos scored just six points and watched linebacker John Mobley suffer a career ending neck injury.  The time before was a Monday night embarrassment as Chris McAlister returned a missed field goal 100 yards for a touchdown.  The time before that the Broncos mustered just three points in a playoff loss.  You get the idea, Baltimore has been a house of horrors for the Broncos’ teams of the past.  The Ravens nasty defense has always been a trouble spot for the Broncos, but perhaps Denver can take comfort in the fact that this year’s Ravens defense is not the same as in past years.  Baltimore gave up 33 points to the Vikings last game and it really has been the offense that has carried the way for the Ravens so far this year.  Joe Flacco has already hit 300 yards passing in three of the six games so far, and last week he lit the Vikings up for a career high 385 yards.  Ray Rice has been a real threat receiving out of the backfield, catching 10 passes last game.

Something will have to give in this game.  The Broncos have allowed just 10 second half points in their six games so far, but the Ravens’ offense has really come alive in the second half of their games.  In fact, Baltimore ranks second in the NFL in second half points and leads the NFL with 13 second half touchdowns.  That is unheard of for a team that has long been defined by defense.  This will be a really fun matchup to watch in that regard, the old unstoppable force versus the immovable object.  It might be a game where it is important for Kyle Orton and the offense to get some points on the board so as not to put all the pressure on the defense to slow down Flacco and company.

This is a difficult game to pick and should be really close.  Baltimore has lost three in a row so they are desperate, plus they have had the bye to regroup.  Denver has had the bye too, but that could prove to be more of a detriment since they were playing so well.  I really want to pick this game with my heart but……

I just can’t.  Baltimore is clearly the more desperate team here and they will have the home crowd behind them.  Baltimore wins 23-17.

I hope I am wrong.  Now to the rest of the picks.

Last week: 9-4 Season: 73-29

– Texans over Bills: I have given up trying to figure out Buffalo.  When I pick them to win, they lose.  When I pick them to lose, they win.  Last week they showed great character winning on the road at Carolina, and now they return home for what should be a winnable game.  Houston however has an actual winning streak going, and if they can establish the run with Steve Slaton, they have a good chance to control the tempo here.  Houston’s defense needs more consistency, but a hunch says they’ll have enough here.  Houston wins a close one.

– Jets over Dolphins: This was a great game in the first meeting, with Miami winning 33-30 on a Monday night.  Now the Jets will want revenge and are coming off an easy win in Oakland.  The Dolphins are still trying to figure out how they let a 24-3 lead get away against New Orleans.  Miami’s Wildcat just hasn’t had the same success on the road this year, hence why I like the Jets in this one.

– Bears over Browns: Jay Cutler has to be pleased to return to Soldier Field, where he has fared a lot better than on the road.  He also has to be thrilled to see the hapless Browns are the opponent.  Chicago gets back on track with a relatively easy win.

– Colts over 49ers: It almost doesn’t seem fair that the Colts have one of the league’s best teams and their schedule seems to be very friendly just about every week.  Peyton Manning and company shouldn’t have much trouble here against a defense that has been shredded several times this year.  It will be interesting to see also how Alex Smith fares in his return to the starting role for the Niners.  In any case, a home game an automatic W for the Colts these days.

– Titans over Jaguars: Mini upset alert.  Tennessee has had they bye to regroup, and while I am very hesitant to pick any team starting Vince Young under center, the Titans have too much pride not to win a game at some point.  Their last outing in New England was a complete embarrassment, so you have to think that Jeff Fisher and company will have a little pride on Sunday.  I still think Jacksonville is a very mediocre team, and on the road this may not bode well for them.  I like the Titans to get their first win.

– Chargers over Raiders: This is the blowout of the week.  Oakland is awful in every way (still trying to figure out how they beat the Eagles).  San Diego showed its offensive talent last week and it will be on display again this week.  The question is how much San Diego wins this game by and how many snaps the Raiders allow JaMarcus Russell to take.

– Cowboys over Seahawks: Dallas played its best game of the season last week against Atlanta, and I like them to keep it going at home against the injury riddled Seahawks.  Seattle hasn’t yet been able to find any real identity, and that’s not a good sign heading out on the road.  If Tony Romo plays like he did last week, the Cowboys may be a playoff contender yet.

– Giants over Eagles: I know the game is in Philadelphia, but the Eagles didn’t exactly dominate last week in their win against Washington.  I know they won by double digits, but that should have been a real blowout and they missed chances to really put the Redskins away.  Brian Westbrook is hobbling again (so what else is new) and that is more bad news for Philly.  Besides, the thought of the G-men losing three games in a row is ridiculous.  I like Eli and company to bounce back here.

– Lions over Rams: This is another dud game, but it is an excellent opportunity for Detroit to get another win.  They have shown improvement over last season despite having only one win, while the Rams continue to make a compelling case for being the worst team in the NFL.  I think Detroit gets the win at home here to give their fans some faint hope.

– Packers over Vikings: Did I hear something about Brett Favre returning to Lambeau Field?  Whether you’re sick of hearing about him or not, it will be very compelling theatre to see how Favre is treated by his old fans.  As for the game, I expect it to be a typical Green Bay-Minnesota game, close, high scoring and down to the wire.  In the end I like Aaron Rodgers to carry the Packers’ offense through the air, and I think the emotion of the home crowd will lift Green Bay to victory.

