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Posts Tagged ‘Denver Broncos’

Week 16 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 24, 2009

Obviously I’m not going to want to spend too much time delving into last week’s embarrassment for the Broncos, a 20-19 home loss to the Raiders in which JaMarcus Russell woke up from the dead and led the Raiders to the winning touchdown.  Needless to say, this is same old same old for us Broncos fans, who have watched the team collapse in December year after year.  Last year’s was particularly bad when they let a three game division lead get away with three games to play, so forgive us Broncos fans if we’re starting to get a bit restless.  Despite all that, no one expected the Broncos to lose a home game to a Raiders team that was starting Charlie Frye at quarterback.  Unfortunately for the Broncos, the following proved to be their downfall:

– Lack of a running game: Knowshon Moreno was held to just 42 yards rushing, and the Broncos routinely fell short on 3rd and short conversions during the game.

– Red zone execution: Twice the Broncos had a first and goal inside the five yard line, once in the first quarter and once in the fourth.  Both times they kicked field goals.  That’s eight points left off the scoreboard.

– The last drive of the game:  Russell came in for an injured Frye and proceeded to carve the Broncos’ defense up.  Oakland converted a key fourth and 10 along the way and Russell actually showed a spark maybe for the first time in his career.

Now to address  these three points.  As far as the running game, I’m sick and tired of Broncos fans who are bagging on Moreno.  Admittedly he has struggled to find holes the last two weeks, but let’s not forget that he leads all rookies in rushing by a country mile, despite good seasons from Beanie Wells and LeSean McCoy.  There is a lot more to running the football than just the back.  The offensive line is not getting the push up front, especially on 3rd and 1 situations.  On some of these plays, I don’t care if Walter Payton is back there, he’s not finding a hole to run through if the line isn’t preventing the defense from getting penetration.  I do wonder why Peyton Hillis isn’t in the game on some of these short yardage plays, but again the offensive line is responsible here too.  As for Moreno,  I do think he’s being asked to carry a lion’s share of the load with the injury to Correll Buckhalter, and he’s also hit that proverbial rookie wall.  I still think he’s due for a great future in the NFL and he has the talent to be a Pro Bowl back.

As for the red zone, there isn’t much to say there except for the obvious.  Goal to go chances have to be converted into touchdowns, period, end of story.  If you kick red zone field goals time after time, you’re going to lose the game every time.  This was Denver’s downfall under Mike Shanahan, and it has continued to be a problem this year with Josh McDaniels.  The Broncos must figure out a way to consistently punch the ball in the end zone. 

As for the defense, it is not entirely their fault the Broncos lost the game to Oakland.  If the offense took care of business in the red zone, the game never would have been in doubt in the fourth quarter.   That said, given that the Broncos were holding a six point lead, the defense did not step up and shut down the Raiders at the end when it was needed most.  Denver’s defense is improved over last season (the numbers very clearly say so) and it largely because of them that the Broncos even had the lead in the first place, as they shut down the Raiders most of the afternoon.  Still, they needed to come up with a play at the end and didn’t.

The bottom line for the Broncos is they let a huge opportunity slip away.  Had they won, the Broncos would have virtually assured themselves a playoff spot.  Now, they might need a little help to get in.  They currently sit at 8-6, and would be in the playoffs if the season ended today, but there are six teams at 7-7 right behind them.  From what I’ve looked at in regards to tiebreakers, the Broncos may still be ok even at 9-7, but they also might be the odd team out depending on who they end up tied with.  Now on to the picks, listed in chronological order of when the games will be played.

Last week: 9-7   Season: 148-74

– Chargers over Titans: This will be a special Friday night contest, owing to the timing of the Christmas holiday.  For the Chargers, they have already won the AFC West and have a stranglehold on the number two seed and a first round bye.  They would need to lose both remaining games to fall to the three seed, and given that they’ve won nine straight, such a collapse in unlikely.  San Diego has quietly played some of the best football in the league, and I think they have what it takes to be a legit contender for the Super Bowl.  Philip Rivers is playing at an MVP level, and the Chargers have enjoyed good all around play both offensively and defensively.  Tennessee is also playing very well, having won seven of their past eight games (the one loss to the Colts) after a disastrous 0-6 start.  Vince Young has been one of the prime reasons for the resurgence, playing through injury last week to throw three touchdown passes.  Chris Johnson is also going for a 2,000 yard season on the ground.  The Titans do need to win both of their remaining games to have a chance to get in, and even then the tiebreakers may not be in their favor.  They did suffer a disastrous blow this week with news that star linebacker Keith Bullock is out for the season.  I think that tips the scale in San Diego’s favor in this game and allows the Chargers to pull out a close one.

– Falcons over Bills: One of the dud games of the week with no playoff possibilities for either team.  The Falcons can still achieve a winning season, and I think they’ll get this one at home.  Buffalo isn’t sure who will start at QB for them, so that is bad news for Terrell Owens and company.

– Raiders over Browns: Might as well flip a coin in this one.  This is a game between two bad teams who have been playing well and winning lately.  Both teams have beaten the Pittsburgh Steelers, and both are coming off road wins last week.  Charlie Frye will start at QB for Oakland despite Russell’s heroics last week, while Derek Anderson is back under center for the Browns now that Brady Quinn is shelved for the season due to injury.  This game may be blacked out in Cleveland due to a non-sellout, but the Browns were granted an extension to try and sell the remaining tickets.  I like Oakland to win just on a hunch.

– Bengals over Chiefs: Cincinnati showed a lot of heart last week playing hard in memory of Chris Henry.  The Bengals need only to win one of their two remaining games to clinch the AFC North (they own the head to head tiebreaker with the Ravens), and they shouldn’t have any trouble at all against a bad Chiefs team at home.  Kansas City allowed James Harrison to run for 286 yards last week, and they also allowed two kickoff return TDs to Josh Cribbs.  I smell a big day for Cedric Benson, and perhaps former Chief Larry Johnson on the ground.  I also like the odds of a couple scores for Ochocinco.  Bengals win big and clinch the division.

– Saints over Buccaneers: New Orleans no longer has a shot at an undefeated season, and frankly looked lost and confused offensively for most of the game against the Cowboys.  They did wake up late, and in the playoffs they will still be very dangerous because of their ability to strike quickly.  One of their issues though could be on defense against a quick strike team like Arizona or Philadelphia.  In any case, they need one more win to cinch up home field, so expect the starters to play all the way through in this one, and expect the Saints to get back on track with a blowout win against a bad team that is just playing out the string.  Even though Tampa Bay won last week, I don’t expect them to really challenge the Saints.

– Dolphins over Texans: This is essentially an early playoff game for both teams.  Houston has surprisingly fought their way into the logjam of 7-7 teams, and is not eliminated yet, although they are on the wrong side of every tiebreaker and will need help even if they win their last two.  Miami is also 7-7, so the winner of this game is still alive while the loser will be essentially eliminated from playoff contention.  The Dolphins suffered a heartbreaking OT loss last week, and they suddenly have a problem with Chad Henne launching interceptions (eight in the past four games).  However, Henne still throws the ball well and Ricky Williams is running hard.  Houston struggled to win a close game against the awful Rams last week, so I am not sure about their ability to win on the road against a better than average team.  I think this should be a very close game, and as such I’ll take the home team, meaning Miami will keep their playoff hopes alive.

– Patriots over Jaguars: Jacksonville nearly shocked the undefeated Colts last weekend thanks to three scores from Maurice Jones-Drew and an inspired performance by David Garrard.  In the end though the defense couldn’t stop Peyton Manning and the offense couldn’t get a late score when one was needed, despite scoring 31 points overall.  That was essentially a playoff game for the Jags especially in terms of effort and intensity, so it will be interesting to see what they have left for their final two games.  For New England, they won a game they had to get last week in Buffalo, and I’m sure Patriots fans were glad to see Randy Moss step up with a solid game.  The Patriots need one more win to lock up the AFC East, while Jacksonville is in the 7-7 wild card logjam.  The Jaguars do have a conference record edge over the other 7-7 contenders, but they still need to win two to assure themselves a chance at a spot.  So far this year I have not seen much evidence the Jags can win a big road game, and as such I take the Patriots, although this should be a close game.  A New England win would clinch the division and keep alive their hopes for a bye if the Chargers lose.

– Ravens over Steelers: This is always a tough, physical low scoring game with a lot of hard hitting.  Pittsburgh nearly pulled the road upset in the first meeting with Dennis Dixon under center, so it would stand to reason that they are in better shape with Ben Roethlisberger under center and a home crowd behind them.  Roethlisberger threw for 503 yards last week against the Packers, so the passing game was clicking, but I somehow think the Ravens defense will step up and hold those numbers more in check. The Steelers defense did surrender a ton of points last week against Green Bay, so that doesn’t bode well for them.   Baltimore is starting to get hot at the right time and they would love a chance to stop the playoff hopes of their rival.  Joe Flacco has played better the last two games (granted against subpar competition) and the defense is starting to play like the Ravens defense of old again.  The Ravens are 8-6 and in the best position of any of the wild card contenders, while Pittsburgh is in the 7-7 logjam.  If the Steelers lose, they are essentially out.  I think that is more than enough motivation for Baltimore, and I’ll take the Ravens to win this defensive struggle on the road.

– Giants over Panthers: Carolina has come out of nowhere and played some good football this year against some of the best teams in the league, particularly last week in their dismantling of the Vikings.  The thing is, they’ve played bad football against teams they should beat, and thus are out of the playoff picture.  The Giants are still alive for a wild card spot in the NFC, but they do not control their own destiny.  They did play nearly flawless football last week against the Redskins, and they will need to do so going forward to have a shot.  I don’t see much trouble for them in the Meadowlands against the Panthers, but this is also the type of game that has given them trouble in the past.  Still, I expect the running game of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw to carry the day for the Giants, and I expect them to win and keep their playoff hopes alive.

– Packers over Seahawks: Green Bay knows they let a win slip away last week in Pittsburgh, and with it they lost any faint hopes they had of a division title.  Still, the Packers are in excellent position for a wild card berth if they take care of business.  I expect a nice bounce back game Sunday from Aaron Rodgers and company on the offensive side of the ball, and I also expect the defense to have a big game against the struggling Seattle offense.  The Seahawks of late can’t run the ball worth a lick and Matt Hasselbeck continues to go in the tank.  I would be really surprised if Hasselbeck remains Seattle’s starting quarterback in 2010 the way he has underperformed this season.  This is a classic late season game of playoff contender rolls over non-playoff contender.  Packers win easily.

– 49ers over Lions: San Francisco is out of the running for a playoff spot, but this is a team that looks to have some positive momentum heading into 2010.  The Niners are getting rejuvenated play from Alex Smith at quarterback, and they are starting to fill in the pieces on both sides of the ball.  They have an opportunity to finish out their schedule on a positive note and I believe they will be a playoff contender next season, particularly if they can figure out to get more big plays out of Michael Crabtree in the passing game.  As for the Lions, Matthew Stafford has been placed on injured reserve, and they are left to compete with the Rams in the Ndamokong Suh sweepstakes.

– Cardinals over Rams: Arizona has clinched the NFC West title and a playoff home game.  The Cardinals interestingly are looking eerily similar to last season’s team that made the Super Bowl.  Last year’s team stumbled into the playoffs and then got hot at the right time.  This year’s team is showing a lot of the same characteristics.  If Kurt Warner and the offense is clicking on all cylinders, there isn’t a team in the league that they aren’t capable of beating.  That is, if they play well.  They’ll have no trouble here against a Rams team that would benefit more from losing and getting the top pick in April’s draft.

– Colts over Jets: This is actually a tough game to pick because I’m not sure if the Colts will actually play their starters and try to win this game.  They did play to win last week in Jacksonville, but at some point you have to wonder if Peyton Manning and company will start watching from the sidelines in these final weeks.  I do think the prospect of an undefeated season should ultimately win out in Indy, and I think the Colts would be much better served to keep playing everyone than to start resting people.  The track record in NFL history is clear that teams who take their foot off the gas when they got everything clinched often tend to lose out in the playoffs.  As for the Jets, they are alive and in the 7-7 logjam, but when Braylon Edwards come out and says his team doesn’t deserve to be in the playoffs, you have to think the Jets don’t have what it takes to win at Lucas Oil Stadium if the Colts are playing to win.  I do think the Jets could win if the Colts sit Manning after the first series, but I think he’ll play a half at least.  In any case, I’ll take the Colts in this one, which would pretty much eliminate the Jets.

– Eagles over Broncos:  I don’t want to do it, but I just can’t see my Broncos going to Philadelphia and beating one of the hottest teams in the league.  Denver’s defense is still playing well for the most part, but I think they’ll have trouble stopping an Eagles offense that is getting Brian Westbrook back this week, and also has playmakers galore with DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy and oh yeah Donovan McNabb leading the way.  I think the Eagles will be a very dangerous team in the playoffs, and they are capable of winning any road game, including New Orleans.  For the Broncos to have any chance to win they’re going to have to score minimum 24 points and probably 30, and I just don’t see them being able to do that right now in this game unless things change in a hurry.  The Eagles are fighting with the Cowboys for the NFC East title, but they should make the playoffs in any case.  For the Broncos, a loss drops them down to the logjam of teams, but tiebreakers may still allow Denver to get in even at 9-7.  It just depends on how the other games go this week and how many teams Denver would be tied with.  It is too early to tell yet, but right now the Broncos are in danger of falling out of the postseason after a 6-0 start.  In this game, I’ll take the Eagles rather handily 31-17.

– Cowboys over Redskins: I once again will say that I do not understand the NFL tv schedule sometimes.  This is the second straight week that we’ve been handed a Sunday night game that makes no sense whatsoever.  It is also the second straight week we’ll be subjected to the awful Redskins in prime time (they played on Monday night last week).  What good does flex scheduling do if they’re going to put a bad team in the Sunday night contest this late in the season?  I can think of no less than seven games that are more important and more compelling this week than this snooze fest.  At any rate, Dallas proved last week that they are not dead yet, and with a win here they can actually put themselves in a position to possibly win the NFC East next week.  If the Redskins play like they did last week, the only question here is margin of victory for the Cowboys.  Washington is playing like they’re looking forward to a new coach already.  The big question for them is will they hire Mike Shanahan after the season is over Jan. 4?  The rumors say yes.  In any case, book a win here for the Cowboys and maybe make alternate plans Sunday night to keep yourself entertained.

– Vikings over Bears: The big drama here is between Brett Favre and Brad Childress.  Minnesota has been blown out in two of their past three games, and are in danger of losing the number two seed in the NFC and a first round bye.  The good news for them is they should have a relatively easy win on deck on Monday night in Chicago.  The way things have been going, Jay Cutler should be guaranteed two interceptions minimum, and the Vikings offense is more than capable of turning those turnovers into points.  For Minnesota, the question going forward is will Brett Favre carry them to the Super Bowl, or will the chemistry just get completely blown up leading to an early first round playoff exit?  The Vikings are also worried about Percy Harvin, who is headed to the Mayo Clinic to try to cure his migraine headaches as well as a bulging disc in his neck.  I think the Vikings will win this game rather easily, and then we’ll see how the attitude is going forward.  I still stick with them as my preseason pick to win the Super Bowl, but that is looking a little shaky right now.

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Week 15 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on December 17, 2009

Before we get to week 15, I want to point out that I think the Broncos actually played one of their better games on Sunday, even though they fell to the Colts 28-16.  Now, this does not mean that I excuse them for their inability to convert in short yardage or in the red zone, but when you compare it to previous outings against the Colts over the years, this was definitely progress.  The Broncos intercepted Peyton Manning three times, and really stiffened up defensively in the second half.  The Broncos held the high powered Colts offense to just 27 total yards in their first seven possessions of the second half, a number that is nothing short of incredible considering Manning was at the controls.  This was after the Broncos fell behind 21-0, a broken record for the Broncos in Indianapolis.  Unlike in the past however, the Broncos kept fighting, and almost put themselves in a position to win, cutting it to 21-16 with more than nine minutes to go.  Now, in the end, Manning was Manning, but I am convinced that the Shanahan Broncos would have lost this game 40-10 or something along those lines.  The way the defense took control and gave the team a chance to come back is something that had been lacking in Denver for many years.

I would of course also be a fool not to give a tip of the cap to Brandon Marshall for his NFL record 21 receptions on Sunday, breaking a single game record previously held by Terrell Owens.   Marshall has continued to show throughout this season why he is one of the best receivers in the game and why he is almost unstoppable when his mind is right.  I think the Broncos need to make retaining him their biggest priority in the offseason.  I will say that this also means the Broncos need to take better advantage of their other weapons, especially Eddie Royal and Brandon Stokley, but it can’t be denied that Marshall is a big time playmaker who has the chance to change the outcome of games by himself each week.

It is interesting to think that the Broncos are in almost the exact same position as they were a year ago.  They currently sit with an 8-5 record, and are on the inside track for a playoff spot.  The biggest difference is they are looking up at San Diego instead of holding the three game lead that they let slip away last year, but that says a lot more about San Diego’s consistency this year than it does about the Broncos.  Considering the panic shown by almost everyone about Denver’s hectic offseason, I think their season to date shows nothing less than a tremendous achievement.  It is almost comical now to think that everyone was sure they would win less than five games and wouldn’t be worth anything.  Anyone still think Josh McDaniels should have been fired before he coached a game?  I sure don’t, and never did.  Sure the team is still a work in progress, but if they take care of business against two woefully inferior opponents at home, they will be back in the playoffs for the first since 2005 while Jay Cutler and Mike Shanahan watch on television.  That’s good enough for me.  Now, on to the picks.

Last Week: 11-5 Season: 139-67

– Jaguars over Colts: UPSET ALERT.   The Thursday night game this week is one of the most intriguing games of the week, and certainly more interesting than many of the Thursday night offerings we’ve seen so far this season.  My reasoning for this pick is relatively simple actually, even if it is a bit out there.  I think that with home field advantage cinched up the Colts will soon go into rest their starters mode and will start to take things easy as they head into the playoffs (which I think is a huge mistake and might actually prove to be their downfall in the playoffs but that’s another discussion).  In any case, even if the Colts’ starters play most or all of the game, it really doesn’t mean anything tangibly for them, whereas for Jacksonville this is practically a playoff game.  The Jaguars are currently in playoff position if the season ended today, but they know they need to keep winning to hold that position.  Also, when these teams played in week one in Indy, the Colts won 14-12.  Jacksonville has always had some success slowing down the Colts’ offense, and with Maurice Jones-Drew leading the way, they have the ability to play ball control.  Being that is practically a playoff game for the Jaguars, and that they will have a raucous home crowd behind them, I think the recipe is there for Jacksonville to pull this off, especially if Manning and other starters aren’t out there the whole time as I suspect they won’t be. 

– Saints over Cowboys: The other 13-0 team gets its shot in a rare Saturday night game this week.  Unlike the Colts, I believe the Saints will finish 16-0 because they seem more inclined to keep playing their starters as opposed to resting people.  Their schedule is also friendly enough that they just might be able to beat their last two opponents (Tampa Bay and Carolina) even while resting their starters.  In the end, I do think the Saints will suffer the same fate as the ’07 Patriots and will not win the Super Bowl, but I do think they’ll finish 16-0.  This game is more important for New Orleans than Indy’s game is this week, because the Saints still technically have not secured home field advantage yet.  Unlike the Colts, the Saints have no reason to rest anyone Saturday night even if they wanted to.  This is also an important game for the Cowboys, who are quickly fading fast in the NFC East, but it certainly doesn’t appear that they have what it takes to hang with the Saints in the Superdome right now.  The interesting thing is that Tony Romo’s numbers have actually been pretty good even in the last two losses, but I think this will turn into a shootout (especially with DeMarcus Ware likely out) and that is bad news for Dallas.  I like the Saints in a thriller.

– Patriots over Bills: As is the always the case in upstate New York this time of year, the temps will be very low and the wind will be howling.  That makes predicting any game very difficult especially if neither team is able to throw the ball, as was the case when these teams squared off in December last season.  This will likely come down to who can run the football, and in that case I give the nod to New England if nothing else because the game is meaningful for them whereas the Bills are eliminated from playoff contention.  I still think the Patriots will end up winning the AFC East due mainly to their schedule down the stretch, but they do have a big problem if Randy Moss has mentally checked out, as was clearly the case last week against Carolina. but they won’t need Moss to win this game. 

– Dolphins over Titans: This is a very interesting game because both teams are in similar position.  Both have a shot at the playoffs still, but both will very likely need to win out to have any chance at actually getting in.  Miami has a little bit more wiggle room due to their 7-6 record and the fact they still have hope of winning the division, but realistically this is an early playoff game for both teams.  Tennessee has been one of the hottest teams in the league since a disastrous 0-6 start, but one of the big reasons they’re hot may not play Sunday.  Vince Young had to come out of last week’s win against St. Louis due to a right leg injury, and frankly they are not the same team with Kerry Collins under center.  Chris Johnson is still arguably the best back in the league, but if Young isn’t in there, it may hamper Tennessee’s ability to move the football.  The Dolphins have shown in the last two weeks that they don’t need the Wildcat to have success, for that has essentially been out the window since Ronnie Brown’s season ending injury.  Ricky Williams is running well and Chad Henne is quickly showing he has the tools to be a good quarterback in the NFL.  This will be a very close game, but Miami has proven they can win tough games on the road.  I like Miami to keep their hopes alive in a squeaker. 

– Jets over Falcons: Atlanta has been a disaster since Matt Ryan and Michael Turner have been sidelined by injury.  They did give the Saints a pretty big scare in the Georgia Dome last week, but I think they used up all of their eggs so to speak in trying to win that game, so it seems inevitable that they’ll have a letdown in a tough outdoor game where bad weather is likely.  The Jets may or may not have Mark Sanchez available for this game, but Kellen Clemens gave a serviceable effort last week and may be able to do so again against an Atlanta defense that have struggled all year.  I expect another big day from Thomas Jones, and I expect the Jets to win this game without too much trouble, thus keeping their playoff hopes alive. 

– Chargers over Bengals: First and most important, our thoughts are with Chris Henry’s family.  Henry has died one day after falling out the back of a pickup truck, and now the Bengals organization is left to deal with the second tragedy of the season (Vicki Zimmer, wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, died unexpectedly in October).  Comments from Bengals players indicate they will try their hardest to honor Henry and will dedicate the rest of the season to him, but it seems clear that this will be a very difficult thing for the players to fight through the rest of the way.  Cincinnati is one win away from clinching the AFC North, and they have all of the division tiebreakers in their back pocket, so I still think they’ll win the division eventually, but I just can’t see them getting it together this week to win a very challenging game on the road.  San Diego is on fire right now, and I just don’t see them slipping at home in any case.  The Chargers may well be the team to beat in the AFC.

– Ravens over Bears: This has complete mismatch written all over it.  The Ravens defense is still playing well at home, and they have shut down several bad offenses this year.  They are about to face another struggling offense in Chicago that can’t run the ball worth a lick, and I’m sure the Ravens secondary is looking forward to several good interception chances courtesy of Jay Cutler, who still leads the league in that category with 22.  Baltimore did find their offense as well last week (albeit against the Lions), and they have the look of a team that may not lose the rest of the way in the regular season.  They may need to win out to make the playoffs, but they certainly look very capable of doing that.  I like Baltimore in a blowout at home, further jeopardizing Lovie Smith’s job.

– Browns over Chiefs: I mentioned last week that the Chiefs barely avoided a tv blackout due to a last minute extension from the NFL.  This week no such extension was granted, even with more than 5,000 tickets still available earlier in the week.  As of this writing the deadline has come and gone, with no announcement as to whether the Chiefs succeeded in selling out this awful matchup.  This leads me to believe that negotiations are in progress to make the game available to Chiefs fans within a 75 mile radius of Arrowhead Stadium, but my question is why bother?  Clearly Chiefs fans are fed up enough with their team to not pay to see them, and I’m sure many of them would rather watch a meaningful and more interesting matchup on Sunday.  As for the game, it features this week’s strange but true bit of information, and that is that Brady Quinn has outplayed Matt Cassel in absolutely every statistical category over the past month, and most of the numbers aren’t even close.  The truth is that Quinn may in fact be saving his job for next season, while the Chiefs are concerned enough about Cassel’s poor play that they are reportedly going to explore other options in the offseason.  Cleveland got a monster win over Pittsburgh last week, and while a letdown could be possible, the Chiefs aren’t likely to provide strong opposition considering they couldn’t win a game last week against Buffalo that the Bills kept trying to give them.  This game is the clear dud of the week, and I hope that fans in Kansas and western Missouri aren’t actually subjected to this garbage. 

– Steelers over Packers: If Pittsburgh has any pride whatsoever, they will find a way to win this game at home.  The Steelers have dropped five straight, including dreadful ones to Kansas City, Oakland and Cleveland, and in the process have pretty much eliminated themselves from playoff contention.  Mike Tomlin has quickly gone from being the city’s crown citizen to being roasted over the coals.  This matchup in many ways looks to be a very winnable game for the Packers, who are clearly the better team and a clear contender in the NFC, but Pittsburgh is a veteran group and the players in that locker room have to be absolutely embarrassed about what has gone down in the past month.  I can’t imagine guys like Ben Roethlisberger and Hines Ward will allow this thing to slide down any further than it already has.  In the end, Green Bay will be in the playoffs and Pittsburgh won’t, but I think it will take a perfect game by Green Bay to win this one on the road.  That is, if Pittsburgh has any pride at all, and I know that those players do. 

– Texans over Rams: Houston continues its tradition of winning December games that don’t matter because they are already out of it.  Texans fans have to be tired of getting close to the playoffs every year and watching it slip away by a hair.  In the case of this year, they’ve lost two games via a missed field goal on the final play, and lost another when they let a huge lead slip away against the Colts.  I still think Houston has way too much talent not to be in the race, but I’m not going to point the finger at coach Gary Kubiak either.  I think the Texans have the pieces in place, and just need something to bring it together.  They’ll win this one quite handily, but then again who hasn’t pummeled the Rams this year?  St. Louis desperately needs help at every position, but if they have the top pick in April, I hope they have the sense to take Ndamukong Suh instead of reaching for a quarterback that isn’t worthy of the top spot. 

– Broncos over Raiders: This is clearly a game that the Broncos should win for all of the obvious reasons.  It is a home game against a bad team, one that the Broncos destroyed in week three in Oakland.  The Raiders are coming off a home loss to Washington in which they surrendered 34 points to a mediocre offense.  Granted, Oakland had been playing well since making the switch to Bruce Gradkowski, getting surprise wins against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.  Thing is, Gradkowski hurt his knee last week and may miss the rest of the season.  The Raiders have been nothing short of awful in games started by JaMarcus Russell, so much so that Russell will not get the start on Sunday.  Instead, Oakland is going with journeyman Charlie Frye, which tells me that the Raiders are so fed up with Russell that are they willing to go with anyone else if it means not having to play him.  For the Broncos, this is the type of game they have let slip away in the past (06 against San Francisco and last year against Buffalo coming to mind right away), so in that sense this is a very worrisome game for many Bronco fans precisely because it is a game they are supposed to win handily.  I still think the Broncos will get the job done, but it wouldn’t shock me if turns into a struggle or a close game.  Nevertheless, I pick the Broncos to win 24-14.

– Eagles over 49ers: This has suddenly turned into one of the better games of the week.  Philadelphia has arguably been the NFL’s most exciting team over the past few weeks, due in large part to the play of DeSean Jackson and an increased presence from Michael Vick.  The Eagles defense still has some holes, but they way they are playing offensively right now they have the potential to really make a run in the NFC.  Perhaps the most amazing part about their play is that they’ve been able to do this without Brian Westbrook, who has been absent from the lineup due to continuing concussion like symptoms.  San Francisco meanwhile believe it or not still has playoff hopes alive, although they will probably need to win out to ultimately get in.  They did show a lot last week in their thrashing against Arizona, enough to make be believe they could be a contender in 2010, but I would be surprised if they had the same kind of performance against a red hot Eagles team on the road in nasty Philadelphia.  I like the Eagles to break open a close game late and win this relatively comfortably.

– Cardinals over Lions: Arizona should be hopping mad after their embarrassing seven turnover performance on Monday night in San Francisco.  The Cardinals at times this year have looked every bit like last year’s Super Bowl team, and there have also been times like last week where they looked like the worst team in the league.  I do think that if the Cardinals play to their ability, they are capable of beating any team in the league including Indianapolis and New Orleans.  While the lack of consistency has been baffling, I don’t see any scenario in which they don’t get it together and win against the Lions on Sunday.  At that, I even expect them to blow Detroit out from the word go.  I believe last week in particular was an aberration for Kurt Warner, who otherwise has been playing some of the best football of his career this year.  As for the Lions, they can perhaps also look forward to maybe being able to draft Ndamukong Suh in April.

– Seahawks over Buccaneers: This is a close contender for dud game of the week.  Seattle has shown a few flashes here and there this year, but overall they have to be considered one of the league’s biggest disappointments.  I’m even wondering if Matt Hasselbeck is close to being done as quarterback of the Seahawks, for his numbers have taken a big tumble and he shown a complete inability at times to get the ball to his talented receivers.  I also have to think that T.J. Houshmandzadeh has to be regretting his departure from Cincinnati, watching his former team have great success without him while he once again plays for a struggling team.  Tampa Bay has been awful with the exception of their one win against Green Bay, and it is interesting to wonder how they will go about their massive rebuilding project in the offseason.  Seahawks should be able to win this one at home comfortably. 

– Vikings over Panthers: How this game ended up as the Sunday nighter is a head scratcher to say the least.  I’m sure it’s because NBC wanted to showcase Brett Favre, but didn’t they just do that two weeks ago?  I thought the point of flexible scheduling was to ensure that the Sunday night game is always a meaningful matchup, not to keep showing the same teams over and over.  In this case, I don’t see how this is anything other than a blowout in favor of the visiting Vikings.  Minnesota bounced back nicely last week and blew out  a very good Bengals team, while Carolina couldn’t get anything going against New England.  There is a chance the Panthers could consider this game to be their Super Bowl of sorts and come out guns blazing, but I don’t see how they will be able to run on the Vikings front four or contain Minnesota’s offense.  I still stand by my preseason pick of the Vikings winning the Super Bowl, and if they are going to live up to that, they shouldn’t be slipping up in a game like this. 

– Giants over Redskins: The Monday night is a curious choice as well, only because I’m not sure who actually thought the Redskins would be competitive when the schedule was announced back in April (On that note why is Washington on Sunday night next week?  Seriously the schedule makers are either being really lazy or actually think we want to be subjected to bad teams in prime time.)  Granted, the Redskins have been playing better lately, but they are still not in any way a playoff team, and I would think that this time of year the meaningful games should be showcased, not necessarily those involved big east coast markets.  The Giants are continuing to fade very quickly, especially on the defensive side of the ball, where they surrendered a staggering 45 points to the Eagles last week, but I still think they are a team that no one would want to see in the playoffs because of their ability to score points offensively.  It remains to be seen whether or not they will actually make the playoffs, but I like them to win this game primarily because I can’t envision a Jason Campbell-led offense being able to keep up with the G-men if they are scoring points the way they have in the past two weeks.

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Week 8 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 30, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last week: 9-4 Season: 73-29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yes, the Broncos really are 5-0

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 14, 2009

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

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

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

Some other thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Broncos-Patriots Preview & week 5 picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 9, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

Who to pick???

thinking…..

thinking….

thinking…..

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

The Pick: Broncos 21 Patriots 17

Now to the rest of the picks:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Defense saves day again, and so does Marshall

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 5, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Broncos-Cowboys Preview & week 4 picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on October 3, 2009

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

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

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

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

The Pick: Broncos 24 Cowboys 20

Now on to the rest of the picks:

Last week: 13-3 Season: 36-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Broncos’ Defense Strikes Again

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 28, 2009

Broncos Raiders Football In a lot of ways the Broncos game in Oakland today was a carbon copy of the one they played last week against Cleveland.  The Broncos played an outstanding defensive game, ran the ball very effectively, won the turnover battle, and ultimately earned a decisive victory against well, a team that should have beaten, beating the pitiful Oakland Raiders 23-3.  I’ll be the first to say that the Broncos once again benefited today from the schedule makers.  The Raiders are not even close to a contending team, so that does temper the kool aid drinking just a tad from those of us here in Broncos country.  However, a good team is supposed to take care of the bad ones, and that is what the Broncos have done so far this season.  (In fact, the opening road win against Cincinnati is suddenly looking very impressive being that the Broncos held them to just seven points).

As with the first two games, you once again need to start with the defense for the Broncos.  They got two more sacks from Elvis Dumervil, who has six so far through the first three games.  They forced three more turnovers, including two interceptions by JaMarcus Russell.  The first interception came early in the game after the Broncos failed on a fourth and goal from the one.  This pick helping swing momentum back to Denver and set up the first score, a touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall (more on him in a moment).  The second interception set up a field goal that made it 10-0.  The third turnover came on a crucial fumble recovery in the third quarter.  The Raiders had just recovered a Correll Buckhalter fumble and were driving for a score that would get them back in the game.  Darren McFadden took a toss right and was sprinting down the sideline for what looked like a score.  Suddenly, D.J. Williams came out of nowhere and leveled McFadden, knocking the ball free.  Brian Dawkins happened to be run out of bounds, but he had the presence of mind to establish both feet in bounds quickly, then pounce on the loose ball along the sideline.  Ultimately the Broncos were plus two in turnovers, and that proved to be very key in the victory.  Besides the turnovers, the Broncos also held the Raiders to just 137 total yards, including a mere 61 passing from Russell.  I don’t care who the opponent is, those defensive numbers are nothing short of terrific.  Consider that the Broncos are allowing a mere 5.3 points per game so far this season.

Offensively, a look at Kyle Orton’s numbers doesn’t indicate anything spectacular (13-23 for 157 yards and touchdown), but he once again managed the game well.  He avoided any interceptions for the third game in a row, and he added another win to his total as a starting quarterback.  He made some key throws at important times, and he continues to show good decision making abilities.  Amazingly, there was also a Brandon Marshall sighting.  The receiver who is now known for his attitude problem caught five balls for 67 yards and the team’s initial touchdown of the game.  Marshall made several good catches today, and for the first time this season actually played like he wanted to be out on the field.  He showed actual fire and it was clear watching him today that he was playing hard and playing to win.  The Broncos will need him to continue to play this way going forward.  This was critical today because Eddie Royal was held to just one catch for four yards and Brandon Stokley was nonexistent.  Ultimately though, the key for the Broncos offense is the running game, and it was again terrific today.  Correll Buckhalter rushed for 108 yards (averaging 7.7 yards per carry) and Knowshon Moreno added 90 yards and his first career touchdown.  This for Moreno despite the fact that he was questionable to even play with a groin injury.  The running game helped the Broncos get a 13 minute edge in time of possession, and that will continue to be a big key for the Broncos as their schedule toughens up in the coming weeks.

Some other observations:

– For the second straight week the Broncos offense left a lot of potential points on the board.  Besides coming up empty on the first drive after a failed fourth and goal, the Broncos twice settled for red zone field goals.  If the offense can start capitalizing on these chances, it could be scary for their opponents.  That being said, the Broncos must shore up this area and quick.

– The Denver offensive line did a great job once again.  The line held Oakland without a sack in addition to leading the way for the rushing attack.

– Jabar Gaffney has quietly been a good acquisition for the Broncos, catching four more passes today for 39 yards.

– I knew the game was being blacked out in Oakland due to a non sellout, but I didn’t expect the sea of empty green seats in the Oakland Alameda Coliseum.  Granted the Raiders haven’t exactly given their fans much of a product to watch, but at this rate it will interesting to see how long the East Bay can even support the Raiders at all.

– JaMarcus Russell is a huge disappointment.  Check that, disappointment isn’t a strong enough word, how about awful.  Right now he’s not even close to being a starting caliber quarterback.  The only reason he is still starting is because the Raiders aren’t about to go to Bruce Gradkowski.

– The schedule definitely gets tougher for the Broncos next week as they host Dallas.  That begins a stretch of five games that will tell us a lot more about this Broncos team.  Until then, they are 3-0, and that is the stat that matters at the moment.

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Broncos-Raiders Preview & Week 3 Picks

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 25, 2009

It seems strange after the tumultuous offseason the Broncos have had, but they have a very legitimate shot to start the season 3-0.  Granted, this is largely because they are benefiting from a very friendly start to the season schedule wise, but nevertheless the Broncos so far have taken advantage of that.  Besides, I still maintain the week one win against Cincinnati was not a gimmie (more on the Bengals in my picks below).  Sunday at Oakland is another winnable game the Broncos need to take advantage of because the schedule gets a lot tougher very soon.

In recent years the Broncos have played very well in the Black Hole (let’s be honest here, who hasn’t).  Denver has won five of its past six meetings in Oakland, and overall the Broncos have won 9 of their past 12 games against the Raiders.  While the fans in Oakland certainly try to give the Raiders an intimidating home environment, this has simply not been the case.  In fact, things have gotten so bad in the East Bay that the game will be blacked out locally due to a non-sellout.  The Raiders are so desperate to sell tickets they are offering a free $100 gift card to a local grocery store with the purchase of two tickets.  That lack of support never inspires much confidence in the home team, but really it is more a reflection of the Raiders’ futility.  Oakland is the only team in the NFL to have a losing record in each of the past six seasons, and they appear to be on track to make it seven in a row.

Now, getting to the matchup, I am still trying to figure out how the Raiders managed to win in Kansas City last week.  JaMarcus Russell was awful, throwing for less than 150 yards, and managing to miss a number of open receivers in the process.  The running game was non existent, as both Darren McFadden and Michael Bush were held to less than 50 yards rushing.  No receiver caught more than two passes, and the leading receiver from a year ago, tight end Zach Miller, was held without a catch.  The Raiders have talent, but they are very young at every position offensively, especially wide receiver, where two rookies start: Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy.  Strangely enough, Murphy has been by far the more impressive of the two in the first two games, despite being selected three rounds later than Heyward-Bey in April’s draft.  While the Raiders have under achieved so far this year for their talent, the fact is the talent is there and can beat you if you’re not careful.  Defensively, the Raiders have been very good, especially last week, in getting pressure on the quarterback.  The impact of Richard Seymour, acquired in trade from the Patriots right before week one, has been huge.  His presence has opened up everything for the defense.  The secondary has also been outstanding, with Michael Huff intercepting three passes already.  I also maintain that Nnamdi Asomugha is the best cornerback in the NFL.

The Broncos haven’t been spectacular offensively, but they have gotten the job done.  Kyle Orton has yet to throw a pick in two games, living up to his reputation as a quarterback who doesn’t make costly mistakes.  Orton hasn’t been flashy, but he has made the throws he has needed to make.  The Broncos do need more from Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal.  Marshall has seven catches through two games but has not even been close to his old self.  He was on the sideline for long stretches against Cleveland, and in the long run the Broncos are going to need him.  Royal has also been shut down the first two games while being bothered with an ankle injury.  He is expected to be healthy against the Raiders, but could end up drawing a bad matchup in Asomugha.  In this game, it will be critical once again for Brandon Stokley and Jabar Gaffney to step up, as both did with big games against the Browns.  The biggest key for the Broncos though is they need to run the football.  Correll Buckhalter and Knowshon Moreno split carries against Cleveland, and I would expect the same against Oakland.  Both were productive last week and will need to be against the Raiders to stay out of third and long, where the Raiders defense has freely blitzed opposing QBs so far.  Defensively, the Broncos have been nothing short of outstanding, allowing just 13 points in their first two games.  The Broncos also rank second in the NFL in turnover ratio at plus four.  If they can get pressure on Russell and slow down the Raiders’ running game, I definitely like their chances to keep that trend going at least for another week.

In the end I expect this to be just like the first two Broncos’ games: another low scoring defensive battle.  Both defenses have been very good in the first two weeks, while both offenses have moved the ball at times but not with any real consistency.  I think turnovers almost always decide games like this, and I expect the Broncos defense to be able to come up with one before Oakland’s will.  I think the Broncos will be able to run the ball just well enough, and I think their defense will be able to slow down Oakland’s speed.

The Pick: Broncos 20 Raiders 10

Now, the rest of the week three picks:

Last week: 10-6 Season: 23-9

– Bills over Saints: UPSET ALERT.  I know Drew Brees has been awesome the first two games.  I also know this will be in the wind in Buffalo.  I still think the Bills will be a player in December.  I like them at home in the upset.

– Chargers over Dolphins: This actually seems pretty shaky considering Tomlinson and Merriman are both banged up, but I think Rivers and Sproles will make enough plays at home.  Miami is quickly finding reality after last season’s surprise run.

– Patriots over Falcons: I went back and forth on this one for several minutes.  Something doesn’t seem right with the Patriots, while Atlanta has been very impressive.  This is the first road game for the Falcons however, and I think New England figures out a way to not lose two in a row.  Either way this should be a great game.

– Titans over Jets: The thought of Tennessee at 0-3 is nothing short of ridiculous, and thus I can’t pick anything else here.  The Titans are hopping mad after letting one slip away at home. and I sense a letdown for the Jets after their huge win over New England.

– Bengals over Steelers: UPSET ALERT.  Pittsburgh is without Troy Polamalu.  Besides that, the Bengals offense looked scary good in Green Bay while the Steelers have been unable to run the ball in either of their first two games.  Paul Brown Stadium will be rocking.  I like Cincinnati in the stunner.

– Ravens over Browns:  Baltimore by a lot.  Let’s move on to a more competitive game.

– Texans over Jaguars: Houston made a statement last week in Tennessee.  If Matt Schaub is throwing like that Sunday, Jacksonville is in real trouble.  The Jags should score some points with Maurice Jones-Drew leading the way, but I like the Texans at home.

– Eagles over Chiefs: Even if Kevin Kolb is starting for Philly, the Eagles won’t have any trouble outscoring the Chiefs in this one.  The Kansas City offense looked very lost with Matt Cassel last week, and it won’t get any better against the Eagles.

– Giants over Buccaneers: Byron Leftwich has actually looked good the first two games for Tampa, but the defense is awful.  Eli Manning and company keep proving they  should be no brainer playoff pick for everyone.  The Giants should win easily here even on the road.

– Bears over Seahawks: No Matt Hasselbeck, no chance for Seattle.  The Bears made a statement last week and should be able to do enough to get a road win here.  Expect a big game from Matt Forte.

– Lions over Redskins: UPSET ALERT.  The game will be blacked out in Detroit (more than 10,000 seats are still available), but I think the Redskins looked awful last week and only won because they were playing the much worse Rams.  This time, the Lions do just enough and finally remember what winning a game feels like.

– Packers over Rams: Speaking of the Rams, being at home isn’t going to help them much.  The Packers are fuming after losing one at home last week. Aaron Rodgers will have a field day here.  Start every Packer you have in fantasy this week.

– Vikings over 49ers: San Francisco is nice story at 2-0, but they aren’t going to get it done in the Metrodome.  Should be fun to watch with Frank Gore and Adrian Peterson, but in the end the Vikings defense is just stronger.

– Colts over Cardinals: This should be a very entertaining Sunday night game.  Kurt Warner proved last week he can still sling it, but in the end it is difficult to pick against Peyton Manning in a game like this.  The Colts have proven that it doesn’t matter who is hurt, and they will once again figure out how to pull out a squeaker.

– Cowboys over Panthers: Dallas gets another prime time showcase for the glitzy new stadium, this time on Monday night.  This time I think the Cowboys win in their new house.  The Jake Delhomme watch is still on in the Carolinas.

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Is the D Back in Denver?

Posted by mizzou1028 on September 21, 2009

Watch highlights of the Broncos-Browns game here.  (Content courtesy nfl.com)

20090921_010323_bronx I’ll preface the following remarks by saying that I am not booking a trip to Miami for the Super Bowl just yet.  I realize that fast starts don’t always mean season success.  The Broncos are 2-0 for the third straight year, which of course is much better than starting 0-2.  The caveat here is that the previous two seasons resulted in 7-9 and 8-8 finishes respectively with no sniff at the playoffs.  Last year’s collapse out of the division lead is still a very vivid memory, so everything is still being taken with a grain of salt.  Never mind the fact that the two victories so far have come against the two dreadful Ohio teams, the Bengals and the Browns (although I will point out the Bengals dropped 31 points on the Packers at Lambeau after the Broncos held them to just seven).  The Broncos may in any case be benefiting from their early schedule, but they are nevertheless 2-0.

Now good competition or not, the Broncos defense has been nothing short of outstanding the first two games.  They have allowed just 13 points in the two contests.  One of the biggest reasons is they are doing something they didn’t do last year: force turnovers.  Last year the Broncos were dead last in the NFL with a minus 17 turnover ratio.  Considering that stat it’s amazing they were even as good as 8-8.  This year through two games the Broncos rank second in the NFL at plus four.  Yesterday the Broncos cashed in two big fumble recoveries for an easy 10 points with a short field to work with.  The defense is being aggressive, actually getting pressure on the quarterback.  In game one they got Carson Palmer completely off his rhythm.   Yesterday the Broncos kept teeing off on Brady Quinn, getting four sacks alone from Elvis Dumervil, tying a franchise record dating back to 1990.  It’s too early yet to anoint this defense the second coming of the orange crush, but it seems very clear that this unit is much improved under defensive coordinator Mike Nolan.  The secondary in particular looks like night and day from last year.  Only Champ Bailey remains back there from last year, and the additions of Brian Dawkins, Andre Goodman, and the crop of rookies is making a huge difference.  The bottom line is if the defense keeps playing like they have the first two games, the offense may not need to score much to win.

Speaking of the offense, it sounds strange to say after a 21 point victory, but they left a lot on the table yesterday.  Start with two short field goals in the red zone on drives that could have been cashed in for touchdowns.  Add in two missed field goals, and there is a lot of room for this offense to score a lot more points.  Kyle Orton had another efficient day, even if his numbers were not spectacular.   If he keeps doing that the Broncos will be just fine, for they don’t need him to be flashy.  He did hook up with Brandon Stokley and Jabar Gaffney for two huge passing plays, so the potential for the big play is there even if his arm strength isn’t that of some other quarterbacks.  In the long run though the Broncos will need more from Brandon Marshall, who was very quiet for the second straight week (and on the sideline for much of the game), and Eddie Royal, who in the first two games has yet to put numbers resembling his outstanding rookie season.  The running game looked much better with Correll Buckhalter leading the way, and Knowshon Moreno looked better, even if he’s not quite 100 percent yet after suffering a preseason injury.

The rough stretch of the schedule is yet to come for the Broncos, but so far they can be pleased to be 2-0.  Some other quick thoughts:

– Congratulations to Shannon Sharpe, who was named to the Broncos Ring of Fame yesterday (I still can’t believe he parachuted into the stadium!!).  This honor is an obvious no brainer, as should his induction to the Hall of Fame in Canton.  I still think it’s ridiculous that he wasn’t inducted to the Hall in his first year of eligibility.

– It was good to see some actual crowd noise from the fans yesterday.   Invesco Field has resembled a library the past couple seasons at times, and it has still yet to resemble the old Mile High in any way.

– You can say what you will about the way Josh McDaniels handled the offseason, but right now he is 2-0 as a head coach, and that in the end is the only stat that counts for anything.

– I think the Browns might want to think about starting at Derek Anderson at quarterback soon if they want to salvage their season.  Brady Quinn looks lost and confused way more often than he should.

– The performance of the Broncos’ special teams is not to be overlooked in this game.  They completely shut down Josh Cribbs, arguably the best kick returner in football.

– I think the Broncos have another winnable game this week, as they are at the Oakland Raiders.  The Raiders look improved from last year as well, having won in Kansas City yesterday, but if the Broncos defense continues to play well they will have a good chance to win.  A 3-0 start would be impressive heading into the rigorous stretch of their schedule (Dallas, New England, at San Diego, at Baltimore, Pittsburgh).

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