Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Archive for December, 2010

Week 15 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 17, 2010

By now you surely have realized I never got around to recapping the latest Broncos disaster in Arizona.  Frankly that was largely because I am so disgusted with the Broncos right now that I have decided to wait until after the season to even attempt to analyze them further.  That performance in the desert was so embarrassing that there frankly aren’t any words that can adequately describe it.  This is a new low for the Broncos, and it’s without question the worst they’ve been in my lifetime.  It doesn’t appear to be getting better anytime soon.

Let’s just move on to the picks.  The quickie style is going so well that we’ll keep it going (25-8 over the last two weeks).  The week started with the Chargers slaughtering San Francisco tonight, and that frankly wasn’t a surprise.  The only reason I didn’t go with the Chargers in the eliminator pool (still alive and kicking!) is because I want to use them for another sure slam dunk next week against the Bungles.

Last Week: 13-3   Season: 121-87

– Bills over Dolphins: Upset alert.  The Dolphins should just ask the NFL to let them play every game on the road, since they’re a lot more successful away from Sun Life Stadium.  The Bills won last week and I still think they’ve got an upset in them before the year is out.  A hunch says this it.   Bills fans are still upset because it might cost them a shot at Andrew Luck in the draft.

– Steelers over Jets: I’ve said all the year the Jets are the league’s most overrated team.  They have proven it with two dreadful performances in a row.  They are not a Super Bowl contender.  Pittsburgh is.  I think this may not be that close at Heinz Field.

– Browns over Bengals: Terrell Owens has now started blaming the coaches and says he can’t throw to himself.  It would also help if he didn’t stand there watching last week when Troy Polamalu stepped in front of him for a pick six.  Even though the game is in Cincy, I can’t call this an upset.

– Saints over Ravens: This is a great game and I think most of the country should be pissed that it’s not getting it.  I’ll be curious to see the Ravens defense against Drew Brees.  Given the way Matt Schaub sliced them up on Monday night, I’ll take Brees.  I still think Baltimore is capable of making a Super Bowl run, but their D needs to do much better against the pass.

– Texans over Titans: Houston showed a lot of heart on Monday night.  I think they can carry it over against a team they’ve already destroyed once this year.  The Titans have zero confidence and I can’t see them winning the rest of the year.

– Jaguars over Colts: Upset alert, but is it really? The game is in Indy, but it’s not like the Colts have been themselves this year even at home.  The good news for them is Peyton Manning finally showed up last week.  He’ll need to be on again because Maurice Jones-Drew figures to be in line for a huge day.  I think the Jags have proven over the past month that they deserve to win the AFC South.

– Raiders over Broncos: I’m so embarrassed by the Broncos that I am going with the Raiders as my eliminator selection this week.  I am not confident about the run defense against Darren McFadden.  I am less confident in the offense because Kyle Orton is banged up and that means we might see Tim Tebow.  I am now among those who thinks Tebow should get some snaps, but the Black Hole will be ugly for him.  Oakland won 59-14 in the first meeting.  This one could be a blowout as well.

– Rams over Chiefs: I make this pick regardless of whether Matt Cassel plays or not.  I do think Jamaal Charles could have a big day on the fast turf, but the Rams have played exceptionally well at home this year.  Besides, the NFC West champion HAS to finish better than 7-9, don’t they?  Please?

– Cowboys over Redskins: It seems like a long ago when Washington won the first meeting.  That was back in week one.  A lot has changed since then.  The Redskins are dreadful, and the Cowboys are surging.  Can we smell blowout in Big D?

– Eagles over Giants: This should be a great game as well.  Philly won the first meeting despite three dropped passes in the end zone by their receivers.  Michael Vick has shown that playing on the road doesn’t affect him, and I think the Eagles defense can have success against the Giants’ running game.  This could be closest game of the week, and might decide the NFC East.  I think the Eagles take this one on the road.

– Buccaneers over Lions: Tampa Bay is 8-0 against sub .500 teams and 0-5 against teams over .500.  They will have the opportunity to feast on the Lions Sunday and they also have another game against Carolina.  Their playoff chances are still very much alive if they take care of business.

