Reid Fischer's World of Rants

Looking at the sports world through orange colored glasses

Posts Tagged ‘Denver Broncos’

Evaluating the Maroney trade

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 15, 2010

I’ve been saying ever since the end of last season that biggest priority for the Broncos offense needs to be running the football consistently.  For the talk I hear about the quarterback position or the receivers or a dislike for Josh McDaniels’ way of doing things, people keep ignoring the most basic thing that makes any offense successful at any level of football.  There were too many times last year (and before as well under Mike Shanahan) where the Broncos were simply not effective in short yardage or goal to go situations.  The Broncos have made attempts to address this situation, making a point to draft several offensive lineman in addition to using a first round pick on Knowshon Moreno last season.  I still think Moreno has the tools to be an elite back once he can stay healthy, and I like Correll Buckhalter’s ability to be a change of pace back. The Broncos this week added another back to mix in Laurence Maroney, and it might be a low risk move that pays off.

In acquiring Maroney, the Broncos sent to New England what essentially amounts as a sack of footballs in exchange.  All Denver had to surrender was a fourth round pick in 2011, and the Broncos received a sixth round pick in addition to Maroney.  Not a bad move to acquire a player who was a first round pick in 2007, and at times has shown an ability to be an elusive back.  Maroney had five 100-yard games as a rookie in 2007, which is exactly five more than Moreno had as a rookie last year for the Broncos.  Maroney wasn’t as effective last season, and battled a few injuries, and eventually fell out of favor with Bill Belichick.  The Broncos are hoping that reuniting Maroney with Josh McDaniels, who was Maroney’s offensive coordinator with the Patriots in 2007 and 2008, will result in a revival of sorts for the beleaguered running back.

The question is how will this affect the Broncos’ backfield?  It will be interesting to see how the Broncos work Maroney into the mix given that they currently rely heavily on Moreno and Buckhalter.  Moreno ran for 60 yards last week and looked healed from his preseason hamstring injury.  Buckhalter was less effective, with perhaps the lowlight of the day being his lost fumble in the second quarter that negated a Broncos drive where they had eaten up eight minutes of the clock.  I have a feeling the Broncos will not rush Maroney into the mix, but as the season goes along it wouldn’t surprise me if he was as involved as the other two.  Plenty of teams are operating on a running back by committee system (which makes fantasy decisions very stressful on game day), so a three man mix in the backfield wouldn’t be unprecedented.

It seems at least in the short that Maroney was brought in to be a backup.  Considering the Broncos invested a first round pick in Moreno, I would think his status as the starter is safe.  However, it wouldn’t surprise me if Buckhalter’s untimely fumble last week played some role in this.  While I think at the end of year Moreno will still be the team leader in rushing, but it could end up that Maroney has his share of yards as well.  The bottom line is this is a very low risk move for the Broncos being that they gave up virtually nothing.  even if Maroney provides depth as a backup, it could be enough to help the Broncos be able to run the football, which more than anything else will allow them to win more games.

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Week 1 Loss Doesn’t Mean Disaster

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 13, 2010

First of all, let’s get the Tebow garbage out of the way.  He had 2 carries for 2 yards.  He was a complete non-factor.  He is not the story of this game, contrary to seemingly every other recap of this game that I have read.  I realize he was back in Florida, but come on people, let’s talk about the folks that actually were a factor in this game.

-For whatever reason, David Garrard always has great games against the Broncos.  He tied a career high with three touchdown passes and completed 76 percent of his throws.  He didn’t make a single mistake during the contest.  Naturally this was because I benched him in my fantasy keeper league this week.  The Broncos pass defense for whatever reason couldn’t contain Garrard or get much pressure on him.

– On the flip side the Broncos’ run defense actually did a decent job against Maurice Jones-Drew, who rushed for 98 yards but needed 23 carries to get it.  The Broncos also stuffed him on a big 4th and 1 play in the third quarter.

– Offensively the Broncos showed a lot of positive flashes.  Kyle Orton threw for 295 yards and a touchdown.  There was an Eddie Royal sighting with 8 catches, which means he has already achieved more than 20 percent of his reception total from last year.  Brandon Lloyd, Jabar Gaffney and Daniel Graham all came through with big receptions.  Unfortunately for the Broncos Orton threw an interception at the worst time in the final minute, but other than that play the passing game looked solid for the most part.

– The running game still needs some improvement.  Knowshon Moreno actually played fairly well considering he missed the entire preseason with a hamstring injury, rushing for 60 yards on 15 carries with a touchdown.  Correll Buckhalter however only finished with 15 yards and had a costly lost fumble that ended a drive where the Broncos had controlled the ball for more than eight minutes.  I will acknowledge that some patience is needed with two rookies (J.D Walton and Zane Beadles) starting in the middle of the offensive line.  The bottom line though is the Broncos must run the football with more consistency if they want any opportunity to win in this league.

Overall I thought the Broncos actually showed well on the road with the exception of the final score.  Of course the turnovers need to be cleaned up and so do the penalties (the Broncos had seven of them for 70 yards, including two personal foul penalties on Jacksonville’s go ahead touchdown drive).  It remains to be seen how good the Jaguars will be this season, but it looks as though the Broncos may not be the last team that David Garrard has a good game against this year.  Give the Jaguars some credit, they made some defensive plays when they had to (Aaron Kampman’s sack of Orton on Denver’s first drive was very critical, knocking Denver out of scoring range), and they also were able to move the football effectively.  In many ways this can be looked at as a game the Jaguars won as much as or more than a game the Broncos lost.

I think ultimately this is a game Denver could have won, but a week one loss does not necessarily mean disaster.  It does mean the Broncos have less margin for error next week when they host Seattle, but it’s not like a 1-0 start has done them much good in recent years.  I think this has the look of a team that has potential to improve as they progress through the season, especially with so much youth along the offensive line.  The Broncos have some talent in place, and I’m certainly not ready to give up on them after one game. They certainly didn’t embarrass themselves the way the CU Buffs did in California, and I think there is something this team can build on.  Are they a playoff team?  Probably not right now, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be in the race by the end of the season.

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Bad news for Broncos backfield

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 3, 2010

The Broncos received some really bad news today regarding their running game. Adam Schefter reports that LenDale White is out for the season after tearing his Achilles. This is devastating for the Broncos, who are still waiting for Knowshon Moreno to get healthy and just getting Correll Buckhalter back. White was going to miss the first four games of the season due to suspension anyway, but now the Broncos won’t have him at all this year. White was expected to be the goal line back and help shore up some of the team’s red zone deficiencies. Now the Broncos will have to rely on Moreno and Buckhalter to carry the running game this year.