– Cardinals over Panthers: This should not be close.  Arizona made a major statement last week winning in the Meadowlands on a Sunday night, while the Panthers continue to flounder and look nothing like last year’s playoff team.  I like Kurt Warner to hit his receivers early and often and for Arizona to pull away in this one early.

– Saints over Falcons: This will be a very good Monday night game.  Atlanta really got punched in the mouth last week in Dallas, so I’m sure the last thing they want to see is a trip to undefeated New Orleans.  I think the Falcons will make it a very close game and will stay in it, but if they can’t get Michael Turner going they won’t have a shot to win.  Drew Brees is too scary at home if the Falcons can’t keep up.

Posted in football | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Week 7 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 23, 2009

You have probably realized by now that I never got around to a recap of the Broncos’ thrilling Monday night win in San Diego.  My apologies on that, but well, with Monday night games it is more difficult to find the time.  The Cliffs Notes version is that the Broncos are making more believers out of everyone each week.  The Broncos won in a place where they had lost in six of their past eight trips.  The defense stepped again, holding the Chargers high octane offense to just three second half points.  How is this for a stat: the Broncos have not allowed a successful second half third down conversion since week two against the Browns, simply incredible.  Eddie Royal’s returns on special teams certainly didn’t hurt either, and Kyle Orton had another terrific game.  More analysis on the Broncos’ amazing start and the still difficult road ahead coming up after the bye week.  For now, on to quickie picks.

Last week: 9-5  Season: 64-25

– Panthers over Bills:  Buffalo got a surprising win last week on the road, but I think it was because Mark Sanchez gave it to them on a silver platter.  Carolina’s running game finally showed a pulse last week, and even though Jake Delhomme is about to be benched and Steve Smith is complaining, I like the Panthers to win this ugly game at home.  If you’re stuck with this game late it’s sports bar time.

– Saints over Dolphins: I do think New Orleans has potential to trip up here following their huge win over the Giants last week.  Miami is tough at home and the Wildcat still seems to be working enough to be effective.  However, in the end I like Brees and company to put up enough points to steal a road win late.

– Patriots over Buccaneers: Right now Roger Goodell is wishing he sent a more competitive game to London.  The Bucs are winless, and the Patriots just rung up 59 points in the snow.  Tom Brady and Randy Moss will get their fair share of yards and points, but the Tampa run defense is awful, and that means Laurence Maroney might (gasp!) have two good games in a row. Patriots roll.

– Raiders over Jets: Upset alert.  The Jets are a mess all of the sudden.  The loss of Kris Jenkinks on the d-line is very significant.  I have a feeling the Black Hole will not be kind to young Mark Sanchez, and the Raiders are strangely enough coming in with sudden confidence after upsetting the Eagles.  A rare winning streak is celebrated in the East Bay.

– Bengals over Bears: Mini upset alert.  This should be a very entertaining game, in particular because Cedric Benson comes in with a big chip on his shoulder.  Benson feels the Bears mistreated him, and he has no shortage of motivation.  Jay Cutler meanwhile has been good at Soldier Field but not so much on the road.  If Cincinnati wants to stay in the AFC race they have to get this, and the atmosphere at late slot kickoff will ride the Bengals to a big win.

– Packers over Browns: Cleveland is missing about a third of its team with the swine flu.  This is not good for a team that is already struggling as it is.  Aaron Rodgers and all his receivers are must starts in fantasy this week.  Green Bay rolls.

– Steelers over Vikings: In the game of the week, something has to give.  Both teams have owned the opposition in the first quarter.  Both teams can run the ball.  Both are good at stopping the run.  Minnesota has pulled out several big wins at home, but this will be their first significant road test of the season.  In the the end this is difficult to pick a winner, so I’ll go with the home team that is used to bad weather in this outdoor contest.

– Texans over 49ers: This is another tough one to pick.  San Francisco has had two weeks to stew over a 35-point home loss to Atanta, and Frank Gore is back to anchor the running game.  Houston is coming off a big road win in Cincinnati, and I actually like them to put points up at home in this one.

– Colts over Rams: Please. Colts win by so much we might actually get to find out who Peyton Manning’s backup is.   Let’s just move on.

– Chargers over Chiefs: This is at Arrowhead, so this pick does give me a little pause.  Matt Cassel has been surprisingly efficient in recent weeks, and the Chargers still don’t really look like themselves.  Still, Philip Rivers has enough weapons at his disposal to score points against that defense, and at some point San Diego has to start living up to their potential.

– Falcons over Cowboys: Atlanta is looking more and more like a team that has what it takes to go deep in the playoffs.  The Falcons have sound defense, and Matt Ryan continues to make good decisions.  The Cowboys have question marks with the health of Marion Barber and DeMarcus Ware, so even though it’s at the Jones Mahal, I like the Falcons.

– Giants over Cardinals: This should be a very entertaining Sunday night game, for the Cardinals offense woke up again last week in Seattle.  The Giants meanwhile will be highly motivated to bounce back from last week’s embarrassment in New Orleans.  I like the Giants here because I just don’t see them losing two in a row, but it could be very close.

– Eagles over Redskins: An unfortunate Monday night yawner with so many other good games on tap this week.  Seriously, why isn’t Jim Zorn just fired already?  He can’t call plays, he’s not involved in any defensive calls either, so he might as well just grab a beer and chill in Dan Snyder’s suite.  Philadelphia has something to prove after last week’s major embarrassment in Oakland.  Eagles should roll easily here.