– Falcons over Seahawks: Atlanta can wrap up the NFC South with a win and a Saints loss.  Seattle has proven to be mediocre at home this year, so the Falcons should roll on paper.  The only reason this game might be close is because it’s Atlanta’s third road game in a row.

– Panthers over Cardinals: This is a really horrible matchup and honestly I don’t know who will win.  I just think the Broncos are the only team that can possibly make John Skelton look serviceable.

– Patriots over Packers: The Sunday night game was supposed to be one of the best of the year, but with Aaron Rodgers’ concussion, this will be a major mismatch.  Johnny Flynn looked like he didn’t belong anywhere near the NFL last week.  Now he goes against Tom Brady.  I think we’ve all seen this move before.  Green Bay’s playoff chances could be in big trouble.

– Bears over Vikings: I am anxious to see an outdoor game in Minnesota.  The Metrodome isn’t usable, so the game will be at the University of Minnesota.  I think the cold temps could make the game very compelling.  That might be about all that’s compelling, because the Bears are much better right now and I see them winning easily.  That is assuming Jay Cutler doesn’t screw it up.

Advertisements

Posted in football | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Week 14 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 10, 2010

Last Week: 13-3   Season: 108-84

Last night the Colts got week 14 started with a resurgence from Peyton Manning (naturally it didn’t come soon enough to save my fantasy team).  If the Colts can win out, and their schedule is friendly enough that they have a chance, they might end up in the playoffs after all.  I think they still have lots of work to do and next week at Jacksonville is certainly no gimmie, but they’re not out of it yet.  As for Tennessee, they played with effort for the first time in weeks, but that was still not enough.  I’ll ask the strange question: is Jeff Fisher in trouble?  After all, he’s been coaching the team since they were the Houston Oilers.  In any case, Randy Moss is so useless these days he can’t even get on the field.  I think his career might well be over.

As for the rest of the games, doing the picks faster and just going with my gut seems to be working.  With that theme in mind, here we go.

– Bills over Browns: Cleveland has been a major surprise, but unless they win three of their final four, or perhaps all four, Eric Mangini might still be out.  The Bills stunk last week but have actually played well otherwise.  They’ll win a squeaker at home in terrible weather.

– Jets over Dolphins: Miami couldn’t get it done in this matchup at home, so why would they have a chance to do it on the road?  While I think the Jets embarrassed themselves last week, they’ll rebound on their own field against the inconsistent Dolphins.

– Patriots over Bears: If New England repeats what they did last week they aren’t losing to anyone.  The Bears were fortunate to squeak past a pesky Lions club last week.  This will be close, but I think Tom Brady outplays Jay Cutler and that will be the difference.

– Steelers over Bengals: As I’m still alive in the eliminator pool and haven’t used Pittsburgh yet, I’m taking this as a sure fire slam dunk.  The Steelers made a huge statement last week in Baltimore, while the Bungles lived up to their nickname late last week against the Saints.

– Jaguars over Raiders: Jacksonville needs a win to keep their lead in the AFC South (how strange is that?), and I think they’ll get it against a Raiders team that will be much less motivated against a non-division opponent.

– Broncos over Cardinals: Call it the interim coach theory.  The Vikings and Cowboys are 5-1 under interim bosses, and I think the Broncos will play very hard for Eric Studesville on Sunday.  Besides, Arizona is down to their third quarterback, a guy I’ve never heard of named John Skelton.  Dud game of the week for sure.

– Chargers over Chiefs: Even if Matt Cassel plays, I’m not sure how effective he’ll be off his appendectomy.  The Chargers are sure to be desperate now after the egg they laid last week.  San Diego has no margin for error and needs the game a lot more.

– Vikings over Giants: Upset alert.  I think the Giants have not shown the necessary consistency in recent weeks.  I think they’ll play well in this game, but it’s obvious that Minnesota players are glad Brad Childress is gone.  Since this is at Metrodome, I’m going with the upset.

