I have a lot on my mind right now, and I want to touch on each issue that is rumbling around in my head.
1) The loss of Bengals receiver Chris Henry
2) The great effort by Denver in their loss in Indianapolis
3) The beating we are about to administer to the Raiders, and...
4) What is in store for the Broncos, this year and next.
Let's start with the big news of the week, the death of Chris Henry. I don't know the circumstances surrounding the death of Chris. I know there was a domestic dispute, and Chris fell out of the rear of a moving pickup truck. But that's it. I'm not interested in who was at fault, and what led up to this tragedy. Here's what I do know:
Chris was a young father. There are young children whose lives are going to be impacted by this death, and that is more crucial than anything having to do with football. My prayers are with them.
Second (and not even on the scale of importance as the loss of a human life) is the question as to how the Bengals will choose to react to this tragedy. This week the Bengals play the Chargers. As we know, the Broncos would like to see the Chargers lose as many games as possible in the final three weeks. CIN is the biggest threat left for the Chargers (the other two games are at TEN and home against WAS). Will the Bengals take this death too hard to play four quarters of football, or will they play an inspired game?
I was against SD in this game, but now I'm for Cincy. I'm sure much of the football world will be, too. Let's keep Chris's children in our prayers.
Denver is a Very Good Team
What did I want and expect from Denver this year? A record of at least 8 wins, and improved play. Well, I've received what I wanted (and expected).
- Our defense is exciting to watch! Brian Dawkins is all over the field making big plays, Elvis Dumervil is looking like the sack leader of 2009, and Andre' Goodman and Renaldo Hill have held their own with Champ Bailey for for playing at an elite level. Robert Ayers and Darcel McBath look like they have secure futures with the team, and Andra Davis has silenced the naysayers that claimed he didn't belong on the same team as D.J. Williams. Denver has one of the best defenses in the League right now, and the hiring of Mike Nolan to run the defense was brilliant.
- When Josh McDaniels had to determine the best way to get something in return for Jay Cutler, his options were limited. He took Kyle Orton and a few draft picks. Right now, Orton is playing much better than Cutler (many of us would have said this was even the case before the trade), and that number one pick from Chicago is looking like a real gem right now. Orton isn't flashy, but he isn't giving the ball (and ballgames) away either.
- I don't like the fact that we "only" rank 12th in running the ball. Still, Knowshon Moreno is on track to go over 1,000 yards for the season (despite sharing the running load), and Correll Buckhalter averages 5.3 yards a carry. I'll take it.
It sucked losing to Indianapolis, didn't it? Well, not entirely. First of all (as our own John Bena points out), this isn't the same Broncos team of the last few years that would have been blown out. It was a tight game. Denver blew some chances in the red zone (including a missed FG, and an INT in the end zone), but the team also played for 60 minutes and did a lot of things right.
I read Ted Bartlett's excellent ST&NO article on Tuesday, and found myself nodding my head in agreement time and time again with his take on our Indy game. I'd like to copy and paste many of his thoughts here, but I'd have to use most of his article, so you might as well just click the link I provided and read the whole thing again because it is that good. Here are the highlights -
The Broncos outgained Indianapolis 357-312. They held the ball for 31:27, versus the Colts' 28:33. They won the turnover battle 3-1. The Broncos advanced into Colts territory on 8 of 12 possessions.
And now I'll just paraphrase some more thoughts from the story -
We proved that we can disrupt Manning. Andre' Goodman was brilliant. Darcel McBath may be lost to IR, but he had a heck of a game before going down to injury. In fact, he was awesome. Indy didn't have an answer for Brandon Marshall (more on this in a moment). Jabar Gaffney looked good. Robert Ayers and Elvis Dumervil looked great (despite a lack of sacks). Doom (despite a recent fanpost calling for a trade due to his lack of ability in run stopping) continues to handle run stopping and pass rushing duties like a pro.
And now about Brandon Marshall. The Broncos may be trying to sound "politicaly correct" when they say that they weren't trying to get the ball to Marshall over and over. Coach McDaniels says that Marshall happened to be open a lot, so that is where the ball went. I appreciate what the coach is saying, but he's reciting "coach speak" because he's too polite to state the cold, hard truth.
The truth is, Marshall was open some of the time, and some of the time he wasn't. But the bottom line is, nobody in the Colts secondary had even the smallest trace of ability to stop The Beast. Simply put, Marshall did a brilliant job of out-muscling, out-jumping, and outdistancing his opponents on nearly every play. The Tampa-2 remains a good defense, but it still takes mediocre cornerbacks and puts them into positions to make plays. When a good QB like Kyle Orton can dink and dunk underneath the coverage, a powerful man like Marshall can make the catches and run over lesser corners. Coach McDaniels has too much class to put it like that, but that's how it was. We kept going to the well because the well wasn't drying up, and the guys guarding the well just weren't that good.
We have beat great teams this year, and lost a close game to a probable Super Bowl contender. I feel great!
The Oakland Raiders
How bad have things gotten in Oakland? This bad (warning - strong language). When the editor of a fan blog goes this far over the top, we know that things have collapsed completely. The unfortunate linked story tells us everything we need to know about the Raiders organization. Most notably, that the fan base is disgusted with their own team.
Where to begin? Denver is saying all the right things in their press conferences (such as "Oakland is a better team than their record, and they're capable of big plays if we aren't careful"), but really, c'mon now.