Posted in football | 1 Comment »

Week 6 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 17, 2009

We’ve run into another busy week, so we’ll just get right to the picks.

Last week: 9-5 Season: 56-20

– Jets over Bills: Buffalo looks like a complete mess, so much so that they only scored three points against the hapless Browns.  Terrell Owens is even rumored to be on the trade block before the coming deadline.  The Jets have lost two straight on the road and are thrilled to be back at home.  New York wins easily.

– Patriots over Titans: Tennessee at 0-6?  Seems ridiculous but it will happen.  The Titans got waxed at home against the Colts in their biggest game of the season, and now they hit the road to one of the toughest places in the league to play.  New England is coming off a tough overtime loss so they will be out for blood.  This will not be pretty, Patriots by a lot.

– Bengals over Texans: Cincinnati has won its last four games all in thrilling fashion at the last minute.  This one shouldn’t have to go down to the end.  The Bengals are indeed for real with Cedric Benson running hard (yes that is accurate) and the passing game clicking.  It is their defense especially that has been impressive.  Houston has been a major disappointment especially in the secondary and they will not be able to stop the Bengals.  Houston’s offense could keep up a little, but in the end Cincy wins easily.

– Steelers over Browns:  Is any analysis really necessary here?  Cleveland got a nice win last week but now reality slams them in the face at Heinz Field.  Pittsburgh is running again and they just flat own the Browns.  Pittsburgh in a blowout.

– Vikings over Ravens: This will be a great game.   Baltimore has lost two straight so they will be desperate for a win, especially the defense, which allowed a 100-yard rusher last week for the first time since the Nixon administration (not really but it seems like it).  They will try to slow down Adrian Peterson and Brett Favre, but it’s Baltimore’s offense that could be the key to the game.  I think the Vikings D will slow them down, and I like The Vikings to win in the dome.

– jaguars over Rams: This is, well, not the game of the week.  The Rams are awful and Jacksonville isn’t much better.  I do like the Jags to bounce back offensively after last week’s embarrassment in Seattle, and the Rams, well, they will keep floundering.  Jacksonville wins at home.

– Chiefs over Redskins: Upset alert, sort of.  I say sort of because Washington isn’t very good either, for their two wins have come against Tampa Bay and St. Louis.  In fact, in this week’s best strange but true statistic, the Redskins have yet to actually square off against an opponent who isn’t winless this season.  Even though KC is on the road, I thought they actually showed effort last week against the Cowboys.  I like the Chiefs to win this ugly game, say 6-3.

– Eagles over Raiders: This will be a blowout for Philly, especially now that McNabb and Westbrook are back healthy.  The question is more how many first downs the Raiders will actually get, and could the Eagles hit 50 points?  Find a sports bar if you’re stuck with this one late.

– Saints over Giants:  This is the clear game of the week in the Superdome.  Both teams are undefeated.  Both teams have done it on both sides of the ball so far this year.  The key will be turnovers, and that can sometimes be a crapshoot as to which team will force more.  I think both teams will get points on the board, but since both defenses have played better than expected this year, someone will get that key turnover at some point.  In the end I am at a loss so I go with the home team.  New Orleans wins.

– Packers over Lions: Detroit is actually improved, but it won’t show in this game.  Green Bay is coming off a bye and has had two weeks to stew over the loss in Minnesota.  The Packers will roll easily here at Lambeau.

– Buccaneers over Panthers: I like Tampa to get its first win at home here.  The Panthers were fortunate to get a win last week against the Redskins, but are still nothing close to their playoff team of a year ago.  Tampa Bay is in clear rebuilding mode, but a hunch here says they get it together for one week.  I like the Bucs in the mini-upset.

– Seahawks over Cardinals: Seattle is at home and brimming with all kinds of confidence after last week’s rout of Jacksonville.   A healthy Matt Hasselbeck has clearly made the difference for the Seahawks, and Seattle will score points again this week.  Arizona still doesn’t seem quite the same as the team that made the Super Bowl run last year, and going on the road in a division game is too much to ask for them right now.  Seattle wins.

– Falcons over Bears: This should be a good Sunday nighter.  Atlanta woke up in a big way last week in San Francisco, and now their passing game faces a good test in the Bears’ defense.  I do like Matt Ryan and company to put up enough points to oustscore the Bears, although this could turn into a shootout.  In the end I like the Falcons at home.

– Broncos over Chargers: I know, this looks very much like a homer pick.  Truthfully, I almost did pick San Diego.  The Broncos do not play well there historically (they have lost 6 of their past 8 there), and they also generally stink in Monday night road games (6-23 all-time).  However this looks a new group, and the Chargers don’t seem quite right.  Shawne Merriman has not been involved at all, and that has hampered their defense.  The San Diego running game has also struggled mightily, averaging a horrible 53 yards per game.  That plays right into the hands of a Denver defense that has been awesome against the run so far this season.  The Chargers might be able to make some plays in the passing game with Philip Rivers, but the Broncos also should be able to get some pressure on him as well.  The Denver offense will have Correll Buckhalter back, so that will definitely help them as well.  This will definitely be a very important test for the Broncos, but in the end this team has a special feel to it.  I like the Broncos to hold the Chargers off 24-17 heading into the bye week.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment »

Yes, the Broncos really are 5-0

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 14, 2009

Patriots Broncos Football There has certainly been a lot going on the past few days in the Denver sports scene, hence the lateness of this post.  We will give the Rockies their due for a fantastic season in just a moment, but the Broncos are rapidly becoming the talk of the sports world for being the unquestioned biggest surprise in the National Football League.  With a win over the Patriots in overtime, the Broncos have now silenced critics who said their fast start was a result of an easy schedule (actually three of their five wins have come against teams with winning records).  The Broncos were a team that was universally picked to be horrible primarily because everyone seemed to think they made a colossal error in trading Jay Cutler (for example Sports Illustrated picked them to finish 5-11.  Hell, even Denver Post columnist Woody Paige predicted 4-12).  Well, now that they are 5-0, the Broncos’ start has to be among the most surprising in NFL history.  Fans wanted Josh McDaniels fired before he even coached a game and few seemed to think that he was doing a good job in the offseason.  The Broncos are quickly showing that they are for real, and are quickly making people forget Cutler and Mike Shanahan.