– Buccaneers over Redskins: The Bucs have had hard luck losses against great teams the past two weeks, but they have shown they can compete.  Washington is getting to be beyond dreadful.  Good thing Mike Shanahan will have more than one year to right that ship.

– Lions over Packers: Upset alert #2.  Look, Green Bay has a very good team, they were my preseason Super Bowl pick out of the NFC.  I think they’ll still playoff quality, but I also think the Lions have played very hard every game and they’re bound to see results sooner or later.  Call it a gut feeling.

– Falcons over Panthers: Atlanta rolls by so much this isn’t worth talking about.  I’m saving Atlanta in the eliminator pool for the Georgia Dome rematch in two weeks.

– Saints over Rams: If this was in St. Louis this could be interesting, but as such I think New Orleans will roll very easily at home.  This sets up a terrific NFC South race down the stretch.  This also once again means the NFC West leader will be under .500 because….

– 49ers over Seahawks: I just don’t think Seattle is very good.  San Francisco is talent that is not reflected by their poor record, but I think at home San Francisco finds a way to win this one and perhaps save Mike Singletary’s job.

– Eagles over Cowboys: This should be an entertaining Sunday night game since the Cowboys are much improved, but I think Michael Vick is playing so well that I’m not sure if I would pick the Eagles to lose to any team these days.  Philly wins a thriller on the road.

– Ravens over Texans: Baltimore needs to rebound from last week’s tough loss to the Steelers.  They will against the league’s biggest underachievers.

 

Posted in football | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Josh McDaniels Fired

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 7, 2010

A number of Broncos fans think this is a great day.  I do not think this is a great day.

The Josh McDaniels firing was unexpected that’s for sure.  Today was supposed to be about the CU Buffs and their new coaching hire, Jon Embree.  I really bad for Embree, who accepted his dream job today, and found himself relegated to the back page.  From I what I saw today meeting him for the first time, I think he will be very successful as CU coach, and he’s not the type of guy who cares about whether he is in the spotlight or not.  I just think he should get his due.

Now, to the other matter at hand.  I know many Broncos are doing cartwheels today.  I’m not one of them.  Of course I am upset that the Broncos are 5-17 in their last 22 games dating back to last season.  Of course I’m not happy that the Broncos have been associated with Spygate II or whatever the official term is for the videotaping incident.  Of course I’m not thrilled about some of the personnel moves that have been made.  Despite all that, I find the timing of the Josh McDaniels firing to be puzzling in a number of ways.  Why now?  Why not wait to see what happens in the last four games?  Better yet, why not give him a chance to see what happens next year with a healthy roster?  As I said last week, by making this move at this time, when McDaniels has coached just 29 NFL games, you’re basically saying you’re going to start over again.

I’m certainly not saying that I don’t understand the Broncos’ point of view here.  I know Pat Bowlen looked at the sea of empty seats at the last home game against St. Louis and was fearful of the attendance numbers at the final two home games.  I know Bowlen was embarrassed to have the Broncos be associated with a cheating scandal, however remotely.  I’m sure Bowlen is also very aware of fan feedback, and the fact is most fans wanted McDaniels fired.  In fact, most Broncos fans hated him from the word go.  People say the Broncos have fallen from the elite and that they aren’t one of the league’s prime teams anymore.  That all is true, but they were headed that direction before McDaniels came on board.  Remember, they missed the playoffs in six of Mike Shanahan’s last 10 seasons, and every time they made it in those ten seasons they got blown out by vastly superior teams.  Given that, you certainly can’t blame the Broncos for making a coaching change.

