No, not those Texans! The new ones! Though hopefully, both teams go with those jersey choices. I’ve got seven more questions about the Broncos upcoming game against the Texans for you to ponder. If you have to ask "Why seven?" maybe its best you just move along. It’s going to be tough for the Broncos to avoid a 1-2 start, as the Texans may be the AFC’s finest. Enough chit-chat; let’s get to pondering!
- Peyton isn’t really "Peyton," is he?
We all wondered how much of the 4-time MVP was left in that surgically repaired body, and the rosiest reports out of training camp were that Peyton hadn’t lost any zip on his fastball. During the Steelers game, NBC put a speed gun on Peyton for a sideline throw and showed he’d only lost two miles per hour. Only? That’s a big deal. The eyeball test alone will tell you that Peyton isn’t throwing bullets. Some of his spirals remind me of Tim Tebow.
I think a big key to the Broncos season is going to be how Peyton can either adjust to his new, diminished arm strength or grow it back. Some lizard DNA could help. I’m guessing a mental adjustment will yield the most success though, and Peyton will be able to make it. This week he’ll be facing a high-pressure 3-4 defense administered by our old buddy, Wade Phillips, meaning quick throws will be at a premium.
ProFootballFocus went in-depth to find out if Peyton’s struggles were mental or physical and came up with, "Both." Uh-oh.
- How good is Chris Harris?
We pondered this last week and got a clear answer. He’s important. Very important. A sprained ankle forced him out of action, Tony Carter into the nickel package and Tracey Porter into the slot. Porter manned the slot often with the Saints, but he didn’t hold up as well as Harris usually does. Miscommunication between Carter and Porter led to a Falcons touchdown and as I noted last week, Harris seems to be taking a leadership role in nickel alignments.
The Broncos desperately need Chris Harris to get healthy, only this week, it’s because they’ll miss him is run support. Tony Carter showed more promise than he had in any preseason action despite being called for a "phantom" pass interference call, but we need the real thing in the slot. Aside from Harris, the Broncos have been blessed with good health, but in my list of "Guys-I’d-Least-Like-To-See-Get-Hurt," Harris makes my Top 5. There’s just no replacement there.
- Ty Warren who?
I’ve had no complaints about the Broncos’ run defense, even after starting DT Ty Warren went down with yet another season ending triceps injury. Kevin Vickerson has resumed his starting role and had multiple key stops at the line of scrimmage. We’re also seeing Mitch Unrein in heavier rotation and after an impressive preseason, he gets my seal of approval.
The Texans are going to come right at these guys with Pro Bowl center Chris Myers. The Texans had the best offensive line in the league last year, and even though they lost some parts, this unit is going to be the best the Broncos have faced.
- Can we protect the Peyton against a nasty 3-4 (more of a 5-2, really)?
The Falcons confused Peyton by disguising coverages early on, but sent a fairly light amount of pressure (that still resulted in three sacks), relying on their stud DE John Abraham and DT Jonathan Babineux. It was effective enough when combined with the coverage.
The Texans are going to bring heavier pressure and disguise the pass rush. They can do this because they have talent everywhere in their front seven. They have so much talent, they let Mario Williams walk. It’s rare that the defensive ends in a 3-4 defense are as dangerous as the linebackers, but with Antonio Smith and J.J. Watt, the Texans pull it off.
The outside linebackers, Brooks Reed and Connor Barwin are equally dangerous and I’d look for Wade Phillips to try to get Barwin lined up against (and very quickly around) Orlando Franklin. That will give Watt the inside track when Peyton wants to step up. That’s where Peyton’s sacks tend to come from. Beware, Broncos fans. There will be holding penalties.
- Will Von Miller have a different dance for every sack?
I was saddened to see that the "Wobbly Leg Dance" from last week did not make a triumphant return. I was even sadder neither Von nor anyone else reached the quarterback until the 4th quarter. When he finally got to Matt Ryan, Von gave us a dance I’m going to call, "The Dirty Crawl Stroke," as it involved some indecent hip waggle and overhand windmills. Also, I’ve been informed that the "Wobbly Leg Dance" is better known as "The Funky Chicken."
- How bad do replacement refs suck?
My dad had a saying for whenever my Little League teams would complain about umpires: "Make it easy for them." It’s not bad advice. Swing at strikes and beat out throws and you’ll never have to complain. It might need to be tweaked to "Make it really easy for them," but I think the sentiment holds.
The replacement refs aren’t very good. They’re worse than the original refs, but the old refs made a ton of mistakes too. They just did it with more confidence. Personally, I’ve enjoyed the replacement thing because they’re calling less pass interference. Or at least, they were before Monday night. The call on Tony Carter was baffling. Nevertheless, I think that overzealous pass interference calls are slowly eroding the manliness of the NFL, and I’m enjoying the reprieve while it lasts.
- Can we bring back the "Monkey Riding a Dog" Halftime Show?
I know most people are into the "Pretty Blonde Lady Riding a Horse" routine, but I like this monkey. It’s actually a team of caninequestrian (?) simians under the direction of Jim "Wild Thang" Leopard and his Team Ghost Riders entertainment company. Leopard is a former rodeo roughneck and my favorite line from his biography is, "After nine major surgeries due to fighting bulls, I began to put together the dog and monkey act and concentrated on comedy." If only we could all be gored into such inspired creativity, the world would be a better place.