There are many places we could start in dissecting this game, but I think it is necessary to start with Kyle Orton, being that he was one of the primary reasons “experts” were predicting such a bad year for the Broncos.  Start with the fact that Orton posted the second 300-yard game of his career, then that he was named offensive player of the week.  Against the Patriots Orton led not one, but TWO 90 yard touchdown drives (the second one was 98, in the fourth quarter no less).  This is the type of clutch drive that only few are capable of leading, and it is a drive that can sometimes define a quarterback.  Orton spread the ball around the field, finding Eddie Royal 10 times (more than in the previous four games combined), Jabar Gaffney eight times and Brandon Marshall six.  In five games he has only thrown one pick (and I’m not sure that should even really count as it was a hail mary at the end of the first half).  Orton continued to make very smart decisions with the football, not doing more than he was asked to do or was capable of.  Orton is now 27-12 as a starter in his career, and is proving that flashy numbers and rocket arms aren’t the only way to win in the NFL.  He is definitely making people in Denver and around the NFL forget about Jay Cutler in a real hurry.

The Broncos defense is of course also to be commended in this game once again.  In the fourth quarter, the Broncos endured a sequence where they committed not one but two fourth down penalties on special teams (a running into the punter and an offsides), extending a Patriots drive and giving Tom Brady extra chances.  Needless to say, any time you give Brady an extra chance to beat you, let alone two chances, you’re going to be cooked most of the time.  The Broncos had twice forced a New England punt attempt to no avail, finding themselves in need of another stop.  The Broncos defense was able to dig in and get yet another stop, getting enough pressure to force Brady into a couple of incompletions.  Overall, the Broncos held the Patriots to 17 points, and while I realize New England has not been lighting up the scoreboard so far this year, this still proves that the Broncos defense is indeed for real.  I realize also that the following is essentially a sentence I could cut and paste every week, but Brian Dawkins’ presence and importance is not to be underestimated.  He is nothing short of the ultimate leader in the locker room, and he is showing he can still play a little on the field too.

Some other thoughts:

– The Broncos missed Correll Buckhalter Sunday, both for his running ability and his pass catching presence.  Knowhson Moreno did have a nice game, but he needs to hang onto the football.

– Brandon Marshall is back.  Two more touchdowns for starters, but it is clear that he is once again playing with effort and is enjoying the game again.  It’s amazing what winning can accomplish.

– I actually liked the Broncos throwback jerseys more than I thought I would.  I’m not saying they should wear them again, but it is nice once in awhile to see a different look, in this case a VERY different look. I also as I said before liked New England’s throwbacks more than their current uniform.

– New England will really miss Fred Taylor.  Somehow, they will need either Laurence Maroney or Sammy Morris to be effective going forward, but right now the lack of running game is holding their offense back.

– 12 targets for Wes Welker, only 3 for Randy Moss, and that’s without Champ Bailey shadowing Moss.  Not sure if that means anything, it’s just interesting.

– I think both teams look like they are playoff quality right now.

– It was interesting to see the chess match between McDaniels and Belichick.  Clearly both knew each other extremely well, and were trying new wrinkles to outsmart each other.  This was most obvious when timeouts were called in confusion.

– The Broncos have a huge game Monday night in San Diego.  In their last three trips west, the Broncos have lost 48-28, 23-3, and last year 52-21.  The Broncos can take yet another step toward elite status and away from the mediocrity of previous years if they can get a victory.  The Chargers have looked vulnerable lately, so I’m not sure this is entirely out of the question.

– I also want to give the Colorado Rockies their due.  The Rockies were 12 games under.500 in May when they fired manager Clint Hurdle, and naturally no one was expecting anything from this group at all.  I’m honestly not sure what Jim Tracy did to turn things around, but whatever he did, it worked wonders and then some.  He got the guys to play with confidence, and just seemed to always know what buttons to push to make things work.  The Rockies nearly caught the Dodgers in the NL West even though that lead was seemingly out of reach, but did clinch the NL wild card.  While the Rockies lost to the Phillies in four games in the division series, let’s not forget what a wild ride this team had just to get in the playoffs.  I know fans are getting on Huston Street right now for getting the loss in game three and game four, but the Rockies would not have even made the playoffs at all if not for his ability to close games on the clutch.  Hopefully ownership will keep the team together and the Rockies will be able to make another run next season.