I guess what upsets me so much is I don’t feel that anyone even gave McDaniels a chance.  He was roasted universally for his handling of Jay Cutler, yet Kyle Orton has proven to be better (Besides, Pat Bowlen is the one who ordered that Cutler be traded).  He was roasted for his handling of Brandon Marshall, yet the Broncos don’t miss him either because Brandon Lloyd has been outstanding.  I agree that the Peyton Hillis trade was bad, and some of his other personnel moves were bad, but Mike Shanahan made his series of horrible moves too.  Dale Carter.  Travis Henry.  Benching Jake Plummer (who I still say got a really bad rap and deserves a lot more credit for the work he did here).  First round busts Marcus Nash, George Foster and Jarvis Moss.  Maurice Clarett in the third round when every other team agreed he shouldn’t have been drafted at all.  I could go on but you get the idea.  The point is that McDaniels isn’t alone in making personnel errors.  I will also point out that Shanahan is 5-7 in his first season with the Redskins and I think they are clearly worse than they were last season, so the grass isn’t always necessarily greener on the other side.

Frankly I am pretty certain that things are not going to get better overnight for the Broncos.  In fact, they might get worse before they get better.  I think the new coach could well come in and decide he needs to start over.  For starters, it will be interesting to see what happens with Tim Tebow.  McDaniels made him the face of the franchise and the future, but most teams weren’t so high on him.  Many teams had him rated as a fourth round pick or below.  It stands to reason another coach may not think he is the answer and then there would be another wasted draft pick.  In any case, I think it will take a long time to turn this around with a new coach.  I’m not saying McDaniels would have taken them to the playoffs next year, but as I said last week I think he deserved a chance to see if things could work with a healthy roster next season.

Since the Broncos will likely be paying three coaches next season (unless they fire McDaniels for cause because of the videotaping incident), it is unlikely they will be able to afford a big name like Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden.  Our trustworthy insider Adam Schefter mentioned two names: Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier and Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun.  The first one I think is unlikely because I think Minnesota will want to retain him.  The second I think could be a real possibility because Calhoun was a Broncos assistant once upon a time.  I’ll also throw out Gary Kubiak, who will likely be fired by the Texans at the end of the year unless they turn it around.  Regardless of who it is, that person will have a big chore ahead of them returning the Broncos to prominence.

I just have one plea for my fellow Broncos fans: give this next coach a chance.  Don’t roast him from the moment he walks in the door.  I’m not going to say McDaniels did a great job, but you don’t know how next year would have turned out.  With a healthy roster next year, who knows they might have been a playoff team.  In fact, I guarantee McDaniels will someday be an outstanding coach with another team (It’s happened before, look at Bill Belichick now after he was run out of Cleveland in the mid 90s).

Unlike most Broncos fans, I do not find this to be a great day.

Posted in football | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Week 13 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 3, 2010

Last Week: 11-5 Season: 95-81

The last couple of weeks have been much better for yours truly in the picking department.  Two weeks ago, I sat four games under .500 for the season.  Now, two weeks of success have turned that around (If you missed my selections last week I did them on Twitter, with the Thanksgiving holiday and the fact that I spent it in Nebraska with the Buffs there was just no time).

A quick note on last night’s game: Michael Vick certainly deserves to be in contention for MVP.  The way he is playing, I’m not sure any NFC team wants to see the Eagles in the playoffs.  As for Houston, they continue to stumble and let winnable games get away.  I can’t see any way that Gary Kubiak isn’t in trouble at the end of the season.  At any rate, on to this week’s selections, as we go for several upset specials:

– Bills over Vikings: Upset pick #1.  Look, I know the Vikings won last week, but it wasn’t as if they jumped off the stat sheet against the Redskins.  I do think they are playing harder for Leslie Frazier than they did for Brad Childress, but this team still doesn’t feel right from Brett Favre all the way to the defensive side of the ball.  I pick the upset because the Bills are rapidly improving and no one seems to be noticing.  They would have beaten the Steelers last week if not for a dropped ball in the end zone.  The Metrodome is always loud, but if Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to play well and the Bills defense can slow down Adrian Peterson, I think they have more than a puncher’s chance.  I’m going with the upset.

– Browns over Dolphins: Upset pick #2.  Miami played very well last week in Oakland, but they certainly have not been consistent, especially on their home field.  They have just struggled to put back to back solid performances together.  The Browns continue to be among the surprise teams in the league, and I think Peyton Hillis could be in line for another huge day.  Frankly I don’t think this is much of a stretch, I only call it an upset because a vast majority of folks are picking Miami.

– Saints over Bengals: The complete mismatch of the week. a classic case of Super Bowl contender vs league doormat/soap opera.  If I hadn’t already used New Orleans in my eliminator pool, I would do so here without hesitation.  The sad part is the Bengals’ diva receivers probably don’t even regret the disastrous T-Ocho Show.

– Cowboys over Colts: Upset pick #3.  The Colts are simply not the Colts right now.  Injuries have played their part for sure, especially Dallas Clark and Joseph Addai.  Peyton Manning is trying his best to keep it together, but even he is not having a Manning-esque season.  The Cowboys meanwhile look like a new team under Jason Garrett.  Frankly this doesn’t look right because I have a hard time picturing the Colts under .500 and not in the playoffs, but that is rapidly where they are heading.  This is more of a hunch than anything, but I think Dallas wins on the road.

– Jaguars over Titans: Tennessee destroyed the Jags in the first meeting, but a lot has changed since then.  For starters, David Garrard is healthy and Maurice Jones-Drew has looked much more like his old self in recent weeks.  For the Titans, you know things are bad when their best hope is that Kerry Collins MIGHT be healthy enough to start on Sunday.  Chris Johnson was so ineffective last week he was held to five yards, and the Jaguars have a much better rush defense than Houston.  I think Jacksonville wins, and it may not be particularly close.

– Chiefs over Broncos: I gave my in depth assessment of the Broncos earlier in the week.  Frankly, this game is going to get ugly for them.  Arrowhead Stadium has never been kind to Denver (the Broncos are just 2-16 there in December all-time), plus the Chiefs are going to be highly motivated to avenge the 49-29 defeat a few weeks ago.  Kansas City is the best rushing team in the league, and while the Broncos contained Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones in the first meeting, they won’t be able to do it twice.  Kansas City rolls, and perhaps Todd Haley will actually shake Josh McDaniels’ hand this time.

– Chargers over Raiders: San Diego lost the first meeting because of very poor special teams play.  This time, Philip Rivers will have such a good game it won’t come down to special teams.  The Chargers are hitting the gas pedal hard for their annual December run (Philip Rivers has never lost in the month if you can believe that), and they have both momentum and revenge on their side here.  The Raiders went back to looking lost and confused last week against Miami, and this is simply put a bad matchup for them.  The Chargers win this easily.

– Giants over Redskins: Another mismatch on tap.  The G-men had a nice bounce back victory last week and look to get back in the race for the best record in the NFC.  Washington continues to really be a mixed bag, and this just doesn’t bode well for them heading on the road, especially since Mike Shanahan can’t seem to find a healthy running back right now.  I think the Giants win easily behind their strong running game and defense.

– Bears over Lions: This is my eliminator selection for this week (the first time I’ve taken one of these things into December).  When I found out the Lions are starting third string quarterback Drew Stanton, that’s all I need to know.  Shaun Hill was actually doing a capable job leading the offense, but Stanton doesn’t stand a chance against a Julius Peppers-led pass rush that was able to disrupt Michael Vick last week.  The other key for the Bears is Mike Martz has finally discovered his running game.  I think Matt Forte will be more than effective, and the Bears defense will completely shut down Stanton.

– Packers over 49ers: The 49ers are still in playoff contention only because they have the fortune to be part of the worst division in NFL history.  I am genuinely fearful we’ll see a 7-9 champion come out of that division.  The fact that San Francisco is just one game out at 4-7 is downright disturbing.  Despite their playoff chances, I don’t think they have much of a shot at Lambeau Field.   The Packers suffered a tough road loss in Atlanta last week, but they are still very much in play for a division title themselves in a legitimate race.  Green Bay should get this one without too much difficulty.

– Falcons over Buccaneers: It’s hard to believe that is a legitimate big game in the NFC South.  Atlanta won the first meeting at home. but it was much closer than expected.  Tampa Bay is clearly the league’s biggest surprise, but I’m sure they are wishing they were part of the NFC West this year.  New Orleans and Atlanta are both sure playoff teams, so the Buccaneers still have a large hill to climb.  I think this should be a great game, and while I do give Tampa Bay a chance, I think the Falcons are the best team in the NFC right now.  I am starting to think they might be the NFC representative in the Super Bowl.

– Seahawks over Panthers: This game could be the dud of the week.  Carolina did nearly pull the upset last week in Cleveland, and that is one reason I shied away from Seattle for my eliminator pick this week.  The other reason is the Seahawks have been flat awful in recent weeks, especially last week at home against the Chiefs.  The only reason I’m not going with an upset here is because Seattle is tied for the division lead despite their sub.500 record.  Therefore, they have something tangible to play for when Carolina does not.  A Carolina win wouldn’t shock me, but if Seattle has any pride at all they’ll win this one at home.

– Rams over Cardinals: Arizona hit a new low last week when they got clobbered at home on Monday night against San Francisco.  Derek Anderson’s postgame tirade made things worse.  If Arizona continues to be that inept offensively, they may not win another game all season.  St. Louis continues to show improvement, for Sam Bradford had his first 300-yard game in Denver last week.  St. Louis might be the least bad so to speak of the awful NFC West teams.  I think they will win this one rather comfortably.

– Ravens over Steelers: For once the night games are the two best games of the week.  Baltimore won the first meeting between these two teams in Pittsburgh, but that was without Ben Roethlisberger.  Speaking of the Steelers quarterback, he’s trying to debunk rumors of a broken foot this week.  I still stand behind the Ravens as my preseason Super Bowl pick because of their defense and balanced offensive attack.  One thing you can bank on with this matchup is it will be decided by a field goal or less.  I still go with the Ravens on their home field, especially after Pittsburgh’s near miss in Buffalo last week.

– Patriots over Jets: The winner of this game will very likely win the AFC East.  Regardless, it looks like both teams are headed to the playoffs.  The Jets won the first meeting, but the Patriots have been retooled since then, subtracting Randy Moss and adding Deion Branch and Danny Woodhead.  I like New England here for two reasons.  One, they are at home, where they rarely if ever lose especially in a big game.  Second, I still think the Jets can owe a large part of their record to luck.  At some point that is going to run out on them.

 

Posted in football | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

What Now Broncos?

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 1, 2010

By now I certainly don’t have to tell you that I bleed orange and blue.  I’ve been a die hard Broncos fan since I’ve been seven years old.  In that time, I have only seen four sub-.500 seasons, and this is roughly my 25th season of watching the Broncos with a fine tooth comb every Sunday.  With those numbers it’s certainly fair to say that us Broncos fans have had it pretty darn good compared to a lot of other franchises. That time span (since 1986, the first season I even was aware of who the Broncos were or what football was) has seen five Super Bowl appearances with two wins, and 12 playoff appearances.  Simply put, we’re used to seeing the Broncos succeed, or at the very least be in position to compete for the playoffs every year.  3-8 is uncharted territory for the Denver Broncos and is frankly not acceptable.  The last time they started a season this bad was in 1990, and from what I remember it was because the team was littered with injuries that season.  They made the Super Bowl the year before and the AFC Championship game the year after, so clearly 1990 was an aberration.  This feels different, this feels worse.  I look at the current Broncos and find myself realizing what fans of the Lions and other such teams have been feeling for many years.

The negativity toward Josh McDaniels is absolutely staggering these days, and frankly it’s not hard to see why.  He is just 5-16 in his past 21 games, his 6-0 start last season long in the rear view mirror.  The videotaping incident in London certainly only adds fuel to the fire (For those unfamiliar, McDaniels and the Broncos were fined a combined $100,000 for illegally taping a 49ers walkthrough the day before the game.  The person who shot the video has since been fired).  For now, I believe the Broncos when they say the tape wasn’t viewed, but I am very skeptical as to why it wasn’t reported sooner and I am also fearful of connections to Spygate.  After all, McDaniels was New England’s offensive coordinator during that time.  While it seems as though the Patriots’ transgressions in 2007 constituted much more blatant cheating, the fact that the Broncos might have engaged in anything even a little wrong is very disconcerting .  I just hope that we don’t see any new, worse evidence coming to light on this. If we don’t, I’m willing to give McDaniels the benefit of the doubt that it was an honest mistake.

Getting back to the team, the on field product is getting so bad that I sometimes wonder if it’s not worth just blowing the entire thing up and starting over.  This doesn’t all fall on McDaniels, for I documented a number of embarrassing moments late in the Mike Shanahan era as well when he was fired.  Unfortunately, the trend of embarrassing losses has continued.  In two of the past three home games, the Broncos gave up a franchise record 59 points to the arch rival Raiders in three quarters, and then trailed by 20 to the hapless Rams a few weeks later.  I know the Rams are improved, but come on, there is no occasion when it’s even remotely acceptable to trail them by 20 in your own house, ever.  My question is though, is this just a rogue bad season, or are the pieces there for the future?  In an effort to assess the team, I offer a position by position breakdown:

Quarterback: This to me is not the problem.  Kyle Orton is having a Pro Bowl season.  His red zone passing numbers have been particularly outstanding (only one red zone interception as a Bronco in two years).  I’m still not sure what Tim Tebow brings long term because we haven’t seen much of him, but he has been productive in the red zone as well.  I do not think Orton deserves to be benched, but in some ways I wouldn’t mind seeing if Tebow is going to be a bust or not.  Brady Quinn is useless right now and that is proving to be a horrible trade (more below).  While many people still grill McDaniels for trading Jay Cutler, I think Orton is actually better.

Running back: I really like Knowshon Moreno, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy.  When he’s been in, he’s been effective when he’s had room to run.  After him there is nothing whatsoever, which is part of the problem.  Correll Buckhalter is considerably slower than last year.  Lance Ball?  I’m not sure how many other rosters he would make.  Laurence Maroney?  I think he might benefit from a change of scenery, but it’s clear now we lit a draft pick on fire by acquiring him.  The Broncos need some depth so Moreno doesn’t have to do it all by himself.  Meanwhile, Peyton Hillis is the toast of Cleveland and has outrushed the entire Broncos backfield by himself.  This after McDaniels stubbornly refused to use Hillis last season.  Hillis for Quinn has be in consideration for worst trade in Broncos history doesn’t it?

Wide Receiver: Again people roast McDaniels for trading Brandon Marshall, but the Broncos’ passing game is thriving just fine without him.  Brandon Lloyd is a sure fire Pro Bowler and All-Pro selection for the season he’s having, and Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal are catching their share of passes as well.  Demariyus Thomas is a real talent and made a number of terrific plays, but he continues to be plagued with a foot injury he suffered in college.  I do think the tight ends on this team are way too absent.  Daniel Graham is way too talented to not be more involved, and I do not understand the obsession with Dan Gronkowski.  Gronkowski was acquired from Detroit for Alphonso Smith, which has to rank as another boneheaded trade (more on Smith in the defensive backs section).  Overall I think this position is fine, but I would like to see more from the tight ends.

Offensive Line: This is where the problems lie on offense right now.  The unit has frankly been terrible in every game this season except for a couple.  This is why the running game is the worst in the league.  People bag on Moreno constantly, but it’s not his fault he’s continually dodging defenders before he gets to the line of scrimmage or doesn’t have holes to run through.  Ryan Clady is a Pro Bowl left tackle, but even he hasn’t performed to his full ability this year, partially due to the fact he tore his ACL in a pickup basketball game in April.  Ryan Harris is a solid right tackle, but he has been beat up as well and wasn’t in the lineup most of the first half of the year.  There are two rookies on the interior of the line, left guard Zane Beadles and center J.D. Walton, which explains a lot.  At some point though, the Broncos need to find out if they are answers long term or not.  This is the area on offense where the most improvement is needed.  It’s also the area that was never a question under Mike Shanahan.

Defensive Line: This unit has been mediocre at best.  The Broncos are running a 3-4 scheme, which should play to their advantage considering their linebackers, but the linemen up front have largely been dominated in their battles with opposing offensive lines.  This unit was a major question mark for years under Shanahan as well, with numerous wasted drafted picks, so this is not completely a new phenomenon on the new staff.  Still the acquisitions they’ve made, specifically Jamal Williams and Justin Bannon, have not worked out.  The defensive line to put it simply needs a major upgrade, and this area has not been addressed even remotely in either of Josh McDaniels’ first two drafts.

Linebackers: The talent is here for this group to be very good.  D.J. Williams is one of the best tacklers in all of football, but had a DUI a few weeks ago and could face a league suspension next season.  Robert Ayers has made significant improvement over his first season, but like many other players has not been able to stay on the field due to injury.  Mario Haggan is one of the few McDaniels additions on defense that has worked out, for he has been very active and his enthusiasm spreads to the rest of the defense.  Elvis Dumervil is one of the best pass rushers in the league, but the Broncos lost him on the first day of training camp.  If this group returns healthy next season, it’s the one area on defense that doesn’t need a lot of tinkering.

Defensive backs: Champ Bailey and Brian Dawkins are two great players who have been around for a long time, but both are entering the twilight of their careers.  It’s hard to believe that this is Bailey’s seventh season with the Broncos after being acquired via trade for Clinton Portis.  The Broncos have certainly gotten used to him being back there, but his interception numbers have really tailed off the past few seasons, partially because he has lost a step but more so because the Broncos have been unable to find a complement on the other side of the field.  Other teams are having a field day throwing towards rookie Parrish Cox, and there were others before him (Dre’ Bly anyone?).  As for Dawkins, he is a great leader in the locker room, but he is not the same player as he was even last year.  He is just not getting to the ball and making tackles the way he used to.  I do like Andre Goodman and Renaldo Hill, and Darcel McBath I think has the talent to eventually make an impact as a safety.  I mentioned Alphonso Smith earlier, for this is a player the Broncos drafted in the second round last year (after trading a first round pick the next year to move into that slot), and then the team gave up in him before this season started.  Smith has five interceptions for the Lions this season and seems to be thriving there.  This is just another example of a move that hasn’t worked out.  In short, I think the secondary could need major retooling soon, unless the aging veterans find the fountain of youth in the offseason.

Special teams: Kicker and punter are fine.  Matt Prater is largely accurate and has a good leg, while Brittan Colquitt has been one of the few bright spots this season.  The Broncos have a number of guys with potential to return kicks (Royal, Thomas, Cox), but so far no one has made a major impact there.  By and large I don’t feel this has been a major issue, but there is always room for it to be retooled and improved.

I know a lot of fans really want McDaniels fired and think that will automatically make everything better.  I will admit that it is becoming harder for me to back him, but I want to believe he can turn this around.  Let’s not forget the Broncos fired Mike Shanahan because he missed the playoffs in six of his final 10 seasons, including his final three.  Shanahan is 5-6 in Washington right now, so it’s not like he’s going gangbusters there.  Josh McDaniels has come in and has basically retooled every area of the team in his image.  Similar to a college program, I think it’s fair to give him time to see if it will work once everything is in place.  This team has been decimated by injuries, and some of his moves can’t be judged until the rookies get more experience.  The Hillis and Smith trades were awful no question, but you can’t deny that he made the right call trading Cutler and Marshall.

I just worry that if Pat Bowlen fires McDaniels after this season, what happens if a new coach wants to come in and start from scratch with his guys?  Will we be waiting another two years from him to get his team in place?  Does Bowlen even have a name in mind if he does make a coaching change?  I say unless Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden is in the bag, we’re in deep enough with McDaniels at this point that we might as well give him another year to see if it works.  Let’s see what happens with a healthy O-line and Elvis Dumervil back.  I will say these final five games could be telling.  It may sound crazy, but a positive end to the season can have a carryover effect into next year.  If we don’t win another game the rest of the way?  Well then I might change my mind, especially if the Broncos continue to get blown out each week.  But if they show some fight, are competitive, and can even steal a couple, than I’m willing to roll the dice and see what this regime does in the third year.

Posted in football | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »