Well, another week in the books and I am once again left befuddled by our beloved Denver Broncos. There comes a time when you stick a well sharpened fork into a tender piece of meat and find that it is indeed NOT done.
That is what I discovered 3 short days after a 32-3 embarrassing home loss to the divisional rival San Diego Chargers. My fork was misplaced and hopefully will continue to be misplaced for the remainder of the season.
With just five games left, there is much to talk about - so let's get on with it!
New York Giants @ Denver Broncos
After nearly a perfect game against the floundering New York Giants, the nasty taste in my mouth left over from the Charger's game was washed away. I recall feeling apprehensive early in the game when the offense committed three procedure penalties in the red zone and ended with yet another field goal. I recall thinking, "Great here we go again!"
Thankfully, Josh McDaniels tore some new one's and the offense finally responded. I'm still worried about our red zone efficiency, two touchdowns and four field goals just isn't getting it done down there. This team needs to come out next week and dominate in a stadium where the Broncos have rarely dominated in December.
Overall, I was wholly pleased with our effort in all three phases of the game. The defense played inspired and I hope they can keep up that level of intensity for the final five games of the season.
Though I have removed the fork from the "not yet done" Denver Broncos, I need a few more performances like Thursday's to get me back in the saddle completely. Next week will be yet another huge test for our football team. A big win over Kansas City will got a long ways. Arrowhead Stadium in December is a House of Horrors for the Broncos over the last 40+ years.
You would have to be quite blind not to see that next week is no "gimmie". Just take a look at this graphic of our all-time W/L record at the Chiefs. My hope is that the Broncos defense will crush the Chiefs offense enough to keep the game close. I think we pull away in the fourth quarter for a respectable 20-10 win. Setting up the game of the year.
I am hoping that Indianapolis carries the streak for one more week. They will be 12-0. at home and facing the mounting pressures of the vaunted undefeated season. I think we match up well against them as it is, but I have no qualms looking for whatever edge there is and being undefeated puts undue pressure on a team. Even Peyton Manning can succumb to that kind of pressure. Besides, we badly need a few more conference wins. If Baltimore and Pittsburgh both surge late in the season, we're screwed if we lose even just one game.
Here is a touchy subject for many. Some think referees are above reproach, while others would love to have a few choice words with them that would end in a fist fight. Personally, I think refs are human and have all the same positive and negative attributes as the rest of us.
I'm also a Sacramento Kings fan and I know for a fact that refs are as capable of cheating for personal gain as anyone on the planet. I stopped caring about basketball after the 2002 Western Conference finals when the refs helped the Lakers win game 6, screwing Sacramento out of a chance of going to the NBA Finals. The ref admitted to it and the NBA denies it - I am no long an NBA fan. Plain and simple.
That said, the NFL needs to make absolutely sure there is no fixing going on in the game. Every questionable call needs to be scrutinized and the ref put on a watch list for any future questionable calls. Don't allow the game to be ruined by a few bad apples.
Now, I'm not saying that a certain referee who threw a flag on a phantom pass interference on a Houston Texan defender with the Texans up 20-7 over the Colts an example of cheating, but the NFL needs to ensure that the level of toleration for these kinds of mistakes needs to be very low.
The problem I am seeing is that the NFL goes out of its way to defend every single call made and to promote the fiction that referees are above reproach. That's a recipe for future disaster.
Ed Hochuli should have been put on a "watch list" last year after the blown call in the Charger-Bronco game as should the guy who called the PI in the Texan game. Those kinds of calls change momentum, change the course of the game and ultimately help determine the winner.
Football is all about momentum and it sickens me when momentum is given or taken by the drop of a yellow hankie - especially when the call is not even close to being right. Otherwise, the NFL might go the way of the NBA.
My Final 12
With five games to go in the regular season, here are my final 12. First up, the AFC:
1. Indianapolis Colts (14-2): The Colts drop one against the Broncos and another, but finish firmly in control of the top seed. The road to the Super Bowl will go through Manning.
2. New England Patriots(12-4): Early on, the MSM counted them out. I never did, the Patriots are the only true dynasty of this decade and have proved it again this year.
3. Cincinnati Bengals (11-5): So this is how this team plays. Two mediocre years in between great ones. I don't think they will get past the Divisional Round however.
4. San Diego Chargers (11-5): I hate predicting this.
5. Denver Broncos (11-5): A critical win over the Colts helped propel us to tie the Chargers, somehow we lose the tiebreaker with Ba Dolts.
6. Pittsburgh Steelers(10-6): The Steelers surge to secure the final playoff spot and figure to be a major factor in the hunt for the Super Bowl.
Now the NFC:
1. Minnesota Vikings(14-2): I hate this, but I don't see the Vikings stumbling more than once more down the stretch. The Vikings always find a way to choke in the playoffs though, as does Favre!
2. New Orleans Saints (13-3): I believe the Saints will reach the Super Bowl this year, but they will have a 1997-Bronco-like stumble in the final five games this year. Starting with the New England Patriots.
3. Dallas Cowboys(12-4): Apparently, losing to the Broncos was just what the doctor ordered for this team. Only one loss since that Week 4 matchup.
4. Arizona Cardinals (10-6): All these guys need to do is get hot in the playoffs.
5. Green Bay Packers(11-5): How sweet would it be for the Packers to beat Favre on their way to the NFC Championship game?
6. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6): The Eagles have the best down the field offense in the league this year, although, too much reliance on that could cost them in the playoffs.