Posted in baseball, football | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Broncos-Patriots Preview & week 5 picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 9, 2009

CORRECTION Broncos Draft Football Before we get into this matchup, take a good look at the photo.  That is what the Broncos will be wearing on Sunday: 1960 throwback uniforms.  This has to be without question one of the ugliest jerseys in the history of sports, not to mention the vertical striped socks (photo below).  The socks were so hideous at the time that there was a huge ceremony to burn them all (well most of them, a pair does hang in the Pro Football Hall of Fame).  This ensemble, the original uniform of the Broncos, was literally all the Broncos could get at the time.  They were second hand because the owner at the time couldn’t afford anything else.  Needless to say, they were scrapped very quickly for the orange the blue the team has worn for a vast majority of their history.  A large part of me says it will actually be very fun to see the broncos in action wearing these uniforms on Sunday.  Just don’t try to adjust your TV set when you see them.  The Patriots will also be wearing throwback uniforms featuring Pat Patriot circa 1963 (In their case I much prefer the classic uniform to their current one).  Their the same ones (except an away version) that they wore in week one against the Bills.

Now, as for the game, this should be a great one.  It will be even better now that the forecast has greatly improved over the past 24 hours.  Yesterday they were calling for temperatures in the 20s and snow.  Now, the forecast calls for temps in the 50s and sunny skies (but don’t get too excited just yet, this is Colorado, and that means the forecast will likely change again).  At any rate, what we have here is a good matchup that is very compelling because you have student against mentor.  Josh McDaniels had great success as offensive coordinator of the Patriots under Bill Belichick, and now is he the head man of the Broncos.  Many of Belichick’s former assistants have gone on to head coaching positions, although it’s a stretch to say any of them have had real success.  McDaniels has started out his career 4-0 after a tumultuous offseason in which he completely revamped the team on both sides of the ball.  Belichick of course has a very proven track record of success, winning three Super Bowls with New England as well as numerous division titles.  It will be interesting to see if either side has an advantage in terms of knowing the other, because McDaniels and Belichick worked together for eight seasons, with McDaniels serving as an assistant on both sides of the ball at various times during his tenure.  It seems clear that McDaniels has modeled a lot of what he does after Belichick, so many ways the philosophies of the two coaches are similar.  Regardless, the mere fact that these two are coaching against each other will make for great theatre.

imagesThe biggest thing I’m curious to see in this game is how Denver’s defense performs against the New England offense.  the Patriots offense did suffer a disastrous blow this week with news that Fred Taylor will be sidelined due to right ankle surgery.  The good news for New England is they don’t expect it to be season ending, but they will definitely not have him available for this game.  That means they will rely on the trio of Laurence Maroney, Kevin Faulk and Sammy Morris.  Morris did torch the Broncos for 138 yards by halftime last year, but that was against a completely different defensive unit.  In any case, Taylor has been the Patriots’ best runner by far in the first four games, and missing him could be bad news against a Denver unit that has been extremely stingy against the run.  The Broncos held Dallas to 78 yards rushing last week after they had gone for 200 in each of the previous two games, so indications are that the Broncos have an advantage against the run in this game with the Patriots beat up.  The key here though could end up being the Patriots pass offense.  Tom Brady is definitely looking more comfortable in the pocket and has shown he can take hits when necessary.  He is also developing more of a chemistry with Randy Moss again and Wes Welker is back to help stretch the field as well.  The Broncos have gotten pressure on opposing QBs so far this year, so the key could be how much pressure they can get on Brady, especially with Elvis Dumervil.  If they can get pressure on Brady, it could play into the hands of Denver’s improved secondary.  If not, then it could be real fun to watch Moss against Champ Bailey, while the rest of the secondary tries to contain Welker and Benjamin Watson.

The Broncos offense hasn’t been at all flashy, but they will need to put up some points to help take some pressure off the defense.  The Patriots defense has been quietly effective the last two weeks against good offenses in Atlanta and Baltimore, so it could be a challenge for the Broncos to get some points on the board.  Correll Buckhalter is out with an ankle injury, so it will be up to rookie Knowshon Moreno to carry the load in the running game.   Buckhalter’s absence will also be felt in the receiving game, as he has been a favorite weapon out of the backfield for Kyle Orton.  A key for Denver offensively for this game as well as the rest of the season will be getting more production in the passing game.  Brandon Marshall stepped up big last week, but the Broncos will also need Eddie Royal and Brandon Stokley, who missed the last two games due to injury, to produce as well.  The Broncos may also need a big game from former Patriot Daniel Graham, who has emerged as a reliable target for Kyle Orton in the early going.

This is another big test for the Broncos, certainly their toughest of the season to this point without question.  The Patriots are 3-1, and when you look at their team it’s easy to wonder why anyone is saying there are problems up there.  It is interesting to note that the Broncos are the only team in the NFL with a winning record against the Patriots since 2001 (5-2).  However the Patriots blasted Denver last year 41-7.  The national folks certainly are expecting a good one Sunday, as CBS is sending its top crew of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms to do the game.    This is a difficult one to pick, because the Patriots seem to be their usual selves, and while the Broncos have played so well so far they have done it against non-elite competition (no disrespect intended to the Cowboys, who I don’t think are a playoff team right now).  The Mile High crowd will be rocking, and the Broncos will have most of their famous alumni present as they are honoring their 50th anniversary team.  The Patriots are always tough on the road, so something has to give.

Who to pick???

thinking…..

thinking….

thinking…..

(after agonizing and hair pulling)…what the hell, I’ll take the Broncos to get it done at home.  I think the Broncos defense will come up with a huge play to swing a tight game in the fourth quarter.  That is provided the Broncos don’t play at a level matching the 1960 team whose jerseys they will be wearing.