This is why I hate preseason. White got hurt in a completely meaningless scrimmage on artificial turf. Of course injuries can happen at any time, but this one occurred in a game that didn’t count and now the Broncos are without one of their key signings for the year.

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Settle down on Tebow, please!

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 18, 2010

I am extremely sick and tired of hearing about Tim Tebow.  Look, I hope he succeeds.  I really don’t want to see yet another first round pick wasted by the Broncos a la Marcus Nash or George Foster.  I hope Tebow can learn how to play in the NFL.  What I am getting infuriated by are headlines such as the following from supposedly reputable news outlets:

“Tim Tebow will start for Broncos this season” – Orlando Sentinel

“Tebow will start by December” – Miami Herald

“Tim Tebow mania overtaking Broncos” – USA Today

“Orton will have Tebow monkey on his back” –

Whoa, slow down people!  So far all Tebow has done in the NFL is lead one touchdown drive in a preseason game against a vanilla prevent defense played by third stringers, many of whom will probably be bagging groceries in two weeks and not playing in the NFL.  He has done NOTHING to give even the slightest consideration that he can be an NFL starter.  The fact is way too many people are praising Tebow’s performance Sunday night.  I’ll admit he threw a beautiful pass to Matthew Willis that was dropped and he did show some guts on his touchdown run, but Tebow’s mechanics still need a lot of work.  He still holds the ball too low when he starts his throwing motion.  You think Dwight Freeney wouldn’t knock the ball right out of his hand?  Even on Sunday night against third stringers, Tebow got bailed out by the tuck rule on what otherwise would have been a Bengals’ fumble return TD by virtue of Tebow’s poor throwing mechanics.  He still has a lot to learn about reading NFL defenses, and if he keeps running like he did on Sunday night, someone like Ray Lewis is going to really bust him up.

I’m saying this to bag on Tebow.  He is just like any other rookie at the position.  He has actually had a pretty good camp and seems way ahead of Brady Quinn for the backup spot.  The fact is that Tebow is a project that will need time to transition to the NFL.  I do like his intangibles in terms of locker room presence and leadership, and I do admire his toughness on the field and willingness to do anything to win, but physically he’s got a ways to go before he can be an NFL starter.  This is not a Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco scenario where he is likely to come in and make that kind of impact right away.  Those guys made impact as rookies, but were also much more equipped to make the transition to the NFL because they had the physical tools.

Look folks, Kyle Orton is so far ahead in the race to be the Broncos starting quarterback this season that Tebow can’t even see his tail lights.  Orton has had the best camp of any player on the team.  He is throwing the ball with much more velocity and accuracy than he did last season, and all he did in his first preseason appearance was lead two touchdown drives against a playoff team from a year ago.  Unlike Tebow, who played against many players who are not likely to make the Bengals’ final roster, Orton played against the first team unit.  Oh, and Orton did this without any running game to help him because all of Denver’s running backs are injured.

I feel like people are so blinded by Tebow mania that it has long gotten beyond ridiculous. He is a rookie.  At that, he is a rookie that is a project.  Kyle Orton is playing incredibly well, and I think he may in line for a Pro Bowl type season (yes you read that right: Pro Bowl).  The only way that Tebow starts a game at quarterback for the Broncos at any point this season is if Orton gets injured, or the Broncos’ season has completely fallen off the wagon (say 3-7 or worse).  The only way Josh McDaniels will even think about starting Tebow at quarterback this season is if this season becomes a lost cause and he is looking ahead to next season.

I feel very strongly that this Tebow mania is very unfair to Orton and I feel like no one is acknowledging how well Orton has performed in this training camp.  I will even take it a step further and say that anyone who thinks Tebow should be starter over Orton either doesn’t know much about how football is actually played or is highly delusional.  Tim Tebow may blossom into a starter eventually, or he might not.  Until he does, let’s say off and give him time and a chance to develop.

For now, this is Orton’s team, and I think it should be really obvious that is best for the Broncos in 2010.

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Please, stop with the injuries!

Posted by mizzou1028 on August 9, 2010

First of all, my sincere apologies for being a big delinquent and not posting anything for the past three months.  I have slapped a big penalty on myself and promise to post with a lot more regularity.   It is not a coincidence that I am posting on the night of the first NFL preseason game this year between the Cowboys and Bengals.  Honestly I happen to find preseason football completely useless, primarily because it is nothing more than chances for players to get injured.  I am fearful of what this preseason is meaning for the Broncos, because they have already had a dozen players suffer injuries of varying severity during the first week of training camp, and we’re still a week away from the first of Denver’s meaningless four scrimmages.  Of course I realize that players can get hurt at any time, I just get extremely frustrated when they occur during the preseason period during a time in which we’re a long way away from any kind of meaningful football.

The biggest injury of course is that to Elvis Dumervil, who led the Broncos with 17 sacks last year.  No one else on the team had more than four.  You don’t have to be a football expert to see that this is a major blow to the Broncos’ defense.  The Broncos know how important Dumervil is, for they signed him to a $58 million extension over five years just weeks ago.  It appears in a best case scenario that the Broncos MIGHT see Dumervil in December, although it seems like the smart move would be let him have the season ending surgery to repair his torn pectoral muscle and make sure you don’t lose him for more than just this season.  The Broncos will obviously miss his ability to rush the passer.  What makes it worse is the guy they were counting on to replace Dumervil, Jarvis Moss, is out for a couple of weeks at least with a hand injury.  The good news for the linebacking core is that Robert Ayers, last year’s first round pick who had no sacks, has dominated training camp and looks like he is showing great improvement over last season.

While Dumervil is lost for the season, the Broncos are optimistic that most of the other injured players have a chance to ready for week one at Jacksonville.  Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) and Correll Buckhalter (back/neck) both suffered injuries on the first day of training camp.  This one day after the Broncos traded J.J. Arrington to the Eagles for special teams ace Joe Mays, a move that made sense at the time given Denver’s desire to upgrade the special teams unit, but made a lot less sense after the running core had been significantly depleted with the injuries.  Denver signed LenDale White to add some depth in that area and give them someone who could run the ball during the preseason besides guys who are sure to get cut, and then White got hurt as well during his first day of practice with the Broncos.  Worse for Denver is that White is facing a four game suspension from the league, so he won’t be available until October anyway.

Then there are the injuries to the wide receivers.  First round pick Demariyus Thomas, who was already dealing with a foot injury suffered before the draft, re-aggrivated the injury while making a spectacular touchdown catch in practice Saturday night.  Third round pick Eric Decker also suffered a foot injury during a goal line drill in Saturday night’s practice.  The good news is the Broncos don’t believe either of these injuries is serious.