As a coach, I am going to pump my team up as much as possible. Any team can beat any other team if one of those teams isn't playing at a high level. But here's the problem. This is a new Denver team, a team that plays with the "Brian Dawkins Work Ethic". We don't let up, and we play hard. The shenanigans (or Shanahanigans) of the last three or so years have ended. This team is pumped up and playing hard. I frankly can't see the Denver Broncos taking a team for granted anymore.
Here is what you need to know as we go into this game.
First, Oakland is a terrible team on offense. They are second-to-last in the following vital stats - points, yards, and pass yards. In fact, they only average 11.9 points per game. And while they rank 31st in those areas, they rank only 22nd in running the ball. Denver's defense matches up perfectly - 4th in preventing points, 3rd in preventing yards, 2nd in preventing the pass. Denver is 15th in stopping the run.
Things are so bad, that posters at S&BP are excited about the prospect of seeing their third string QB get the start!
On defense, things aren't much better. The Raiders are 26th in preventing points, 28th in stopping yards, and 30th in stopping the run. At least they are 17th in stopping the pass (which isn't saying much). Meanwhile, the Broncos are a better match on the offensive side of things, though the stats aren't great. Denver is 20th in points, 17th in yards, 18th in passing yards, and 12th in the rush. Still, Denver has a record-setting WR, a careful QB, and excellent RBs.
Do the Raiders have any hope at all? Of course they do. Everything (including home-field advantage) screams for a Broncos blowout over the Raiders, but it isn't a done deal.
First of all, the Raiders have players that anyone should respect. That the team doesn't play together as a team is their downfall. The Raiders have good running backs in depth, and any of them could break a good play with good blocking and poor defense by Denver. But with a 5-2 look and motivated play from Denver, I'm not sure this will be an issue.
One of the better players for Oakland is Nnamdi Asomugha, a young and very talented CB. He'll face Brandon Marshall. Even with excellent coverage, Orton has several other places to go with the ball (3 other excellent receivers, and two TEs).
Sadly, the best player on the Oakland team (in my opinion) is kicker Sebastian Janikowski. He has the power and accuracy to make just about any field goal, and the thin air in Denver only gives him better chances to score.
Denver's biggest weakness isn't players or coaches, it is injuries. Denver's primary running back is out for this game. RDE/OLB Elvis Dumervil didn't practice, and neither did SS Renaldo Hill.
So forgive me for the keys to this game sounding a bit, well, tongue in cheek. I'm being serious.
Keys to the Game
- Forget about this game. If you want to start winning games, the change needs to come from the top. Al Davis is unable to keep his claws out of the team's football operations. He has brought in a boxer instead of a head coach, a QB who needs Jenny Craig more than Kirstie Alley does, and forces the team to play a vertical offense approach that has been outdated for decades. Throw in the terrible player moves of late (such as the Javon Walker signing), and this team isn't going to win many games. Until Al Davis is removed, the Oakland Raiders are the
Detroit LionsOakland Raiders of the NFL.
- Pray that the Broncos take you for granted like Pittsburgh did.
- Run the ball, and pray to God that Denver makes mistakes.
- Take this game seriously. The only way that you lose this game is to play against the Raiders as if the Raiders are as bad as they are. Play your own brand of football, and play hard on every down. Everything else will work out.
- Limit mistakes. If you want to hand the game to Oakland, get some penalties and turnovers.
- Curb the excessive celebrations. I expect a lot of great plays on offense, defense, and special teams. If you take off your helmet (I won't mention any names) or do a choreographed dance, we can get penalized. (lol)
Where do we go from here?
With a newly built team that doesn't sleep on games, I expect wins against KC and OAK at home. The game that really intrigues me is the one against Philly. I have this game circled on my calendar as an excellent game against a good team. I also see it as a prelude to the playoffs. How we play against the Eagles in an away game will tell me a lot about our postseason chances. More on that game next week.
If the Broncos can win the last three games (I'd put the odds at about 50/50) and SD loses to CIN and drops a game in TEN, I really like where the Broncos could end up. On the other hand, if DEN loses to PHI and the Ravens win out (games against CHI, PIT, and OAK), we could drop from 5th seed to 6th seed. In the end, I think Denver gets the 5th seed, regardless of the PHI game. But winning that game (along with the must-win "easy" games of OAK and KC) may prove to be critical based on what SD and BAL do.
Here's a major thought - there are four teams ahead of Denver in the playoff seedings at this point, and Denver has beaten three of them (SD, CIN, and NE). We are good enough to go far this year. We also lost to two of those teams (SD and IND). I don't think we're likely to win or even make a SB appearance. In fact, it is hard to beat any team twice (the losing team has more film that benefits them), so I think a deep playoff run is difficult.
But I wanted improvement this year, and a playoff appearance is ahead of where I thought we would be. Coach McDaniels gets an A+ for his first year.
Last year, it would have been silly to talk about playoffs this early (remember the three game losing skid?), but a new coach and a new team attitude has me believing that we will make the playoffs this year. I'm not even concerned about how far we get after that. Denver has already exceeded my expectations, and everything now is icing on the cake.
And now, for a parting shot...
I want to thank the Colts fans who visited us last week. They were friendly, smart, and active. I congratulate them on their fine victory, and for having class at our site. Well, almost all of them.
I enjoyed the following comment under my story last week...
I didn't see the comment until today. Here was my answer some moments ago...
It is now clear which comment was most absurd. Funny, but it wasn't either of mine.