The Pick: Broncos 21 Patriots 17

Now to the rest of the picks:

Last week: 11-3 Season: 47-15.  Honestly I should just quit while I am ahead.

– Bills over Browns: Needless to say this is not the game of the week.  I take the Bills mainly because they are at home.  Both teams have been major disappointments.

– Ravens over Bengals: The Ravens are out for blood after a loss last week in New England.  Cincinnati has a talented offense, but I don’t like their odds on the road against the Ravens D.  Baltimore’s offense should also rebound at home in this one.

– Steelers over Lions: Pittsburgh still doesn’t look entirely right, especially on defense, but they have found their running game.  That will be enough against Detroit, although this game will be competitive.  It will be a de facto home game for the Steelers with more terrible towels in the seats than Lions fans.

– Cardinals over Texans: Arizona has had a bye week to regroup, and their offense should have a field day against a Houston defense that has not really stopped anyone yet.  Houston might score enough to keep up and make this entertaining, but in the end the Cards will prevail at home.

– Jaguars over Seahawks.  Jacksonville really showed something last week against the Titans, dominating the action on both sides of the ball.  The way Seattle has underperformed and is once again battling injury, I like the Jags in a road mini upset here.  Matt Hasselbeck may be back and Seattle needs him.  In any case my pick of the Seahawks to win the NFC West is looking really stupid right now.

– Cowboys over Chiefs: I am shocked that national people are picking the upset here (I have seen more than one pick for KC).  I know the Cowboys haven’t been great, but they are better than the Chiefs.  Arrowhead is no help when the home team is this poor.

– Giants over Raiders: This is the blowout of the week.  Even if Eli Manning is hobbling it won’t matter.  The Raiders are such a mess that a trip east is the last thing they need.  The Giants continue to prove that people (including me) underestimate them in preseason every year.

– Eagles over Buccaneers: Another blowout of the week.  McNabb and Westbrook are back for Philly, and the Bucs are still a big mess in absolutely every way.  If the Phillies end up losing to the Rockies in the playoffs, this will be a good way for Philadelphians to feel better.

– Panthers over Redskins: two disappointing teams go head to head.  The Redskins are fortunate to have ugly wins against the Rams and Buccaneers, while Carolina is still looking for a win.  They should be able to get it at home, and maybe save Jake Delhomme’s job for another week.

– Vikings over Rams: Another blowout, this time for the visiting team.  The Rams might just be the worst team in the league, while the Vikings bring Adrian Peterson, a great offensive line, and great defensive front seven, and oh yeah that Favre guy.

– 49ers over Falcons: This should be entertaining.  I should point out I picked the Niners to win the west LAST YEAR, and then naturally underestimated them this season.  I still think Atlanta will be a playoff factor in the NFC, but the Niners have mojo right now and the home field will sway them in this one.

– Colts over Titans: These are two teams going in opposite directions.  The Titans are desperate for a win, and they’ll have a Sunday night crowd behind them, but Peyton Manning is not going to feel sorry for Jeff Fisher and company.  The Colts smell blood in the division, and that’s usually bad news for opponents.

– Jets over Dolphins: Miami is a home in the Monday nighter, and thus I am tempted to say the Wildcat will carry the day, but I think the Jets have something to prove after losing on the road last week.  Braylon Edwards makes his debut after being acquired in trade from Cleveland, and I think he will make an impact in new surroundings.

Posted in football | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Defense saves day again, and so does Marshall

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 5, 2009

MarshallI feel like in a lot of ways I could just cut and paste my recap the Oakland and incorporate it here to review the Broncos’ 17-10 win against the Cowboys.  For starters, the Broncos would not have won this game without another terrific performance by the defense.  I don’t care who they’ve played (frankly I’m not so sure Dallas is a playoff caliber team, but even the most skeptical of national pundits have to start giving Denver’s defense its due).  The Broncos are allowing a mere 6.5 points per game through their first four.  That’s less than a touchdown per game folks.  You’re going to win a lot of games if you keep doing that.  The Broncos once again won the turnover battle (2-1), managed to hold the Cowboys to just 74 yards rushing (this after Dallas came into the game ranked number one in rushing, having gone over 200 yards in each of their previous two games).  sacked Tony Romo five times (including two more from Elvis Dumervil, who now has a staggering 8 on the season).  and most importantly stepped up big in the final sequence of the game.  Dallas had first and goal at the 8 with less than a minute to play, and the Broncos managed to keep Dallas out of the end zone thanks to Champ Bailey, who knocked passes away in the end zone on third and fourth down.

There is no question that the entire defense has really outperformed all expectations set for them at the start of the season.  I remember back in April when virtually everyone was criticizing them left and right for not focusing on the front seven in the draft (for the record the one guy they did take, Robert Ayers, had a sack against the Cowboys).  The Broncos have answered all the questions about the front seven by doing an outstanding  job against the run and getting pressure on the quarterback.  The secondary has also been great, with Bailey having a nice bounce back season so far after a below par season a year ago.  The additions of Andre Goodman and Renaldo Hill have also been solid, and Brian Dawkins’ leadership has been the glue that has held the secondary and indeed the entire defense together so far.