The Broncos did cancel their scheduled practice on Sunday, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say it was partially because they were concerned other players might get injured.  I do think it’s fair to say that most if not all of these injuries have been fluke in nature and they don’t appear to be the result of anything related to the team’s training or practice regimen.  Of course there are other teams that have had the injury bug bite them during this preseason, but clearly there is no injury around the league that is near as significant as Dumervil’s.  Factor in the other injuries the Broncos have suffered, and Denver has clearly been the most injury riddled team in the league so far in camp.  It needs to stop, or else the Broncos’ season will be stopped dead in its tracks before it even has a chance to get rolling.

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Tebow in Denver

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 23, 2010

Let’s cut to the chase with this: the selection of Tim Tebow by the Denver Broncos at number 25 overall is without question the craziest, riskiest pick I have seen from an NFL team in years, maybe ever.  Here you have a guy in Tebow who just two months ago was being projected as a fifth or sixth round selection, largely due to a poor performance in the Senior Bowl and his showing the scouting combine.  We were told there are major flaws in Tebow’s mechanics and footwork.  Many still think he is nothing more than a backup quarterback at best.  There are others however who have seen him work insanely hard to improve his mechanics in the past two months and value his intangibles of hard work and leadership, thus valuing him much higher.  Rumor has it the Broncos weren’t the only team targeting Tebow tonight.  Reports have the Buffalo Bills as extremely disappointed, and others say perhaps the Patriots or Vikings were hoping Tebow would fall to them.  Bottom line: Tebow is perhaps the most polarizing player I have ever seen.  People either love him or hate him, there is no middle ground, and how he does in Denver will almost certainly define the Josh McDaniels era.

I think it is safe to say that the pick was a surprise, no surprise is too soft a word.  Let’s try shock.  That’s much better, I would say everyone in Broncos Country, and heck the entire league, was shocked to actually see Tebow selected in round one.  Many think he was selected too high.  Clearly, Josh McDaniels values him enough to have made him a first round selection.  This does seem very curious considering the recent trade for Brady Quinn and the other needs on the roster, not the least of which is the offensive line, of which there is no center currently on the roster.  I think it is safe to say that Tebow will not be starting at quarterback right away.  Right now that job still belongs to Kyle Orton, although he will certainly have competition breathing down his neck.  I could see Tebow being used initially in short yardage situations, perhaps some Wildcat formations, and basically deployed at specific times in a game to try and generate an impact.

Frankly, I think it will take minimum two and probably three seasons to truly judge this pick.  It will take time for Tebow to develop, and maybe that’s the problem that many fans have.  People want impact players in the first round, guys who will step in right away and make a difference.  Broncos fans are upset that Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall have been traded and they are having a hard time seeing what the Broncos got for those two players.  My views on Cutler are very clear (short version: if he keeps leading the league in picks, Chicago can have him) and Marshall was clearly someone who no longer wanted to be in Denver.  While the frustration is understandable, I think it’s clear that McDaniels wouldn’t have made those moves if he didn’t feel they made the team better.  Clearly he thinks Tebow can help.  So in that regard, I say let’s give the guy a chance to see what he can do before we label the pick as a bust.

Here is what I like about Tebow: His track record at Florida is outstanding.  He is the winner of two national championships, and his stats were off the charts.  The guy won games, he proved to be a superb leader in the huddle and in the locker room.  He has many qualities you want in a quarterback; he exudes confidence, has an ability to take charge, is very intelligent, and knows the playbook inside and out.  With his skillset he can also be very capable as an H-back type out of the backfield, and he is as tough as they come on the field.  He is one of those guys who is the first to arrive at practice and the last to leave.  This is a guy who will do whatever it takes and then some to improve, be a leader and win football games.  He has proven adept to running Urban Meyer’s offense at Florida, which is more similar to an NFL offense than that used by many other colleges.  He is in many ways an ideal teammate.  He is a team first player all the way, someone who will not worry about contracts or individual stats.  He is also not a guy who will get in trouble a la Ben Roethlisberger.

Now here is what I don’t like about Tebow: His improved mechanics have only been on display for two months, so it will be very interesting to see how he will do against real NFL competition.  I still wonder if he has the ability to throw the deep ball, something that was noticeably absent in the Broncos offense last year.  I also pause when I think of how many other Heisman Trophy winners and good college quarterbacks have struggled mightily in the NFL.  The NFL is completely different from the college game, so there is no guarantee his success at Florida will translate to the Broncos.

There is another reason I have not to this point been the biggest fan of Tebow, and it’s perhaps one that won’t make me very popular.  While I admire his character off the field, I am not at all a fan of the way he sometimes uses football as a launching pad for his personal and religious views.  It is for this reason that I have found him to be a very difficult player to root for.  I realize this sounds strange considering he hasn’t gotten himself into any embarrassing trouble, and this is not to say that I resent him for his views.  Plenty of NFL players share Tebow’s views, you just don’t see them using the NFL to fuel political or religious agendas.  I would say the same thing whether I agreed with Tebow or not: there is a time and place for expression of such views, and game interviews and press conferences are not the time.  I guess what I’m saying is I don’t want the starting quarterback of my team telling me that his off the field views are correct and that mine are wrong.  I do respect that he is very confident in himself and who he is.  Obviously I don’t want Ben Roethlisberger on my team, or anyone else who would behave as irresponsibly as he has, so I’m not saying the Broncos shouldn’t draft/sign players of good character.  Tim Tebow has very good character and I admire him for that, and I’m glad the Broncos are pursuing players with high morals.  I just think at times Tebow has gone overboard with his message.

Overall I think Tebow is a player worth taking a chance on because he is a sure bet to be a good teammate and he has the intangibles necessary to be a good quarterback and good leader of a football team.  While I may personally not care for the way he expresses some of his views, that doesn’t change the fact he is a person of good character and is someone who will clearly put the team first, and that is something that has been missing from the Broncos locker room, specifically at key positions.  I think in time if he continues to work on his mechanics, he can develop into a good quarterback.  Nothing is guaranteed of course.   There is no question McDaniels is taking a huge risk, especially if the Broncos could have gotten him at a later slot in the draft than the first round.  There is no way to know for sure, but the common opinion seems to be Tebow was selected too high, that the Broncos might have been able to wait until Friday to take him.  I think if Tebow turns out to be a good player that won’t matter.  If Tebow is successful, it might just restore the opinion of McDaniels in Bronco land.  It might be enough to make people forget about Cutler and Marshall and even Mike Shanahan.  If Tebow is a bust, McDaniels will be run out of town on a rail and his tenure will be defined by the moves he made and the risks he took.  He could well be remembered as the coach who blew up the Broncos.  What will it be?   It’ll probably be at least two years before we find out.

One footnote: Let’s not forget about Demaryius Thomas, the receiver from Georgia Tech that the Broncos selected three spots before Tebow.  Thomas is a playmaker with a body type very similar to Brandon Marshall.  He has the ability to make tough catches in traffic and McDaniels believes he is faster than Marshall.  He is the type of receiver that could be able to make an immediate impact alongside Eddie Royal.  I like this pick very much.  Now they need to address the offensive line.

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Marshall to Miami – Now let’s move on

Posted by mizzou1028 on April 16, 2010

By now you should know the specifics of the deal: Brandon Marshall has been traded to the Miami Dolphins for a pair of second round picks, one in next week’s draft (number 45 overall) and another in 2011.  At first I thought the Broncos got robbed, that they didn’t get enough in return for Marshall.  When looking at the receiver market around the league however, the Broncos actually did as well as could realistically be expected.  The Cardinals only received a third and fifth round pick for Anquan Boldin, and the Steelers got only a measly fifth round pick for Santonio Holmes.  It could be more than a reasonable argument that Marshall has not accomplished as much as those two wideouts, but at the very least Marshall is in their class from a talent standpoint.  While it would have been nice for the Broncos if a team signed Marshall to an offer sheet and had to surrender the tender of a first round pick, that just wasn’t going to happen because teams knew he could be had for less.  That’s just the way it works.

I know many Broncos fans are feeling frustrated because they feel like the talent of the team is being destroyed (Tony Scheffler is almost certainly on his way out too, perhaps to rejoin Mike Shanahan in Washington).  While I admit I am a little concerned about who will be there to throw the ball to in September (Eddie Royal MUST have more than 37 catches for starters), I think the move was so inevitable that Marshall’s presence in the locker room would have caused more of a distraction than it would have helped.  Let’s make no bones about this, Marshall wanted out of Denver.  He may have put on a happy face last year, and he did get his 100 catches, but he was never playing for the team.  Let’s not forget he did earn a one game suspension from Josh McDaniels at the beginning of last season, and only when he returned from that did he even start playing hard.  Let’s also not forget that he couldn’t figure out a way to get on the field in the finale against Kansas City, even though it was obvious (and even stated by McDaniels) that other players were gutting it out with worse injuries.  The fact Marshall was too hurt to play in a do or die game where the playoffs were on the line but managed to be on the field in the completely meaningless Pro Bowl just a few weeks later says a lot about his character or lack thereof.  Marshall was only concerned with a big payday and as far he was concerned he had his 100 catches.

As far as I’m concerned (I said this about Jay Cutler as well), if a player doesn’t want to be here, get rid of him.  Marshall had several reasons for wanting out of Denver, not the least of which is the Broncos weren’t about to reward him with a large contract when he is just one more transgression away from a major suspension by Roger Goodell.  Marshall’s off the field behavior has been questionable at best (which is probably the biggest reason he was a fourth round draft pick), and I frankly shudder to think of what might happen when Marshall takes his new paycheck to South Beach.  Marshall is certainly a very talented receiver, and I’ll be the first to say they just don’t fall off the tree, but in the NFL a good locker room environment is just as important as the talent on the field.  In this case, an unhappy Marshall was just going to cause more of a distraction.  Think of Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, and other receivers with large personalities.  How many playoff games have those receivers won?  Think about the distractions those receivers cause.  Good receivers are important, but good character is more important.  That’s why the Broncos made this trade, and really why they felt they didn’t have much choice.

I do think this a team with many more questions than answers.  I think this is a very important draft for the Broncos, for they still have major holes at guard and center along the offensive line.  They also could use another linebacker in the 3-4 scheme.  Speaking of linebacker, they need to figure out a way to make Elvis Dumervil happy.  Dumervil missed out on a big payday thanks in large part to the uncapped year as a result of the collective bargaining agreement not being renewed.  The Broncos did address the defensive line in the offseason and that should be much improved.  It will also be interesting to see if the Broncos try to tab a receiver somewhere in the draft, and of course how the quarterback battle between Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn shakes out.  The Broncos are definitely a team with major questions, but I am always the eternal optimist.  Let’s see what happens next week in the draft and we’ll go from there.

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Brady Quinn is a Bronco

Posted by mizzou1028 on March 15, 2010

Josh McDaniels continues to waste very little time rebuilding the Broncos.  In recent weeks he has made major changes along the defensive line, bringing in Justin Bannon, Jamaal Williams and Jarvis Green.  Today McDaniels sent Peyton Hillis and a sixth round draft pick to Cleveland for Brady Quinn.  I have to say that I like this move primarily because it is very low risk.  Hillis wasn’t being used anyway (although many Broncos fans think he should have been) and Quinn is only 25.  Quinn has proven to be successful running a very similar offense at Notre Dame, so perhaps we might get to see how good Josh McDaniels really is at working with quarterbacks.  I do think that Orton will open up camp as the default starter, but Quinn will definitely get a chance to compete.  The price the Broncos paid to get him is very low for a former first round pick.

I know the easy reaction here is to be negative.  This is understandable given Quinn’s struggles in Cleveland to this point.  While this is true to an extent, Quinn also never had the confidence of the Cleveland organization and didn’t have any talent around him to speak of.  He does have a good arm and when he’s been on his game can be very accurate.  Quinn does have the tools to be a very capable quarterback in Josh McDaniels’ system if he is willing to work and does indeed benefit from a fresh start in a new place.

As for losing Peyton Hillis, part of me is disappointed about that.  I think Hillis could have been a valuable asset to the Broncos in short yardage situations last year, but for whatever reason McDaniels elected not to use him.  Given this, it is actually easy to argue that the Broncos aren’t giving up much of anything.  I know many Broncos fans are going to be upset about losing a fan favorite, but this could prove to be a good move in the long run.  If McDaniels can get Quinn to produce like a first round talent, he’ll at the very least be a major upgrade over Chris Simms (he is anyway right now), and at best he could end up running the offense efficiently and take the Broncos to the next level.  Let’s see how this develops heading into the offseason and give this a chance to see if it works.  It just might.

I think the Broncos still have a lot of questions, with the chief one being the offensive line.  I think one of the main reasons Knowshon Moreno’s numbers dipped toward the end of the year was because he had no holes to run through.  Too many times he had to dodge a defender or two before even getting to the line of scrimmage.  The Broncos need a left guard and a center (Casey Wiegmann returned to the Chiefs) and that should be their top priority going forward.  Of course I am also interested to see if Brandon Marshall stays in Denver or ends up playing elsewhere.  My money is on him remaining a Bronco because I don’t think anyone out there is willing to surrender a first round pick for a receiver with a problem reputation.  The onus is going to be on Marshall to show the correct attitude whether he plays for the Broncos next season or not.

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Random Stuff

Posted by mizzou1028 on February 12, 2010

What we’ve got here is a series of quick hit thoughts without any order or organization.  Topics include the Super Bowl, the NFL season as a whole, the Broncos and other random stuff.

– Congratulations to the Saints on winning the Super Bowl.  I cannot think of a more deserving city or fan base to celebrate a championship.  the fact alone that the Saints had never made the Super Bowl before makes this a good story.  Throw in Katrina and the devastation of the Superdome five years ago, and you’ve got a terrific story.  Plus, there are a lot of good guys on that team.

– As for the game, I thought the Saints were going to need to be able to pressure Peyton Manning to win.  As it turned out, the Saints only deployed one blitz the entire night, and that came on the clinching pick six.  The Saints were able to confuse Manning by continually changing up the looks of their secondary and defensive alignment.  This  combined with the ability of the Saints’ offense to control the clock and keep Manning watching on the sideline for long stretches proved to be the difference. 

– It wasn’t as if Manning had a bad game (he threw for over 300 yards), but it was shocking to see him throw a fourth quarter interception with the game on the line.  Frankly, if any Colt is at fault for that play it would be more Reggie Wayne than Manning.  Wayne failed to get inside position on the defender, and as a result was in no position to prevent the pick.

– I thought the other difference was that the Saints played to win, whereas the Colts were playing not to lose.  New Orleans went for it on 4th and goal late in the second quarter, and although they didn’t get it, they were still able to force a three and out thanks to a very tentative Colts offense calling three runs up the middle.  The Saints ended up getting a field goal before the half anyway.  Think about it: If the Saints took the chip shot three points at the end of the half, the Colts could well have had time to get a drive going to go up 13-6 or even 17-6 at the half.  As it was, the Saints gave Indy the ball at their own 1 yard line, and the Colts were playing not to make a mistake.  This played right into the Saints’ hands even though they didn’t get the touchdown.  Brilliant coaching by the Saints, and very tentative, poor coaching by the Colts in the final two minutes of the first half.

– Then there was the onside kick to open the second half.  Another very gutsy call by Sean Payton, one that would have backfired miserably if the Saints didn’t recover the kick.  However, it worked, and the Saints capitalized for a quick touchdown.  The Colts were very clearly not expecting the kick, and in fact several Colts players were retreating to try and set up a return, rather than be in position to recover the surprise onside.  Contrast this decision by Payton with the coaching of Jim Caldwell, who called for a 51-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter even though the odds of Stover making the kick were slim to none based on his lack of leg strength.  Granted the Colts were facing a 4th & 11, and at least Caldwell didn’t order a punt, but had the Colts gone for it and missed, the Saints’ field position wouldn’t have been near as good as they got with the missed field goal.  Sean Payton played to win, Jim Caldwell played not to lose, and that was the difference.

– Interesting stat: discounting games in which the Colts waved the white flag and made no attempt to win, Indianapolis has won 23 regular season games in a row while going 2-2 in postseason games.  Such is the legacy of Peyton Manning, who himself is 8-8 in playoff games.

– It is interesting to look back at the Colts’ decision to rest their starters during the final two weeks of the season instead of going for 16-0.  It is hard to say in retrospect whether that had any impact on their Super Bowl loss.  Did the decision put more pressure on the Colts to win the Super Bowl, or would they have had more pressure with an undefeated record?  It is hard to say, but if I was the coach I would have gone for the undefeated record.  That’s probably one reason of many why I’m not a coach.

– We certainly have a lot of interesting offseason storylines to keep track of, but I think the biggest one is the collective bargaining agreement, or lack thereof.  The current deal is set to expire at the end of the 2010 season, and calls for an uncapped year next season.  The only way the uncapped year will be avoided if agreement can be reached on a new deal before March 5, the day free agency opens.  Let’s just say that I have better odds of winning Olympic gold next week in Vancouver for tv watching than we have of seeing an agreement reached by March 5.  The sides are so far apart right now that there is no communication.  If we have an uncapped year, the owners are going to find it nearly impossible to get the players to agree to go back to a salary cap, and we will very likely see a work stoppage in 2011.

– Obviously a work stoppage would be bad on so many levels, not the least of which is you’ve got owners and players bickering over how to split millions of dollars while the rest of us are dealing with a terrible economy and many are unemployed.  Many fans are not renewing season tickets because they can’t afford them.   I think the NFL is rapidly heading down a slippery slope where they’re about to make so many fans irate that they may well be killing the golden goose.  The NFL is without question the most popular sport in America, and frankly it’s not even close, but if owners and players can’t see common sense it may not stay that way if there is no 2011 season due to greedy owners and players.  If there is a work stoppage for any reason, it’s because both sides are selfish and greedy.  If they can’t agree on how to split an $8 billion pie, than there is no way they are anything but selfish and greedy.  That’s not exactly the right message to send to fans in this economy. 

– As for the uncapped year, it may not be as beneficial to players as they think.  Yes, some owners (esp. Daniel Snyder and Jerry Jones) could well start throwing all kinds of money around, but I think a larger number or owners would go the other way and try to save money, and not offer big time contracts to free agents.  See, without a cap, there also isn’t a salary floor, and thus teams like the Bengals and Lions and other teams that are struggling financially won’t have to spend money if they don’t want to.  I think an uncapped year would benefit roughly 8-10 players who will cash in with mega contracts, but for most of the players, I think this could actually be a detriment.  In any case, this will be the big story of the 2010 season: will the owners and players be able to avoid a work stoppage in 2011?

– There are of course other storylines to follow: Will Donovan McNabb remain an Eagle?  Will Brett Favre come back for another year?  If he doesn’t will McNabb end up in Minnesota?  Will the Cardinals actually start Matt Leinart in the wake of Kurt Warner’s retirement?  Do the Saints have a shot to repeat?  In light of the Saints winning this year, are any of the four franchises that have never made the Super Bowl (Texans, Jaguars, Lions and Browns) even close?  Will Jay Cutler ever get it figured out in Chicago?   Will the Steelers bounce back to playoff form?  Of course there are many other questions besides these, and others that will come up once we see what the offseason movement will be.

– Of course I have to mention the Broncos.  As we get closer to free agency I’ll offer a detailed review of the season and what I think they need to do.  For now, let’s just say that the sting of falling from 6-0 to 8-8 is still significant, and I think there is a lot of work the Broncos need to do.  I think the top priority is the offensive line, followed closely by the defensive front seven.  They do have a top 10 pick courtesy of Chicago, so it will be interesting to see what direction they go.  I don’t see them being very active in free agency because they don’t really have a lot of cash to throw around, so they’ll probably try to find some bargains and fill some holes that way. 

– I do think the departure of Mike Nolan as defensive coordinator is very significant and could well be very devastating for the Broncos.  The Broncos showed great improvement on that side of the ball from the previous three seasons and it is a little disconcerting that he just couldn’t get on the same page as Josh McDaniels going forward.  Hopefully the Broncos don’t drop off in that area next season.

– I’m not sure the Broncos should get rid of Brandon Marshall.  He is a great talent, but he does need to get his head on straight.  Still, I don’t think he should be given away without getting equal value in return.

– The Broncos drew the short straw and will play in the London game next season against the 49ers.  I’m just glad the Broncos aren’t the one giving up the home game.  I’m on record as saying the London game is a bad idea all the way around, because I think the NFL needs to do a better job of taking care of its fans at home and I think it’s really unfair to the team surrendering the home game.  I also hope it doesn’t prove to be a midseason distraction that causes problems for the team in the second half of the season.

– Last week I got another reminder of why college basketball is roughly 20 times better than the NBA.  I went to the Nuggets-Suns game and observed one sequence two Suns players got tangled up going for a rebound and fell to the floor, which should have allowed a Denver 5 on 3 opportunity.  Thing is, two Nuggets players stood there doing nothing and watched the 3 on 3 action on the other end of the floor.  The Nuggets missed two shots, and eventually Phoenix got the rebound when their two players rejoined the action.  There was no visible show of emotion from George Karl, who presumably didn’t want to rock the boat with his high priced lineup.  This was one example of a game where I saw lots of bad shots, several instances of lazy passing, and very little effort on the defensive end by either team.

– By contrast, the Missouri-Colorado game I attended in Boulder was a display of much better effort and intensity by the two teams on the floor.  Missouri’s J.T. Tiller took an elbow to the face two minutes into the game, had a broken nose to show for it, needed to change his jersey because it was all bloody, and he was back on the court less than five minutes later.  The broken nose didn’t deter him from hustling, defending, diving for loose balls, and being physical when necessary.  The difference between college and the NBA is absolutely staggering when you watch both in person.  I much prefer college for the team play, actual effort on defense, crowd intensity (rowdy student sections versus corporate folks that probably can’t name half the players on the floor and are more concerned with what kind of premium malt they’re drinking) and most of all you can tell the players are very passionate and want to win at any cost.  You just don’t see those things in the NBA. 

– I am somewhat puzzled this is being referred to as a “big sports weekend”.  Granted, the opening ceremonies of the Olympics are tonight, and that is a big deal, but the only event I care to watch in the winter Olympics is hockey, and that doesn’t start until Tuesday.  Even then, I’ll watch college hoops over the Olympics any day.  The other events this weekend are NASCAR, which I refuse to watch and can’t understand the facination of, and the NBA all-star game, which is a big display of every reason why the NBA isn’t as good as the college version.

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Week 17 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 31, 2009

Things are rapidly unraveling for the Denver Broncos, who are now in serious danger of becoming the second team in NFL history to start 6-0 and miss the playoffs (the 2003 Vikings are the other).  While there are 10 scenarios that would allow the Broncos to make the playoffs, all of them involve either a loss by the Jets or Ravens.  As you’ll see in the picks below, I don’t think either will happen.  It is safe to say that the Broncos have missed countless opportunities this season (especially in losses to the Redskins and Raiders) so it is their own fault that they are stuck in this position in the first place.  Had the Broncos won either of those two games, they would have clinched a spot already.  Now, they are on the wrong end of tiebreakers and need help to back into the playoffs.  Perhaps the most disappointing thing is I thought the Broncos played maybe their best half of the season Sunday in the second half against the Eagles.  Denver erased a 27-10 deficit, had the Eagles on the ropes, but couldn’t quite close the deal.  If Denver had played like that the week before against the Raiders, they would have blown them out.  Denver has been plagued by inconsistency all year, playing well against good competition most of the time but folding on several occasions against inferior opponents.

The bottom line for the Broncos is there have been too many times this season where they failed to capitalize in the red zone, and too many games in which they simply did not score enough points offensively.  I think the foundation is there for a good defense, for the unit has been much improved over last year.  On offense, the Broncos have got to figure out how to get more production next season, particularly out of guys like Eddie Royal and Tony Scheffler.  While they have a chance to finish with an improved record over last year, it appears probable in any case that the Broncos will once again be on the outside looking in.  That is unless a few major upsets take place.  We’ll have a more detailed breakdown of the season after it is all over, but for now the Broncos have to wonder about what could have been in a season where they had such a great start. 

Now on to the picks, while trying to navigate the minefield that is week 17, especially the part about trying to determine who will play to win and who will concede games by benching starters.

Last week: 9-7 Season: 157-81

– Bills over Colts: Obviously this is not a pick that would be made in normal circumstances.  If this was a meaningful game the Colts would win big every time, but this is clearly not a meaningful game.  The Colts I believe made a colossal error of epic proportions last week when they basically handed the Jets a free victory by benching their starters in the second half last week.  The Colts led 15-10 in the third quarter at the time, which clearly means that the game was not yet out of hand.  I believe especially at that point, when the starters had already played into the second half, with the Colts just six quarters away from an undefeated regular season and potential history, they pulled the plug.  I believe this is dead wrong for several reasons, not the least of which is they’ve now put themselves in a position where they will not play hard this week, will then have a bye week, and then will have turn the switch back on against a hot team coming off a playoff win.  History in the NFL has proven that teams that do this NEVER EVER win the Super Bowl.  The Colts themselves have stumbled numerous times by resting players in the final weeks of the regular season, only to fall flat on their faces in the first round of the playoffs.  The one year the Colts won the Super Bowl in 2006, they played their starters all the way through because they needed to, and lo and behold their momentum carried them all the way to the Super Bowl win!  I think in this case especially, when the Colts voluntarily torched their perfect season and shot and history, it will really come back to bite them.  The Colts players were clearly not happy with the decision, and I think it is just too difficult to turn the switch back on after weeks of inactivity.  No matter what anyone says you can’t simulate game intensity in practice nor can you expect to keep your timing and rhythm.  Factor that the Colts could well have a tough matchup in their first playoff game (possibilities include the Patriots, Bengals and several other teams) and I think the Colts are cooked.  In fact book it right now: Indianapolis WILL NOT play in the Super Bowl, largely because of this idiotic boneheaded decision to basically ignore the last two weeks of the season instead of going for 16-0 as they should have.  As for this game, I know the Bills have been awful, but I refuse to pick a team led by Chris Painter at quarterback to win on the road.  Besides, we know the Colts are basically not even attempting to win this game, thus I take the Bills at home. 

– Falcons over Buccaneers: A meaningless game in terms of the standings.  For the Falcons, they have a chance to finish 9-7 if they win.  Tampa Bay has won two straight, including last week’s stunner in New Orleans (for the record I will point out that I did pick the Bucs to win the first meeting in Tampa, only to see that blow up in my face, and then I took the safe route last and missed the pick again.  Go figure that I would pick the Tampa upset in the wrong meeting).  In this game, I think both teams want to end the season on a positive note, but I’ll take the Falcons on a hunch. 

– Panthers over Saints: This game has been rendered meaningless since the Saints have now clinched home field throughout the NFC playoffs.  While I’m not ready to write off New Orleans yet, they are in a sudden free fall that really extends back to their near loss in Washington.  I’m not sure if the Saints will bench Brees and company for this scrimmage of if they’ll actually try to win, but I’m leaning toward Sean Payton resting people (again a mistake, I think they need to get a win and get momentum).  In any case, the Panthers are suddenly red hot (blowout wins over the Vikings and Giants) and are getting good enough play from Matt Moore at quarterback that he may actually win the job for 2010.  Since the Panthers are on fire and playing at home, I like them to win, figuring that the Saints are likely to sit people and not risk injury.  In the end I think the Saints peaked too early, and are in real danger against several quick strike teams in the playoffs.

– 49ers over Rams: This is probably the dud game of the week with several contenders.  St. Louis can clinch the first pick in the draft with a loss, and chances are they’ll get it with plenty of empty seats at the Edward Jones Dome.  The 49ers have a chance to really finish out on a positive note (three wins in their final four games) with a win and carry momentum into next season.  The 49ers should win this without much difficulty. 

– Bears over Lions: Jay Cutler came out of nowhere and really had an outstanding game Monday night against Minnesota, leading the Bears to 36 points and an overtime victory.  That is the Jay Cutler the Bears thought they were trading for in the offseason.  Of course it is only one game and he performed that way when the pressure was completely off and the Bears were long eliminated from postseason contention.  It remains to be seen if Cutler will be able to do that on a consistent basis in 2010.  In any case the Bears have a lot of rebuilding to do at a number of positions and not a lot of draft choices to do it with.  For the Lions, they are limping into another disappointing offseason and will once again look to regroup.  I like the Bears to win this ugly affair even though it’s on the road. 

– Titans over Seahawks: The only suspense here is whether Chris Johnson will achieve 2,000 yards rushing on the season.  He needs 128 yards to get it done, certainly very doable against a Seahawks team with nothing to play for and is just playing out the string of a very disappointing season.   I think Johnson has vaulted over Adrian Peterson this season for the honor of best running back in the league and will be a star for years to come in Tennessee.  The Titans still have a chance to finish 8-8 even after an 0-6 start, and that would be a tremendous achievement even though they’re out of the playoff hunt.  As for the Seahawks, expect big changes next year especially after the way they have practically given up in December.  Titans roll in this one. 

– Jaguars over Browns: Jacksonville’s playoff are hanging by a thread, and they will need a ton of help.  They looked awful in every way last week against the Patriots, which is probably an indicator that they wouldn’t be much of a threat in the playoffs if they were able to sneak in.  The Jaguars have nevertheless exceeded expectations this season, but you have to wonder if they’re wasting the prime of Maurice Jones-Drew’s career.  The Browns have very quietly won three in a row, but questions continue to hover about Eric Mangini’s future in the wake of Mike Holmgren taking over the organization.  I expect the Jaguars to win this game if nothing else to keep their slim playoff hopes alive.

– Vikings over Giants: Minnesota is in real trouble.  They have lost three of their past four games and now are in real danger of losing their first round bye if the Eagles win in Dallas.  I do think the Vikings woke up offensively in the second half in Chicago, and they will need that kind of offensive attack going forward.  The real problem there now is that Adrian Peterson needs to hold on to the football.  The defensive front seven is still among the best in the NFL, but it was evident Monday night that they couldn’t get pressure, and it was also clear that cornerback Antonie Winfield was not near 100 percent.  If he continues to allow receivers to get that wide open, it won’t matter what kind of pressure the front seven generates.  I do still have a feeling though that this team is not dead yet, because I still think they are the most talented team in the league on both sides of the ball if they are clicking.  I think it will start with a momentum building win in this one, especially against a Giants team that is officially cooked after last week’s embarrassment against Carolina.  The Vikings know the bye is on the line, and I expect a spirited effort from Favre and company.  As for the G-men, it will interesting to see what changes await in the offseason after they blew a 5-0 start. 

– Steelers over Dolphins: Both teams are still mathematically alive, and both need help from multiple teams.  Pittsburgh is in better shape tiebreaker wise than Miami, but both teams will sink everything into this game to try and win it.  I think the Steelers are a sleeping giant that has woken up with two huge wins against Green Bay and Baltimore, and I think they are the team that no one in the AFC wants to see should they get in.  They are suddenly running the ball better, Ben Roethlisberger is throwing the ball well, and the defense is showing a knack for physical play again.  The Dolphins are coming off two straight losses, including one last week in which they allowed Houston way too big a lead in the first half.  I think even though this game is in Miami, the momentum is leaning toward the black and gold.  Pittsburgh wins an exciting game, keeping their playoff hopes alive at least into the late games. 

– Patriots over Texans: This is a hard game to figure because the game really doesn’t mean much to the Patriots unless they have a strong desire to be the three seed instead of the four.  Bill Belichick doesn’t have a history of resting players, although he was very coy about it this week in his press conferences.  The folks in Vegas seem to think the Patriots will basically take this game off, because the line is Texans by seven, which surely wouldn’t occur in ordinary circumstances.  If I were the Patriots I would play this game hard to win simply because I would want the three seed if I could get it (If New England loses and Cincinnati wins, the Bengals get the three).  The reason I would really want the three is just in case fluke circumstances occur in the playoffs that would allow the chance to host the AFC championship game, whereas with the four seed that is much more unlikely.  This paid off for the Colts in 2006 when they actually played hard in the final game to assure themselves the three seed, and ended up hosting the AFC title game, leading to a Super Bowl win.  In any case, I would be really surprised if the Patriots sat people against the Texans because that just doesn’t fit with the Belichick philosophy.  Houston is indeed red hot, and they are alive by a thread for the playoffs, and I do expect them to give a good effort at home, but if the Patriots play to win I like them to prevail on the road.  The caveat is I would take the Texans if I knew the Patriots would play backups, butI going to roll the dice and say that Belichick will play to win.  The reason I say that is Belichick knows the importance of momentum heading into the playoffs, and for this reason I think New England could be a dangerous team in the postseason.   

– Chargers over Redskins:  This is a meaningless game as the Chargers are locked into the two seed and have clinched a first round bye.  The question here is whether they will play to win and keep their winning streak alive (currently at 10 straight wins) or if they will sit everyone and basically take two weeks off.  My views are clear on this matter and I think the Chargers should play to win and keep momentum, but we’ll see what Norv Turner decides to do.  In any case, even if San Diego plays backups, I think the Redskins are so bad right now and in such disarray that I’m not so sure they would even be able to beat the Chargers JV on the road.   Washington has been really embarrassing in two straight prime time home games, and it seems clear that they are now just waiting to see whether or not Mike Shanahan is named head coach next week.  I’ll take the Chargers to win, and assume Rivers and company play at least a half.   

– Cardinals over Packers: This is an interesting deal because the Cardinals still have a slight chance at a first round bye (they would need a Vikings loss and the Cowboys to beat the Eagles).  The other factor here is this could very well be the first round playoff matchup for these teams.  Being that the wild card meeting is not guaranteed,  I think the Cardinals will see how the Vikings game unfolds in the early slot.  If Minnesota loses, I think the Cards go all out to win and go for the bye.  If the Vikings win, Arizona knows they can’t get the bye, and in that case I think they may rest everyone.  In that case I can see their point for doing it because it makes no sense to reveal your game plan against an opponent you’re likely going to play in a much more meaningful game the next week.  For Green Bay, it’s possible they could end up playing Philly or Dallas or maybe even Minnesota, but it seems like the Packers are likely to rest players at least for the second half in any case.  Thus, I pick the Cardinals to win. 

– Broncos over Chiefs: The Broncos woes have already been documented, but they need to win this game and then hope for some help.  The bottom line is they started 6-0 and then proceeded to lose seven of their next nine games, so it is their own fault they are in this position.  Denver let an easy one at home slip away two weeks ago against Oakland, so for that reason alone they should be motivated enough not to let that happen again.  The Broncos also slaughtered Kansas City 44-13 just a few weeks ago at Arrowhead, so this is a team in which they clearly are able to score points against.  The one thing to watch here for KC is that Jamaal Charles has quietly emerged as one of the more exciting backs in the league, so it will be important for the Broncos to contain him.  I think the Broncos win this game, but as you’ll see below I don’t think they’ll get the help they need to make the playoffs.  Still, 9-7 is much better than everyone’s preseason expectations for this team.

– Ravens over Raiders: The Broncos need their arch rival to do them a big favor and pull off this major upset in order to make the playoffs.  While the Raiders do have several surprising wins under their belt this year, including wins against AFC North foes Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, I don’t think they’ll be able to pull off this one even though it will be on their home field in the east bay.  Oakland looked lost last week in Cleveland with Charlie Frye at the controls, and it has already been announced that Frye will start again on Sunday.  Besides, it is hard to tell which games the Raiders will play hard in and which ones they won’t.  As for the Ravens, they know they let one get away last week in Pittsburgh, and for them it’s very simple: win and you’re in the playoffs.  Baltimore does not need any help, and they will come out with a playoff effort in this game and win it perhaps in blowout fashion.

– Cowboys over Eagles: This is the clear game of the week without question, and in my mind the one that should have been moved to Sunday night.  I’m not sure if the Cowboys were on too many times during the season, but the choice NBC made is at best questionable and at worst a very dumb one (more on that in a moment).  The winner of this game between the Eagles and Cowboys wins the NFC East.  Both teams have a shot at a first round bye (in the Eagles case they control their own destiny for it), and in spite of all that it is also possible these two teams may square off again in the first round of the playoffs.  That makes it very important for these teams to try and win this game so they can get home field advantage for that potential meeting in the event that they don’t get the bye.  This is also an intriguing game from the standpoint that the Cowboys won the first meeting in Philadelphia, and both teams come into the game red hot, and perhaps at this point the two favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl (no offense to the Saints and Vikings, each of whom look much more vulnerable right now then these two teams).  I think this will be a fantastic game.  Both offenses have the ability to strike quickly, but I think the Cowboys are playing better on the defensive side of the ball right now (they even held San Diego to 20 points, which considering the Chargers’ play of late has to be considered a fantastic effort).  I think the Dallas defense will get one more turnover than Philadelphia, and thus I take the Cowboys to win at home, and to win the NFC East.

– Jets over Bengals: Why this game was selected as the Sunday nighter is absolutely beyond me, other than they must have wanted the New York market.  Now, the Bengals are certainly worthy of a prime time appearance and they don’t have one yet, but here’s my problem with this game being moved to the night slot: depending on how the early games go, it may mean absolutely nothing for the Bengals.  If New England wins, Cincinnati is locked into the four seed with no shot of moving up.  If that happens, a Bengals-Jets wild card matchup could be a strong possibility.  This means the Bengals will not want to reveal anything and would be likely to sit Palmer, Ochocinco and company and basically tank the game.  This is particularly problematic when there are a number of AFC teams (Denver, Pittsburgh and Houston)  that need a Jets loss to make the playoffs.  Is is just me or is there a major problem when the Jets vault to the top of the wild card heap by virtue of two gimmie wins against teams that aren’t trying?  This problem could have been avoided had the NFL left this game in the 11 a.m. early slot, because if the Bengals and Patriots games kicked off simultaneously, it would stand to reason that both teams would play hard and try for the three seed.  Now, Cincinnati can wait and see how everything unfolds, and there is a better than 50-50 chance they will now rest people.  Granted, it is possible that if the Patriots lose, the Bengals will play hard and try for the three seed, but that is no guarantee.  I pick the Jets for the simple reason I think they will play the Bengals JV.  I do not think the Jets will be much of a factor in the playoffs once they play teams that are actually trying hard and giving maximum effort. 

So if my picks are correct, here are what the playoff matchups would look like:

AFC Wild Card: (6) Baltimore at (3) New England, (5) NY Jets at (4) Cincinnati

Top 2 seeds: Indianapolis, San Diego

NFC Wild Card: (6) Green Bay at (3) Arizona, (5) Philadelphia at (4) Dallas

Top 2 seeds: New Orelans, Minnesota

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