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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.

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Week 11 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 20, 2010

Last Week: 4-9 (Yikes!)  Season: 70-74

Last week was terrible for yours truly.  The good news is that one of my four correct picks was my eliminator selection, which means I am still alive there.  Unfortunately, we’re 0-1 to begin things this week.  I’m not really sure what I was thinking picking Miami, because their offense looked lost and confused on Thursday night.  The Bears defense might actually be that good, but I still think they’re winning in spite of Jay Cutler, not because of him.  Now onto very rapid fire picks because the week totally snuck up on me.

– Bills over Bengals: Minor upset alert.  Look, both teams are terrible.  Call this a hunch more than anything.  Marvin Lewis will need a hug by the time this season is over.

– Patriots over Colts: To me this doesn’t have the luster of previous meetings.  I’m actually not so sure this is going to be close, especially since it’s outside in cold weather on grass.

– Jets over Texans: I still say the Jets are the league’s luckiest team, but this week they host the biggest underachievers in football.  I have officially given up on the Texans, for their record always falls well below their talent level.

– Ravens over Panthers: It’s really too bad I’ve already used Baltimore in the eliminator.  Brian St. Pierre under center against one of the league’s best defenses?  Oh boy.

– Jaguars over Browns: Strangely enough this might be one of the best games of the week.  I really like the way David Garrard is playing right now.  If he keeps it up Sunday the Jags can win this battle of surprises.

– Steelers over Raiders: This is not the gimmie it appeared to be a month ago for the Steel Curtain, but at home I think they will find a way to bounce back from last week’s embarrassment.

– Titans over Redskins: Because I would pick the Redskins to lose to any team after what I saw on Monday night.  That would include most of the top 10 teams in college.  I also think Chris Johnson could be in line for a huge day here.

– Chiefs over Cardinals: Kansas City is unbeaten at Arrowhead, and that’s more than enough against one of the league’s doormats.  I think the Chiefs are actually much better than what they showed last week.

– Cowboys over Lions: This is my eliminator selection this week and I’m frankly a little nervous about it, but Detroit never wins on the road and Dallas looked like a legitimate NFL team again last week under new coach Jason Garrett.

– Packers over Vikings: Brett Favre really has to be regretting his decision to come back.  I sense the Packers are about to make a major run and I still think they have an excellent chance to be the number one seed in the NFC playoffs.

– Falcons over Rams: Atlanta is quietly emerging as a Super Bowl contender.  If they truly are in that category, they shouldn’t slip up here, although St. Louis could potentially make this interesting.

– Saints over Seahawks: New Orleans has been very inconsistent this season, but this is part of a very friendly part of the schedule.  The only question here should be Saints’ margin of victory.

– 49ers over Buccaneers: Mini upset alert.  Tampa Bay has been playing well, but I think the 49ers might be starting to get into their groove, and don’t look now but they might still win the putrid NFC West despite a 1-5 start.

– Eagles over Giants: If Michael Vick keeps playing like he did last week, there aren’t many teams that will be able to slow down the Eagles much less beat them.  The Giants have the offense to keep up, but I like Philly on their home field.

– Chargers over Broncos: I picked against Denver last week and they won, so I’m hoping the trend continues.  However, to be honest, this is a tough matchup for the Broncos trying to slow down Philip Rivers.  I will be curious to see if last week’s emergence of the Broncos’ running game was a fluke.

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Where was THAT all season?!?

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 17, 2010

 

AP Photo/Ed Andrieski

 

First I’m going to one more plea to Pat Bowlen: please dispense with the blue jerseys once and for all.  The Broncos belong in orange.  The biggest mistake the Broncos owner has made has nothing to do with coaching changes or player personnel.   It was switching to those blue jerseys in the late 90s.  Orange is the true Broncos color.  The fans want it.  It is time to make the switch back and correct the error.

Secondly, I was going to spend a significant amount of time bashing Chiefs coach Todd Haley for his refusal to shake the hand of Josh McDaniels after the game.  Since Haley has now apologized, I’m not going to waste a significant amount of time on that issue.  I do think it goes without saying that Haley was 100 percent wrong, regardless of anything he thought the Broncos might have done late in the game.  Besides after seeing the lead CU blew against Kansas, I’m willing to say that no lead is ever really truly safe anymore.

Now, as far as the state of the Broncos, it is amazing to think that they are just two games out of first place in the AFC West despite their 3-6 record.  Well, maybe amazing isn’t the right word.  What’s a one word description for “most mediocre division in NFL history”.  Considering the Broncos have four games remaining against division opponents, the optimistic side of me is not ready to write them off just yet.  What we saw Sunday from the Broncos was exactly what we needed to see: a running game that actually gained more than one yard per carry.  The running game was so effective that Knowshon Moreno had a career high rushing day.  It’s no coincidence that this is the first game that featured a healthy offensive line.  The return of Ryan Harris at right tackle was especially critical.  If the Broncos can continue to run with that kind of effectiveness, it is easy to get really excited about the prospects of the offense as a whole.  The way Kyle Orton is throwing and the way Tim Tebow has proved effective around the goal line are all positives, but the running game remains the biggest key.

Defensively, the numbers are a little misleading.  Matt Cassel did have a career high passing day yes, but most of that came during garbage time when the Chiefs were throwing the football on every play.  The important numbers for the Broncos lie in their rushing defense, where Denver held the Chiefs to just 51 yards rushing on 22 carries.  Kansas City came into the game ranked number one in the NFL in rushing, while Denver’s defense ranked 31st.  The Broncos stepped up and held Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones to a combined 2.2 yards per carry.  Mario Haggan also registered three sacks, including one that resulted in a fumble return touchdown by Jason Hunter to give the Broncos an insurmountable 35-0 lead in the second quarter.

The bottom line for the Broncos is that the bye week really did them a lot of good.  They were somehow able to shore up their two biggest areas of weakness, running the football and stopping the run.  Granted, it’s only one game, and we may see the ugliness rear its head again next Monday night in San Diego, but at the very least it allows the Broncos to begin the second half of the season on the right foot.  Is this a Super Bowl contender?  Certainly not.  Are they a playoff team? Highly doubtful.  Only one 2-6 team has rebounded to make the playoffs in NFL history, and that was back in 1970. What I’m hoping is that the Broncos can continue to show improvement each week.  This win against a very good Kansas City team showed what the Broncos can be capable of.  Now, let’s see if they are able to keep it up.

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Week 10 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 12, 2010

Last week: 7-6 Season: 67-64

I’m off to an 0-1 start this week.  I’m picking the Thursday night games on my Twitter account.  Last night the Falcons made a major statement by beating the Ravens 26-21 in the Georgia Dome.  While I am tempted to rip into the Ravens for their inexplicable use of prevent defense, I instead will give a tip of the cap to Matt Ryan for leading the winning drive for Atlanta in the final minute.  Atlanta proved that they belong in the Super Bowl discussion.  I still think the Ravens do too.  Now, on to the picks.  By the way I am still alive in the eliminator pool thanks to picking the Saints last week (and managing to avoid picking the Patriots as they fell flat on their faces in Cleveland).

– Bills over Lions: Because if the Bills don’t win this game they might very well be looking at 0-16.  They have played hard in recent weeks, and this looks to be a game they might finally be able to win, mainly because Matthew Stafford is once again out for the Lions, already his third injury in his first two seasons.  Detroit has shown they can now compete at home, but I’m still waiting for them to show something away from Ford Field.

– Titans over Dolphins: How will Randy Moss fare in his Titans debut?  Perhaps he’s the only one who truly knows, but the presence of a deep threat in the Titans’ offense can only help Chris Johnson.  Tennessee’s defense has been one of the league’s best against the run this season, and that’s not good news for a Miami team that has seen both Ronnie Brown and Ricky Williams struggle at times this season.  The Dolphins have still yet to win a home game this season despite outstanding play on the road.

– Browns over Jets: I would say upset alert here, but to be honest I’m not so sure this can really be considered that big of an upset.  I’ll say it again: I’m still not buying the Jets hype.  They were extremely lucky to win last week in Detroit, and likely would have lost had Matthew Stafford not gotten hurt in the fourth quarter.  I think Mark Sanchez is highly overrated and could do a much better job utilizing his weapons on offense.  I also think the Browns may the league’s hottest team, having bumped off the Saints and Patriots the last two games.  Last week I nearly called their win over New England but was too gun shy to pull the trigger.  Not this time.  Peyton Hillis is running well and Colt McCoy doesn’t look like a rookie.  I like the Browns to win this at home.

– Colts over Bengals: This won’t even be a game.  Peyton Manning surely won’t allow the Colts to lose twice in a row, and especially won’t allow them to fall at home in a game where they are a clear favorite.  Despite the injuries around him, he continues to be able to move the offense down the field.  As for Cincy, Carson Palmer no longer looks like an elite quarterback, and the Bengals are so much of a soap opera that I don’t see them beating anyone right now, especially if Chad Ochocinco continues to not catch passes.

– Jaguars over Texans: Please do a favor, next season if I pick the Texans to do anything, please send me a nasty note telling me what an idiot I am.  I really thought that this would finally be the year Houston broke out and became a playoff team, especially when they won their first two games.  The more I watch them however, the more I realize their defense still isn’t very good, and despite all the weapons offensively they continue to woefully underachieve.  Meanwhile David Garrard has played out of his mind this year, and I sense a big breakout game for Maurice Jones-Drew this week.

– Chiefs over Broncos: As much as I want to give my Broncos the benefit of the doubt coming off the bye, I just can’t do it.  I really don’t like the look of this matchup, especially in the wake of leading tackler D.J. Williams getting a DUI last night.  The Chiefs run the ball better than any other team, and pretty soon they will run even better once they realize that Jamaal Charles is twice as effective as Thomas Jones.  The Broncos have been atrocious against the run in each of their past four losses, so from a matchup standpoint this just doesn’t bode well for Denver.  Besides, I have picked the Broncos to win each of their past three games and they have lost them all.  I hope that reversing my pick will also reverse Denver’s fortunes on the field.

– Giants over Cowboys: This should be a popular eliminator pick for anyone, except I have already used the G-men this year.  The Giants are playing as well as anyone in the NFC, thanks to a combination of effective running and passing to go with a defense that is more than doing the job.  The time is long past to take the Giants very seriously as a Super Bowl contender?  Dallas may well play harder for new coach Jason Garrett than they did for Wade Phillips, but it still doesn’t change the fact that Jon Kitna is under center.  That alone makes it impossible to back the Cowboys in a road game right now against anyone.

– Vikings over Bears: Minnesota is a bizarre situation considering that multiple players have anonymously stated that they want Brad Childress fired.  Brett Favre is undoubtedly regretting his decision to come back this season, and the defense still isn’t playing anywhere close to last year’s level.  Despite all that, they managed to get it together and pull off a come from behind win last week against Arizona.  I think regardless of what the players think of Childress, they will still be professionals and show up on Sundays.  For that reason, I pick them to win this game because I think they are much more talented than the Bears at virtually every position.  If the Vikings defense can’t sack and intercept Jay Cutler, than things may indeed be hopeless the rest of the season.

– Buccaneers over Panthers: This is my eliminator selection of the week.  Tampa Bay is rapidly starting to show they may not be a fluke after all.  They came very close to stunning the Falcons in Atlanta last week, and we just saw that same Falcons club prevail against Baltimore last night.  They are quietly running the ball with reasonable effectiveness and are also displaying good defense and special teams play.  My main reason this is the eliminator is because I think Carolina might well be the worst team in football, especially if DeAngelo Williams continues to be out of the lineup due to injury.  Jimmy Clausen is back under center, and the poor rookie still doesn’t seem to get it.  I really feel sorry for Steve Smith, who has to be frustrated that no one on the roster is remotely capable of getting him the ball.

– Cardinals over Seahawks: This is an extremely boring matchup.  Both teams will have poor quarterback play, a lackluster running game, and a subpar defense on display.  I pick to Arizona to win on a gut selection, but I really don’t know as both teams are bad.  Let’s just move on.

– Rams over 49ers: I know the 49ers got the monkey of their back and a got a win before the bye, but something still doesn’t seem right with Mike Singletary’s crew.  I’ll be curious to see if Troy Smith can keep up the surprising play he showed in London, and I’ll also be interested to see how the defense plays against a Rams offense that has been surprisingly effective as the season has progressed.  Sam Bradford has to be considered one of the best rookie prospects in the last five years, and the running game continues to hum along with Steven Jackson.  Call it a hunch, but I think St. Louis steals this one on the road.

– Steelers over Patriots: The Sunday night offering should be a dandy, with two of the best teams squaring off.  Both however are coming off losses in their most recent game, so one of them will have a losing streak by the end of the night.  I think these two teams are so similar on paper in virtually every aspect that it’s tough to isolate a factor that will be the difference in the game.  I think the Steelers run the ball slightly better than New England, and I also like the physicality of their defense.  I think since the game is at Heinz Field, that gives Pittsburgh a slight advantage, but this game may not be decided by much more than a field goal.

– Eagles over Redskins: Talk about two teams moving in opposite directions.  The Eagles looked very impressive in their win over the Colts last week, and as long as Michael Vick continues to play like a legitimate MVP candidate they will be very tough to beat.  The presence of DeSean Jackson also really helps their offense.  The Redskins on the other hand are coming off a bad loss to the Lions, made even worse by Mike Shanahan’s boneheaded decision to insert Rex Grossman under center at the end of the game.  How anyone could think Rex Grossman is a better option than the ball boy, let alone Donovan McNabb, is beyond me.  Reports indicate that Shanahan may have caused a division in the locker room with that move.  If true, Redskins fans should start to expect more losses in the near future.

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Run the Ball!

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 9, 2010

Normally this time of year I tend to focus exclusively on the Broncos, but I’m going to deviate to the college game for a second.  Saturday I was witness to the worst collapse I have ever seen on a football field.  I was at Kivisto Field in Lawrence, Kansas, where the CU Buffs held a 45-17 lead over Kansas with 14;52 left in the fourth quarter.  Here is what transpired:

– A KU 13-yard touchdown capping a 9 play 66 yard drive to cut it to 45-24 with 11:05 left

– A KU onside kick recovery

– A KU 38-yard touchdown pass with 9:26 left, cutting the lead to 45-31.  Drive took just 1:46 in four plays

– A KU fumble return touchdown on a stupid reverse call by the Buffs.  Receiver Toney Clemons fumbled after a 14-yard loss on the trick play.  Now it’s 45-38 and we still have 7:12 to play.  For those not keeping track, that’s 21 KU points in less than seven minutes.  CU had called just one running play and four pass attempts on this drive.

– Two plays later, CU quarterback Cody Hawkins throws an interception.

– KU takes just five plays to march 37 yards for the tying touchdown. We’re now tied at 45 apiece with 4;30 still remaining

– CU goes three and out and punts.  Two of the three plays are passes, one resulting in a sack.

– KU then needs just five plays to go 63 yards for the go ahead touchdown.  The Jayhawks now lead 52-45 with 52 seconds remaining.  They have managed 35 points in the fourth quarter.

– CU launches a furious charge on their final drive, but sees a last ditch shot at the end zone fail.

To recap, the Buffs had a 28-point fourth quarter lead and managed to lose the game.  Certainly the defense played its part in this collapse, and there is no disputing they didn’t do their job in stopping the Kansas offense.  That said, the Buffs called a total of four running plays in the fourth quarter, one of which was the touchdown that put them up 45-17, and another that was the failed reverse resulting in the fumble return TD.  The Buffs’ collapse is simply stunning, and is reflective of boneheaded coaching and clock management.  I’ve never coached a game, yet I know how to properly run down the clock with the lead.  Even if the Buffs ran up the middle for no gain every single play, and went three and out and punted each time, they likely would have won the game by running down that clock and not giving Kansas chances to win.  Instead, they had multiple incomplete passes that stopped the clock, and the throwing also resulted in a costly turnover.  The trick play is worst of all, for there is no reason to take that kind of chance when you have a big lead.

This game should be a case study for coaches at all levels.  I see similar things in the NFL all the time.  Yesterday, the Lions tried a pass play on 3rd and 6 (with a backup QB no less) that proved incomplete in the final two minutes.  Had they run up the middle, even for no gain, they could have taken an additional 40 seconds off the clock before punting and almost certainly would have won the game.  Instead, the clock stopped on the incompletion.  The Jets ended up kicking the tying field goal as time expired.  It certainly stands to reason that had the Lions called a running play instead of the one they did, the Jets would not have had enough time to get in position for that tying field goal.

These are just a few examples, but too many coaches need to remember the basics of football.  A good running game can often lead to success, and is always mandatory at some point.  Especially when nursing a lead, coaches need to remember that running and keeping the clock moving is almost always the key to winning.  Of course coaches’ egos will continue to get in the way of smart thinking, but when holding onto a lead, clock management is extremely vital to success, especially if it’s done by RUNNING THE BALL!!

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Week 8 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 5, 2010

Last Week: 9-4  Season: 60-57

Evidently last week’s quickie selections provided better results.  I nailed two major upsets (Jacksonville and Green Bay), and I’m still alive in my eliminator pool.  Let’s keep it rolling:

– Bills over Bears: Upset Alert.  This does give me pause because the Bills are stupidly moving their home game to Toronto, which means there could be more Bears fans in the seats.  The Bills are winless in Toronto home games, but they have played really hard the last two games and nearly pulled upsets.  I think they take advantage of Jay Cutler and sneak away with this one.

– Ravens over Dolphins: Miami’s streak of undefeated play on the road should come to an end here.  Baltimore has had a bye week to rest up, and I think their defense will want to rebound from the horrible effort against Buffalo.  I still think the Ravens are the best team in the NFL, and they will prove it on Sunday.

– Patriots over Browns: I almost went with the upset here but ultimately proved gun shy.  The Browns have played surprisingly well with Colt McCoy under center, and after they won in the Superdome two weeks ago I’m not going to put anything past them.  Still, Tom Brady doesn’t generally lose games he’s supposed to win.  I think this will be very close, but I think the Pats will take it.

– Lions over Jets: Major Upset Alert.  For whatever reason, the Lions are very tough to slow down at home.  Especially with Matthew Stafford back, the offense has plenty of weapons to score lots of points.  As for the Jets, I’m still not buying the hype (after all my dreadful Broncos would have beaten them if not for a questionable call), especially after they got shut out on their own field last week.  Call this one a hunch.

– Texans over Chargers: This should be a very entertaining game, and for me this was the toughest to pick.  The Chargers’ offense has looked a lot more like its old self recently, but I think this will be a desperate game for Houston.  The Texans must win home games like this if they aspire to be a playoff team.  I think this will be a shootout, and I like Andre Johnson to make a big play late.

– Colts over Eagles: This is also a very tough pick.  The Eagles will have a huge home crowd behind them, Michael Vick is back under center, DeSean Jackson should be back, so why am I picking Indy?  Peyton Manning.  I’ve just seen too many Colts road games where they struggle early, the home team has a real chance to beat them, and Manning pulls a rabbit out of his hat for the win.  I sense a similar such game unfolding on Sunday.

– Chiefs over Raiders: Who would have thought this would be an AFC West showdown?  I think both offenses will be able to move the ball well in this game, especially the Chiefs, who have seemed to find some harmony between Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles.  Darren McFadden will also get his yards for the Raiders, but if Zach Miller is still hobbled it could really hurt their passing game.  I think Kansas City pulls this out on the road and starts to put their stamp on the division.

– Giants over Seahawks: The Giants have quietly put one of the NFC’s best records together.  Their running game is outstanding and their defense hasn’t broke yet.  The Seahawks are starting Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback.  This could get ugly in a hurry.  Even though they’re on the road, I’m taking the G-men in a blowout.

– Vikings over Cardinals: The Randy Moss saga proves just how messed up things are in Minnesota.  Even if Brett Favre manages to stay upright all year, the defense needs to shore up its gaping holes fast if they want to get back in the race.  Fortunately for them, they get a home game against one of the league’s struggling teams this week.  Minnesota may not be good right now, but Arizona is worse.

– Falcons over Buccaneers: Tampa Bay has to rank as one of the league’s biggest surprises at 5-2.  This game will tell us a lot about whether that record is a mirage or if we have a surprise playoff threat on our hands.  The Falcons have one of the league’s most dynamic offenses, and they’ll need to solve what has been one of the best defenses in this one.  I think Roddy White will have another big day and that will be enough to give Atlanta the win.

– Saints over Panthers: This is my eliminator selection for this week.  New Orleans looked like they were back last week, especially defensively, in an impressive win over the Steelers.  The schedule is shaping nicely for the defending champs, who get their bye following this one.  Carolina is frankly not very good, regardless of who is under center.  This week it will be Matt Moore who gets to struggle again.

– Packers over Cowboys: The Sunday night game looked good on paper before the season started.  Now it won’t be much more than a blowout win for the host Packers.  Dallas is in big trouble, partially because the offense is worse with Jon Kitna at quarterback, but mostly because the defense is embarrassingly bad.  That means that this week is a chance for Aaron Rogers and the Green Bay offense to have a rebound week and to get some confidence back.

– Steelers over Bengals: This is a rivalry that has been really one sided most of the time.  Cincinnati managed to break through with a win last year, but this year’s Bengals don’t have a lot going for them.  Terrell Owens is putting up monster numbers, but he’s the only one.  I think the odds of Pittsburgh losing two games in a row are less than none, so I pick them for that reason alone.  The fact that it’s against their big rival could make this a blowout and horrible fourth quarter ratings for ESPN.

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Bad Football in London

Posted by mizzou1028 on November 1, 2010

Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

I know I’m in the minority on this, but I think the NFL London game is just a really bad idea.  I think it’s absolutely unfair to team giving up the home game, and I just think it’s a real distraction for both teams.  Road trips in the NFL are hard enough without adding several thousand miles to them, not to mention jet lag.  If the NFL wants to play preseason games overseas, fine, no problem, but I think it’s too much to ask teams to fly to England in the middle of October to play a regular season game, even if they do get the bye week after to recover.  Of course it’s inevitable the games will continue. Every game over there has gotten huge crowds, and Roger Goodell is strongly considering playing more than one game a season in England.  What I can’t believe is that the league would be foolish enough to put a franchise in London.  The travel just wouldn’t make any sense for anyone.  The bottom line is the league needs to do a better job taking care of its fans at home, particularly with a lockout looming and frequent non-sellouts around the league.

I do think the 49ers handled the situation much better than the Broncos.  San Francisco flew out immediately after their loss to Carolina.  They had a full week to acclimate and get adjusted.  The Broncos waited until Thursday afternoon to leave Denver, asking players to sleep on the plane Thursday night, and not arriving in London until Friday morning.  I’ve never traveled overseas, but everyone I’ve talked to who has says you need to several days to get used to the new surroundings.  I had one person tell me the third day is always the worst.  The Broncos’ third day in England was game day.

Perhaps the fatigue of travel was one reason the entire first half was frankly a display of bad, boring football by both teams.  The 49ers’ offense looked lost most of the half with Troy Smith under center, and wasn’t helped when star tight end Vernon Davis left the game due to injury.  The Broncos offense was even worse, settling for a punt in each of their five first half possessions.  I’m sure NFL didn’t have a 3-0 halftime score in mind when they picked this matchup to export to London.

Now that we got that out of the way, I want to make it clear I am by no means using this as an excuse for the Broncos’ loss.  For starters, the Broncos had two touchdowns wiped out by penalty.  The first one was a chop block called on Knowshon Moreno that ruined a perfect flea flicker touchdown to Jabar Gaffney.  The second was a block in the back that nullified an Eddie Royal punt return TD.  I can’t honestly say that I have an issue with either call, although Moreno didn’t have any intent whatsoever to chop block.  Unfortunately, intent isn’t part of the rule, and the officials did call it correctly.  This is a reflection of something that has plagued the Broncos all year: bad mistakes at critical moments in games.  The Gaffney TD would have given Denver a 14-3 lead.  Instead, they ended up settling for a field goal.  San Francisco went on to score a touchdown and tie the game on the ensuing drive, completely seizing any momentum that the Broncos would have had.

The Broncos also shot themselves in the foot on other occasions.  A Kyle Orton fumble in the fourth quarter led to a short field for the 49ers and what proved to be the winning touchdown.  A missed extra point by Matt Prater didn’t help matters when the Broncos were trying to mount their comeback in the fourth quarter.  Once again the Broncos were unable to get their running game going.  Moreno led the way with just 40 yards on 11 carries.  The Broncos ran the ball only 17 times compared to 40 pass attempts.  That kind of ratio is never a good idea for success.  The 49ers on the other hand continued to hand off to Frank Gore, and it paid off for 118 yards and a touchdown.  Orton ended up throwing for 369 yards for the Broncos, but in the end the lack of a running game proved to be fatal again.

The Broncos are now 2-6 at the bye week, the worst they’ve been at the halfway point since the dreadful 1999 season, which happened to be the first year post-Elway.  The Broncos ended that year 6-10, but they will really have to pick up the pace to even hit that mark this season.  During the bye week the top priority has to be figuring out the running game.  I’m not going to put all the blame on the backs, for the offensive line has been mediocre at best all year as well.  Without a running game, it really doesn’t matter what kind of passing numbers Kyle Orton puts up.  The defense has actually been ok most of the season, the Raiders game notwithstanding.  Josh McDaniels’ job is safe for now, but that could depend on whether or not the Broncos are a much better team in the second half of the season than they were in the first.

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Week 8 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 29, 2010

Last week: 5-9   Season: 51-54

Ouch last week was dreadful in more ways than one.  The Broncos suffered the worst loss in their history and my picks weren’t much better.  Somehow, I’m still alive in my eliminator pool (and benefited greatly from everyone who went with the Saints last week – I took the Chiefs and it paid off).  This week really snuck up on me thanks to my birthday and a CU road trip to Oklahoma.  Maybe faster, quicker selections will improve my record.  Here we go:

– Chiefs over Bills:  Arrowhead has become a tough home field advantage again.  Kansas City is running better than any team in football.  Buffalo can’t win in an atmosphere like this.

– Dolphins over Bengals: Miami has to win a home game sooner or later (the Dolphins are undefeated on the road and winless at home).  Cincinnati still is a soap opera.

– Patriots over Vikings: My eliminator selection of the week.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Brett Favre or Tarvaris Jackson.  Either way, the Patriots are tough at home and the VIkings look really lost, especially defensively.

– Packers over Jets: Upset alert.  I still think the Packers have the tools to make a deep playoff run if they play to their capability.  Call this one a hunch.  Perhaps I also think the Jets are a tad overrated.

– Jaguars over Cowboys: Major upset alert.  Call this one a hunch too.  David Garrard is back, while Jon Kitna starts for Dallas.  I think Maurice Jones-Drew scores at least two touchdowns.  Wade Phillips might get fired.

– Titans over Chargers: Mini upset alert.  Chris Johnson will have a big day.  Philip Rivers will too, but Tennessee’s defense is among the best in the league.  I think Jeff Fisher’s crew steals this one.

– Broncos over 49ers:  The NFL is sending its dud game of the week to London.  Oops.  Brian Dawkins’ return will help slow down Frank Gore, and I think the Broncos will want to show they aren’t as bad as the Raiders loss might indicate.

– Raiders over Seahawks: I still don’t know what to make of Seattle, and after last week, the Raiders might actually have enough offense to win games like this at home.

– Lions over Redskins: Upset alert (hey I’m under .500, I might as well take some chances).  I think this will be shootout.  I also think the Redskins were fortunate to win last week (they can thank Jay Cutler for throwing it to them).  The Lions have the ability to score lots of points at home.  I think they’ll get a few more than the Redskins.

– Rams over Panthers: Steven Jackson says he’s healthy enough to play.  That’s good enough for me.  Besides, how can anyone back Carolina on the road?

– Cardinals over Buccaneers:  Two bad teams go at it.  It’s in Arizona so I take the home team.  Sometimes this isn’t an exact science.

– Steelers over Saints: Something is clearly not right with the Saints.  Pittsburgh may be the NFL’s best team top to bottom right now.  Good luck Drew Brees, even at home.

– Colts over Texans: Peyton Manning won’t let the Colts get swept by a division opponent.  His programming doesn’t allow it.

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Worst. Loss. Ever.

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 24, 2010

 

Photo by Jack Dempsey, Associated Press

 

Broncos fans deserve better than this.  The headline is not an exaggeration.  This has to rank as the worst loss the Denver Broncos have ever had.  59-14?  At home?  Against your division rival?  Against a team that came in 2-4?  A team that scored nine measly points last week against the previously winless 49ers?  Sure, the  Broncos have had some doozies over the years (the playoff losses to the Colts and the disastrous Super Bowls of the 80s come to mind), every team has, but this was catastrophic.  The Broncos gave up 59 points THROUGH THREE QUARTERS.  They were down 38-0 with 7:58 remaining in the FIRST HALF.  Some other numbers that tell the story:

– The 59 points represent both the most points scored in Raiders history and the most points allowed in Broncos history.

– The Broncos allowed a staggering 508 yards of total offense, including 328 on the ground.

– Darren McFadden rushed for 165 yards and three touchdowns, which is bad enough.  He averaged 10.3 yards a carry.  Think about that.  That means he was on average getting a first down every time he touched the ball.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  This thing was an avalanche coming down the mountain from the word go.  A 43 yard touchdown pass to Zach Miller.  A 30 yard interception return by Chris Johnson on Denver’s first play from scrimmage.  A fumble by Demariyus Thomas on Denver’s second play from scrimmage.  One thing led to another before anyone could blink the game was over before it began.  Watching this game, it was easy to Denver’s confidence deflate.  There was no emotion on the sideline from anyone, coach or player.   What we ended up with was a rivalry game where one team didn’t hold up their end of the bargain.

My biggest question is how does something like this even happen?  NFL defenses don’t give up 59 points in three quarters of play, they just don’t.  If this were a high school game a running clock would have been instituted.  The Raiders pulled their starters after three quarters, otherwise I’m pretty sure they could have taken a good stab at the NFL record of 73 points (Chicago Bears – 1940 NFL Championship).  This brings up a side question: WHY did the Broncos leave their starters in the entire game?  This made zero sense considering risk of injury in a meaningless situation by the fourth quarter.  Despite leaving starters in, the Broncos gave up an embarrassing amount of points to a team that’s not even good.  The Raiders are under .500.  They are not considered to be a contender in any way.  This a game where if the Broncos had given the same effort they did last week against the Jets, they would have won, perhaps handily.

This game reflects a big problem for the Denver Broncos.  Since starting 6-0 last year, the Broncos are a pathetic 4-13.  What we saw today was a lack of preparation, lack of intensity, lack of attention to detail, and pretty much a lack of anything.  For the Broncos to come out at home against a division rival, in a game they had to have, and give that kind of embarrassing performance, it has to speak to larger problem at hand.  I have been a defender of Josh McDaniels (one of the few), but even I can’t find any way to justify this.  I’m not sure if the large problem at hand is a personnel issue, play calling issue, weekly preparation issue or something else.  All I know is Broncos fans expect and deserve better than this.

This performance was so bad that I would have shut the game off in the second quarter if I wasn’t getting paid to watch it.  It would have marked the first time in my life I would have turned the Broncos off by choice.  I have sat through blowouts and bad losses, some of them in person, and have never left the stadium early or shut off the television, no matter how bad it got.  I remember sitting in the south stands at old Mile High Stadium with my dad in 1994, watching a similar contest that the Broncos lost to the Raiders 48-16.  In that game the Broncos wore throwback uniforms from the mid-60s and played at a level matching the 60s Broncos.  Today the Broncos managed the same feat without the 60s attire.  Wade Phillips was the head coach that day in 1994.  The fans threw things at him as he left the field after the game.  He was fired at the end of the season, having lasted just two years.  To my knowledge no one threw anything at Josh McDaniels today, but with the Broncos at 2-5, we might see another Broncos coach canned after two seasons if this doesn’t turn around.  I’ve been behind him since he’s been here, but this is unacceptable.  The honeymoon period is officially over Josh.  You need to fix this.  Now.  I don’t care how, just fix it.  Broncos fans deserve better than this.

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Week 7 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 22, 2010

Last Week: 7-7  Season: 46-45

Well, last week we took some shots on upsets that didn’t pan out.  As we get into this week, all of the talk is about the NFL’s new emphasis on violent hits.  I’ll be curious to see who gets fined and suspended, but more than that I’ll be curious to see what effect this has on the game.  A lot of players are going to have to change the way they’ve been taught to hit since high school to avoid getting fined.  I also find it interesting that the league is so concerned about player safety, yet they are prepared to lock the players out in March, which would result in players losing their health benefits.  Player safety is also of course a downside of the proposed 18-game season.  It seems as though the league wants it both ways.  Ultimately, I don’t think the game will change that much in the short term, but that could depend on the amount of fines and suspensions that are handed out in the next month.  Now, on to the picks.

– Ravens over Bills: This is the blowout of the week without question.  Baltimore gave one away to the Patriots last week, so they will be highly motivated at home against a vastly inferior opponent.  Ed Reed is also back in the lineup so that will be further bad news for opponents.  This would be my eliminator pick except I’ve already used the Ravens.  In any case Baltimore will win this one rather convincingly against the hapless Bills.

– Dolphins over Steelers: Mini upset alert.  Miami was very impressive last week against the Packers, so they are playing better than expected.  The odd thing about the Dolphins is they are 0-2 at home and 3-0 on the road, so maybe playing this game in the shadow of South Beach isn’t the best thing for them.  Still, I thought the Steelers looked less than impressive against the Browns for much of that game, and if they play like that this week they could be in trouble against Miami’s defense.  I also think Brandon Marshall could be in line for some big plays in this one, particularly because the Steelers’ defense might be more timid than usual due to the prospect of fines or suspensions from the league. 

– Patriots over Chargers: I know this game is in San Diego, but the Chargers just don’t look right or feel right.  Besides the fact that they keep losing games to those they should be destroying (granted all of those have been on the road), they are actually piling up terrific stats in the passing game, are outgaining almost all of their opponents, yet are not scoring points.  I for the life of me can’t understand why Darren Sproles isn’t more involved in what they’re doing.  He is the type of player that can score any time he touches the ball, yet they refuse to give it to him.  Makes sense to me!  Must be part of the Norv Turner philosophy of not winning.  In any case, the Patriots absolutely own the Chargers, and that’s not likely to change given the Patriots are off to a fast start and the Chargers are still at the starting line.  Something tells me this will be close until Tom Brady leads a drive at the end for the win.

– Falcons over Bengals: I have to wonder if the entire Cincinnati Bengals organization has completely jumped the shark.  In the two weeks since their embarrassing home loss to Tampa Bay I have seen multiple advertisements for the T.Ocho Show on Versus.  I’m sure that’s exactly what Marvin Lewis wants to see: his two star diva receivers hosting their own show instead of concentrating on stopping the team’s current losing skid.  What could more of an issue in this game though is the secondary, which will have to contend with Roddy White and the rest of the weapons at Matt Ryan’s disposal.  The Falcons have been extremely tough at home, and I think the combination of their offensive attack along with an ability to put pressure on Carson Palmer all day gives them the nod.  In fact this may not be close. 

– Saints over Browns: Cleveland is resorting to Colt McCoy for the second straight week, which is obviously bad news.  That said, the Browns hung in longer than expected last week in Pittsburgh, and a hunch says they might be able to keep this one closer than expected if they can run the ball effectively.  I realize this game is at the Superdome, and while I’m not picking the upset, I do think this could be a competitive game.  In the end I think Brees and company will be too much especially on their own field, but something tells me that with Pittsburgh looming next week the Saints might be caught looking ahead.  That might be enough to make this interesting in the fourth quarter.

– Chiefs over Jaguars: David Garrard is out for the Jags.  Trent Edwards might be out as well.  That means Todd Bouman could well be the starter at Arrowhead.  Ouch.  Given that the Chiefs are hungry after two difficult road losses, this could get ugly and fast.  This might be a good week to start the Chiefs’ defense in fantasy because they might score a touchdown if Jacksonville’s offensive performance last week is any indication.  I’m thinking this could be 40-10.  That’s why I’m making the Chiefs my eliminator selection this week.

– Eagles over Titans: I really went back and forth on this game.  The Titans looked very impressive last week especially on defense, while the Eagles also gave a tremendous performance against a good Falcons team.  Both teams have frankly looked great at times and lost at others this season, so it will be interesting to see what unfolds.  Both teams have quarterback issues due to injury.  Kevin Kolb will start again for Philly, although there are rumblings Michael Vick might be available in a limited capacity.  Tennessee as of this writing is unsure whether it will be Vince Young or Kerry Collins.  Philadelphia also won’t have big play threat DeSean Jackson available.  Still, a hunch says that while this will be a thrilling game, I think the Eagles will make one more play and will pull out a close road game heading into the bye week.

– Broncos over Raiders: For several years now, this rivalry has been not been what it used to be.  This used to be one of the more intense and fierce rivalries, and now it’s gotten to the point where both teams have struggled, and it’s hard to feel much excitement about this matchup.  In each of the past two seasons, the away team has won each game, perhaps another oddity of this series.  Last year was particularly painful for the Broncos because they allowed JaMarcus Russell to beat them, and there is no other word besides embarrassing that applies to that.  This year the Broncos could be in a similar situation because there is a good chance Jason Campbell will not be able to go, and that means Kyle Boller could well get the nod at QB for the Raiders.  Denver has lost two in a row but they have also played a rigorous schedule.  Now that it’s getting friendly, the Broncos need to take advantage.  They should be able to get it done on Sunday at Mile High.

– Redskins over Bears: This game actually has a very interesting subplot for us Denver folks.   Mike Shanahan, the coach who led the Broncos to their two Super Bowl wins, going against the quarterback he drafted, Jay Cutler.  It is of course unknown where the Broncos would be today if Shanahan was still coaching and Cutler was still under center, but I think it could be interesting to see them go against each other.  If Shanahan is smart, he will send numerous pass rushers Cutler’s way because the Bears offensive line has been awful.  Cutler isn’t getting the chance to throw his usual interceptions because he is getting sacked so often.  If the Redskins can continue to run the ball with effectiveness, I think they stand to win this game even on the road.  The Bears may be 4-2, but their record doesn’t reflect how mediocre they are.  Washington wins. 

– 49ers over Panthers: Call this one a hunch.  San Francisco is embarking on a long road swing, because they get the London trip following this game.  Carolina is switching quarterbacks again, going back to Matt Moore after Jimmy Clausen has been largely ineffective.  The Panthers should have a good running game with DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart, but both have been big disappointments so far this year.  I think now that the 49ers have a win under their belt, they should start playing with a lot more confidence.  I say it every week, but San Francisco has more than enough talent to get back in the race.  The key is Alex Smith.  As long as he duplicates what he did in the second half last week, the Niners will be fine in this game. 

– Rams over Buccaneers: Both teams have to rank as surprises, as each has three victories under their belt.  Still, this does not rank as one of the week’s better offerings, and a blackout in Tampa for a non-sellout is a certainty.  I think the Rams actually have the look of a team that could pull off a few more surprises, for Sam Bradford is playing extremely well, and he has a good running game to lean on led by Steven Jackson.  Tampa Bay is quietly playing good defense at times, but they haven’t been able to do it against the league’s elite.  Since St. Louis isn’t in that category yet, I think this should actually be a very competitive game, but I think the Rams have a little more offense and will be able to steal this one on the road. 

– Cardinals over Seahawks: The challenge for the Cardinals will be keeping up their surprising play from their win over the Saints two weeks ago.  Since then they have had the bye, but perhaps we might see a resursange of offense from Arizona if Max Hall can continue to play well enough to keep the starting job.  If he can play decently, he has more than enough weapons at his disposal that the Cardinals should be able to pile up yards in the passing game.  Seattle is a tough team to figure because they have won some big games and they have also lost some clunkers.  I think this should be an entertaining game but I think if we see the return of offense from the Cardinals that I expect, than they’ll have more than enough to win even on the road. 

– Vikings over Packers: Did you know that Brett Favre used to play for the Packers?  Apparently that makes this game kind of a big deal.  This is a big game for both teams because neither has played up to expectations so far this season.  Green Bay in particular has disappointed big time in recent weeks, partially because they’ve battled injuries.  Minnesota appeared to get back on track last week against the Cowboys, and with a win at Lambeau they can get right back into the discussion in the division race.  While Favre and Randy Moss are still getting their timing down, both will be highly motivated to play well against the Packers on a national stage.  I think Aaron Rodgers will lead the Packers to some points, but I see the Vikings getting just a few more.  This should be a great game despite all the Favre hype. 

– Cowboys over Giants: In spite of statements to the contrary from Jerry Jones, the Wade Phillips watch is clearly on in Dallas.  Let’s just say that 1-4 starts don’t sit well in the minds of Cowboys fans or in the mind of their high profile owner.  Tony Romo and company actually played well last week, but they ran into an equally desperate Vikings team on the road.  I think the Monday night home crowd should energize this team, and the key will be how the defense handles the Giants’ running game.  Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs are both running well, so this could be a tough task for the Cowboys.  In the end I think Tony Romo will have a huge night and that will be enough to help the Cowboys outscore their division rivals.

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