While there is no question that the defense was the biggest reason the Broncos’ won the game against Dallas, the play of the game was courtesy of none other than Brandon Marshall, who up until last week had been virtually non existent from the Broncos’ offensive attack and was quickly building a reputation of selfishness for his behavior on and off the field.  With less than two minutes to go in the game, Marshall made an acrobatic catch on a high throw by Kyle Orton, outleaping Cowboys cornerback Terrence Newman to snag the ball.  Then, Marshall took off running and showed why he has the potential to be a truly elite receiver in the NFL.  With no fewer than five white Cowboys jerseys surrounding him, Marshall made several juke moves worthy of a video game, stayed on his feet through several changes in direction, and managed to race untouched into the end zone for what ultimately would be the winning touchdown.  This kind of play is the reason the Broncos kept putting up with Marshall in the offseason.  The Broncos know what kind of talent he is and what kind of receiver he can be.  If this is the Brandon Marshall the Broncos will get the rest of the season, this team could be in line for some very special things indeed.

Some other thoughts from Denver’s win over the Cowboys:

– The Broncos are now one of four teams to begin the year 4-0 (the Saints, Giants and Colts are the other three).  While this is no guarantee for future success (see the Bills last year, starting 4-0 and completely flaming out), it generally is a good harbinger of a playoff berth, provided the Broncos can keep up their current level of play against a schedule that is getting tougher by the week.

– I think many national folks and even Broncos fans have to now start giving Josh McDaniels the benefit of the doubt.  I was appalled at predictions of 4-12 and 3-13 for this team at the start of the season.  Clearly there is no way now that anyone with any credibility cab say that this team will win less than 8 games.

– The Broncos do need more production from their other receivers going forward the rest of the way.  Eddie Royal caught just two passes for 16 yards Sunday, while Jabar Gaffney caught just one pass for eight yards.  They did get three catches each from Tony Scheffler and Daniel Graham, but the leading receiver was actually Correll Buckhalter with five.  The Broncos will need more production from their receivers in the long run.

– Kyle Orton continues to quietly post decent numbers.  Sunday: 20-29 for 243 yards and two touchdowns, no turnovers.  Orton has still yet to turn it over in four games.  It’s really hard to argue against him right now, especially the Broncos keep winning with him under center.

– The number of penalties against both teams Sunday was definitely on the high side (10 against the Broncos, 7 against the Cowboys).  This is obviously something that needs to be cleaned up for both teams going forward.

– I think the Cowboys are a tough team to figure out.  They have a big, physical offensive line and can run the ball effectively.  However, Tony Romo showed the full range of his inconsistency on Sunday, making a great play on a 4th and 3 late to keep the Cowboys alive, but also missing several open receivers earlier in the game.  I did find it odd that Romo was not communicating with his receivers during the fourth quarter, instead opting to sit by himself on the sideline between series.

– I find it to be interesting irony that Mike Shanahan could be coaching the Cowboys in 2010.  I do think Dallas has a chance to compete for a playoff spot this season, but it also wouldn’t shock me if they finish 8-8.  If they miss the playoffs again, does Wade Phillips keep his job?  It will certainly make for interesting rumor going forward.

– Big game again for the Broncos on Sunday, as they host the Patriots.  McDaniels against Belichick. The Broncos revamped defense against Brady and Moss.   Throwback jerseys.  It sounds like a broken record, but it will be another opportunity for the Broncos to make a statement.

Posted in football | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Broncos-Cowboys Preview & week 4 picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 3, 2009

Kyle Orton On Sunday we will finally start to get an idea if the Denver Broncos are actually for real or not.  Sunday begins a five game stretch of opponents that are needless to say a significant upgrade over Denver’s slate the first three weeks of the season (although I am more hesitant than ever to claim the Bengals were an easy win – after all CIncy is 2-1).  While the schedule does get tougher for the Broncos, it is also fair to say that Sunday’s home game against Dallas no longer looks like a sure loss the way it did roughly a month ago.  In fact, the Broncos appear to be a good position to quite possibly be 4-0, something that looked impossible before the regular season started.

The Broncos 3-0 record is of course party due to the fact that they’ve gotten to beat up on woeful Cleveland and Oakland, but make no mistake about it, the defense has been the real deal so far.  The Broncos are allowing just 5.3 points per game, which will win you games no matter who you’re playing.  The 16 points allowed by the Broncos through three games is third best total through three games in NFL history.  The Broncos have allowed just four opponent scores (three field goals and one touchdown) in 33 possessions this season.  Denver has turned around its turnover fortunes in a big way, going from a league worst minus 17 last year to a second best in the league plus 6 this season.  Defensively the Broncos are getting pressure on opposing passers (six sacks so far for Elvis Dumervil), and the secondary is much improved led by veteran Brian Dawkins.  As awful as the defense was last season, this is nothing short of an amazing turnaround.  Offensively, Kyle Orton once again wasn’t flashy last week, but he threw a touchdown pass and has still yet to throw a pick in 2009.  Brandon Marshall responded with five catches as well, but the biggest key has been the running game.  Correll Buckhalter is averaging nearly seven yards a carry, and Knowshon Moreno leads all rookies in rushing.

The Cowboys are no question an upgrade over Broncos’ opponents so far, especially in terms of the running game.  Dallas leads the league in rushing as a team through three games, even though several of their backs have been banged up.  Marion Barber missed last week’s game against Carolina, but will return against the Broncos.  He is very physical but also has breakaway speed.  Tashard Choice has also been a very capable injury fill-in for Dallas, and he will be needed because Felix Jones in unlikely to play.  Regardless, it will be interesting to see if the Broncos’ outstanding run defense continues against the league’s top rushing attack.  As they say, something has to give here.  The Cowboys passing offense is always dangerous with Tony Romo at the controls, but Romo has been inconsistent this season.  Still, Romo is one of the more talented quarterbacks in the league (certainly better than the previous two the Broncos have faced, Brady Quinn and JaMarcus Russell).  Even Carson Palmer appeared to not be 100 percent in week one, so this will really be the first big passing game test for the Broncos as well in addition to the running game challenge.  Dallas also has good receivers in Patrick Crayton and Roy Williams, but the biggest threat is tight end Jason Witten.  It will be fun to see how the Broncos try to contain Witten.  Defensively, the Cowboys have not been spectacular, but they do pass rushing specialist DeMarcus Ware and a good secondary.  The Cowboys are 2-1, and they often seem to play better on the road than at home.

I think this should be a great game.  The Fox network seems to realize this, as they are sending their top team of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman to do the game, and most the country will get it, unless you have the misfortune to be stuck with 49ers-Rams.  I think both teams will have success running the football, but I also have a feeling that both offenses are going to find it tough going in the passing game.  I think it should all add up to a close game that should be decided by a turnover or big play in the fourth quarter.  Considering Invesco Field should be rocking, and possibly be louder than it has in several seasons, I like emotion to sway the Broncos’ way and I like them to come up with a cople more turnovers and the win.

The Pick: Broncos 24 Cowboys 20

Now on to the rest of the picks:

Last week: 13-3 Season: 36-12

I am almost hesitant to continue picking since this is about the best my record has ever been, but here we go:

– Bills over Dolphins: This is a tough one.  Miami is at home and desperate to get their first win, but they have Chad Henne starting at QB for the injured Chad Pennington and haven’t looked anywhere close to last year’s team that won the division.  Buffalo played hard against the Saints last week but came up short.  I guarantee T.O. isn’t held without a catch two weeks in a row, and I like the Bills in this one.

– Ravens over Patriots: Minor upset alert.  This should be one of the best games of the weekend.  New England’s defense was great against Atlanta, but Tom Brady still doesn’t look quite right.  That doesn’t bode well against the Ravens defense, and since Baltimore now has offense to go with it, I like the Ravens here in a mini-upset, but it will be very close.

– Saints over Jets: This should be another good game, but I actually think the Saints will pull away in the second half being that this is in the Superdome.  New Orleans’ offense is scary good, and I just don’t think the Jets will be able to keep up.  Although, Darelle Revis against the Saints receivers will be a great matchup.  Still, I like New Orleans.

– Bengals over Browns: Being at home won’t help the Browns at all.  Cleveland is a mess in absolutely every way, even with Derek Anderson back under center.  The Bengals do need to avoid a letdown after last week’s big win, and that make the game ugly to watch, but in the end I like Cincinnati to be 3-1.

– Texans over Raiders: Houston keeps flirting with those of us who keep waiting for them to break out and be a winning team.  I still think they have too much talent not to be player by the end of the season.  The Texans shouldn’t have any trouble here against a Raiders’ team that has already faded into obscurity after a good effort in week one.

– Colts over Seahawks: Matt Hasselbeck is still questionable, and that is very bad news for Seattle.  Peyton Manning will also be able to feast against the secondary that is really battling injuries.  Factor in Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, and company and this will get very ugly very quickly.  Better hope Fox switches to a more competitive game if you’re stuck with this one.

– Titans over Jaguars: This game will be blacked out in Jacksonville due to a non-sellout.  I realize the Jaguars won last week, but I still don’t think they’re a contender.  Tennessee has to be furious about its 0-3 start, but they will not fall to 0-4.  It may be a close game because of Maurice Jones-Drew, but in the end I like the Titans.

– Giants over Chiefs: Arrowhead won’t be any help to Kansas City in this one.  The Giants are definitely playing playoff quality football and the Chiefs, well, let’s just say they aren’t.  The Giants should roll easily in this one, dominating on both sides of the ball.

– Bears over Lions: Chicago has bounced back nicely after losing its opening game (I have to admit partly due to Jay Cutler) while the Lions finally remembered last week what it felt like to win a game.  This will be at Soldier Field though, and that doesn’t bode well for the Lions.  Chicago wins.

– Redskins over Buccaneers: Dud game of the week.  Washington has looked awful, even in its win in week two against the Rams.  Tampa Bay has looked worse, and has benched Byron Leftwich at quarterback.  This pick isn’t so much a vote of confidence for Washington but rather a well, I have to pick someone so….we’ll just go with the home team.

– 49ers over Rams: St. Louis showed some life offensively last week against the Packers, but they are still bad.  San Francisco suffered a heartbreaking defeat on the final play last week, and now they will motivated on their home field this week.  The 49ers should roll easily in this one.

– Steelers over Chargers: The thought of Pittsburgh at 1-3 is enough to warrant apocalypse warnings.  I simply refuse to believe the defending champs will drop three straight.  San Diego has looked very inconsistent on both sides of the ball, and even though LaDainian Tomlinson is back, I still like the Steelers’ physicality to rule the day here in the Sunday nighter.

– Vikings over Packers: ESPN did cartwheels the day Brett Favre announced he was coming back because this game is the Monday night matchup this week.  It’s in Minnesota, but there will be a lot of electricity in the air.  This was a big rivalry anywhere and now only intensified with Favre playing for the Vikings.  This should be a good game with good quarterback play, but in the end I like Adrian Peterson to carry the day, and that means a win for the Vikings in the Metrodome.

Posted in football | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »