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Ultimate Fan Guide: Broncos need to pull out all the stops

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Broncos got a nice little gift from the Raiders on Thursday night when the Chiefs took a surprising loss, giving Denver a nice open lane to take the unopposed lead in the AFC West. How will this Broncos team respond after a two-game losing streak on the road? Our Ultimate Fan RebelChris thinks they'll bounce back, but he's got some advice for his favorite team - Do. Not. Hold. Back.

Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

After a tough week around MHR, RebelChris is ready to get us back on track and rooting for our beloved Broncos.

Yes, we're going to have to talk a little about that Rams game (ugh!) but last week's ultimate fan - PearlJamBroncosGaryFunk - has a bit of a pep talk for us:

The one thing I can say is that I hope I don't ever predict a shutout again!

I'm pretty over the brutality of the reality of what happened last Sunday. I perpetually find it hilarious that so many fans predict that it's all over for us after a loss like that. Hilarious, and at the same time a torment, because it'd be nice to set 'em straight.

I really dig the opinions that lay out specific problems and what the players/coaches can do to improve on them, but I don't dig the "season's over," blunt negativity. Aren't we fans of a team for enjoyment? I guess it is true that we're all built differently and some people may get off on being negative/sad or trying to bring others down with them. I know that sometimes it's just easier to think/talk about the negative things, and it's harder to focus on/talk about the positives when one's mindset is negative from something bad happening (i.e., that loss)

I really can't wait to see what this team looks like this weekend and next against the Chiefs to give me a more firm idea of the kind of grit we've (still) got. Thanks again for letting me contribute more to this awesome place! I've had so many (virtual) good times "here." And it's due to all of our awesome residents/friends/family who continue to contribute and support this place and each other.

16-3 until we're not! Go Broncos!!!

On to 16-3! So now it' time to be honest about our chances against a very tough Dolphins team, but cheer up Broncos Country, RebelChris is vacuuming the carpet, dusting off the DT jersey and grabbing his rally cap via a nutcracker (read on for translation), so this game will be a 'W' before we know it.

*Note: if you ever go to a game with RebelChris, be careful during high fives after big scores. You may end up getting punched in the nose!

MHR - The Rams game was awful and no one really wants to relive it, but what are the main weaknesses you noticed from that game that are easily fixable?

RebelChris: Grrrr.... You're really going to make me go there, aren't you? I'm still not sure I'm 100 percent over that game. Frustrating to say the least. I've seen so many things bandied about as to what happened during that game that I'm not sure any of us has a solid answer.

If I'm coaching the team this week, I'm pulling out all the stops to get this offense to toughen up. I'm playing dirty on defense, I'm telling my defense to mug receivers at the LOS, I'm blowing whistle after whistle to put them behind the down and make them figure it out.   -RebelChris

In my humble opinion, I think the biggest takeaway from that game is the offense is way too finesse for its own good. Jam the receivers at the line, have decent safety play to help disguise zone vs. man, and the Broncos' offense just falls to pieces. It was an almost exact copy of the Super Bowl, and it was apparent nothing has changed since.

If I'm coaching this team this week, I am pulling out all the stops to get this offense to toughen up. I'm playing dirty on defense, I'm telling my defense to mug wide receivers at the line of scrimmage (heck, even throw them down), I'm calling holding calls left, right and center (phantom or otherwise), I'm blowing whistle after whistle to put them behind the down and distance and make them figure it out.

I'd force crappy field position on our guys, make them play from the 15, 10, 6-yard lines. Then I'll make them take a few series' off, stand in the cold and come out and do it again.

They have got to figure it out mentally, and the physical stuff will follow. But they can't get past it until they practice for it.

MHR - Prior to the Rams game, there was a lot of talk about starting games fast rather than waiting until the second quarter (or later) to get in rhythm. But that definitely didn't happen against the Rams. What has to happen for this team to start well and get ahead rather than play catch up?

RebelChris: That's a great question, and one that I've been pondering too. Every week during one of the broadcasts you hear one of the announcers talk about "drive starter plays."

I haven't seen too many of those from Denver this year. It's usually been a few runs to get to third and manageable, then pray we convert. I think they need to look for chunk-type yardage - swing passes to the flat, maybe a screen play or two, along with some running plays for balance (because you need to sustain that attack throughout the game).

Just easy dink and dunk-type stuff to just get the offense a couple of first downs. Work up a good sweat, get the jitters out and then start with all of Manning's line gyrations. I think seeing something like that would be a positive step into getting this team its identity back.

MHR - Richie Incognito could still become a Bronco. Did the Rams game make his best case for him coming to Denver?

RebelChris: Ugh, you know?

I don't know. Personally, I'd rather see Denver promote from within. You've got Ben Garland that I'm sure is just chomping at the bit to get a shot. You drafted Schofield early enough in the draft that I think he deserves a shot as well. I think before you even look to bringing in outside help, at this stage in the season, you owe it to your team to either:

  • reshuffle the line back to the beginning (Ryan CladyOrlando Franklin, Manny Ramirez, Louis Vasquez,Chris Clark), or
  • promote from within and give one of your up-and-comers a shot (Clady, Ben Garland, Manny, Vasquez, Michael Schofield/Clark).

I think it would do this team wonders both in the locker room and in the fans' eyes to see them stick to their guys instead of jamming down on the panic button for an Incognito or someone else.

MHR - Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman are out for several weeks. Do you believe C.J. Anderson, Juwan Thompson and even Kapri Bibbs can handle the running game for the Broncos in their absence?

RebelChris: I do...wholeheartedly! They just need to be given a chance. And the coaches/Manning need to have the patience and forethought to know that a running game takes time during a game. It's like a cold - you need to feed it before it gets better. It's OK to have two- and three-yard gains, as long as you stick with it. In the third and fourth quarters, those three-yard gains suddenly become eight- and 10-yarders. But you have to keep feeding the rock.

One thing that has stood out with me with these younger guys this year (Bibbs, Thompson, Anderson, Schofield, Paul CornickCody Latimer, Brandon McManus) is that there doesn't seem to be any of the vets rallying around them, pumping them up and letting them know the team is behind them (at least from the outside looking in).

Especially on offense. Remember when Clady went down and they turned to Clark last year? Manning sent out that text to him and instilled the confidence in him that he was supported. They rallied behind Clark and let him know the team was there for him.

I'm not saying that's not happening this year, but it sure appears to me that it's not going on, at least from the outside looking in. It seems these younger guys are being kept at arms length and not feeling trusted enough from their teammates if/when they are called upon.

MHR - How much do you think the injuries to Emmanuel Sanders and Julius Thomas impacted the Broncos' rhythm on Sunday? If they are both ruled out for this weekend's game - which is likely - how will the Broncos/Peyton Manning do without two of the top targets? And is this the time to see Cody Latimer on the field in earnest?

RebelChris: Personally, I think the injury to Sanders was bigger than Julius. Ever since Virgil Green went down, Julius has been quiet. In fact, to me, the bigger injury on the team has been the one to Green. Ever since he went down, this team hasn't quite been the same on offense. I think it is similar to how DT was playing out of position while Welker was out.

The bigger worry to me is going to be if both Thomas and Green are out for the game against Miami. And if Denver is to bring anyone in from the outside this week, I would look for it to be a TE to help mitigate the loss of Green.

It is beyond time to see what Latimer can do. Heck, he can't be any worse than Welker and Caldwell. Plus he was tough as nails in preseason.   -RebelChris

And yes, it's beyond time to see what Latimer can do. Heck he can't be any worse than Welker and Caldwell at this point, can he? Plus he was tough as nails during the preseason, and I think this offense needs that right now.

MHR - The Miami defense is no joke, and the Broncos O-line is becoming one. How do the Broncos handle the Dolphins' front 7 effectively?

RebelChris: I would like to see a similar type game/preparation to what they did versus Arizona. The most interesting part of that game to me was the use of the RB up really close to the LOS to stop the "A Gap Blitz".

I see Miami having a similar line to the Cardinals and I think that similar game plan would help a lot. I also really liked what Buffalo did to them in that Thursday night game. Chip, chip, chip and when you think you can't chip anymore, you chip their DE's again! Oh, and chip one more time for good measure.

That seemed to work wonders against Cameron Wake. Especially since he tries to use his speed to his advantage.

But again, I think the short game (screens, RB in the flat, runs up the gut) will help neutralize their pass rush. Oh and another thing.... Put the G.D. pedal to the metal on offense. I haven't seen our lightening hurry up in awhile. I think this is the perfect game to bring that back to the fold. Let's torch them and make them suck some mile high air. Come on Manning, go faster!

MHR - Does the kicking game concern you, and how do we rectify it at this point in the season?

RebelChris:: Yes, our kicking game concerns me a great deal. I think the team is very much showing a lack of confidence in Brandon McManus, which is really too bad. He seems like he could work out to be a great kicker in the future, but I don't think that is with Denver. At least not currently.

My personal belief is it is time to look for outside help in that department. When you cannot even attempt a kick from 50 yards out (which is pretty S.O.P. in today's NFL), in a dome, then that spells issues to this fan. There has got to be a kicker in street clothes that can come in and help in that department. And in Denver, with the altitude and everything else, 50-yard kicks shouldn't be too big of an issue.

I also think it's time to look for a new punter this off-season. Our punting game has been awful for a few years. There are far too many excellent punters on other teams, that are switching field position consistently (especially against Denver) for us to be settling for same-ol, same-ol from Colquitt. Especially for the money he's bringing in.

MHR - According to PFF grades, the Broncos offense (9.6) is far better than the Dolphins (-48.3), but the Miami defense comes in at 101.6 (No. 1) compared to the Broncos' 78.1 (which is No. 2). Do you think it's going to come down to our defense needing to overpower the Dolphins' offense enough to make up for the struggles our offense may have?

RebelChris: I think at home, and after last week, this game comes down solely on the offense. Don't get me wrong, the defense shares much of the blame for last week. But when you can hold a team to five field goals after your offense is crapping the bed, I think the defense is doing pretty well. Sure they need to tighten some stuff up here and there, but overall I think this game rests on the offense's shoulders.

I think after last week, the Super Bowl and the New England game, you are going to be facing defenses just salivating at the chance to do similar things to the Broncos on offense.

This offense needs to come out on fire like a seven-headed dragon just looking for a village to burn down. And let's be honest, with the blueprint they've laid down for everyone (to beat us), the road ain't getting any easier.   -Rebel Chris

Everyone has been trying to figure out Manning for years, and we have now provided the league the exact blueprint for how to do that. This offense needs to come out on fire like a seven-headed dragon just looking for a village to burn down. I think that will instill the confidence back in both the fans and players at this point. Because let's be honest, with the blueprint they've laid down for everyone, the road certainly ain't going to be getting any easier.

MHR - Miami is 2nd in the AFC East behind the Patriots who sit comfortably at the top, but the Dolphins are very much in the playoff hunt and need to keep their win streak going. The Broncos have their backs against the wall as they are tied with the Chiefs. How do you expect this game to go as these teams both have something big to play for?

RebelChris: In my orange and blue colored heart I want so badly to just predict an absolute curb-stomping by the Broncos. Especially since their backs are against a wall. But after witnessing last week, and being as frustrated as I am, I am looking for just some improvement.

There are enough vets on this team that I want to see them take this team on their shoulders and rise to the occasion. My heart tells me that they will come out ready to eat some sushi (sorry, pitiful Dolphin reference) but my head tells me to not be shocked at another slow start only to see them gain some momentum as the game goes on.

MHR - The Broncos defense held the Rams to mostly field goals last week but didn't appear to dominate the relatively week offense as expected. Then Chris Harris Jr. mentioned that the defense needed to come up with more big plays. How do you think the defense will respond this week to what should be a weaker offense than the Broncos face in practice?

RebelChris: I think (hope) we'll see a similar game to what the defense did against the 49ers. They are at home, coming off a three-game road trip where they played some ugly ball. I'm looking for them to make a statement to the home crowd. I think they can get into Tannehill's head, but they need to come out firing. I'm slightly worried about Miami's running game, but I think the defense can overmatch that by playing their brand of defense.

The Dolphins have had an OL shuffle as well by moving Mike Pouncey to guard this year after his backup played so admirably during his injury. So they need to figure out that line because they played pretty well against the Bills. It appears to me the weak spot on their line is the right tackle.

I would love to see some Von Miller/DeMarcus Ware change ups to exploit that matchup with Malik Jackson, Pot Roast and Derek Wolfe crashing down from the middle. I really want to see some exotic looks this week to create mismatches and pressure situations on Tannehill. I think he can get rattled pretty easily, and the defense needs to exploit that.

MHR - Is this game a do-or-die kind of win for the Broncos? Do I dare even ask what would happen if the team were to lose this one?

RebelChris: At this point, I think the rest of the schedule is almost do or die. Mostly because it's all AFC teams remaining and two road games against divisional opponents.

If the Broncos were to drop this game (especially in similar fashion to the Rams game), then the Chiefs are going to be smelling blood like a rabid pack of angry sharks. And I'm not sure we want to give them that kind of shot in the arm coming off their 10-day rest and going into Arrowhead.

If Denver can't get up for a Miami team that is trying to stake its claim in the AFC East, at home, after a tough road trip, then I would be very worried about the state of this team moving forward.

Predictions:

  • Full stat line for Peyton Manning? 22/30 305 yards 2 TDs 1 INT
  • Number of yards total by the Broncos running backs? 150yards
  • Which wide receiver will have the most yards? It really depends on who suits up, but I wouldn't be shocked to see Jacob Tamme get an increased role in this game. I'd like to see Demaryius Thomas get another 100-yarder, but if Sanders is out, then I'm not sure if that will happen.
  • Number of sacks on Ryan Tannehill? 2 sacks with 7 hurries/pressures
  • Number of sacks on Manning? 1 sack. I think the OL bounces back but still has one fubar with a blitzing LB in the middle.
  • Broncos player with the most tackles? Steven Johnson followed by a tie with Brandon Marshall and Wolfe.
  • Broncos player with the most INTs? I think it'll be a tie with Chris Harris Jr. and Bradley Roby each getting 1.
  • Number of penalties/yards on the Broncos? 10 for 150
  • Final Score? 28-10 Denver

The Favorites

Favorite team to watch the Broncos play?

Hands down, it's the Raiders. Anytime we can put a whooping on them I am a happy camper. I do wish the games were a bit more competitive now, I long for the days when the AFC West was the power house and a 10-6 or 9-7 team was the one to come out on top of the West. It seems like we are getting back to that point, which is definitely fun. However, if the Raiders move to San Antonio, it will be a travesty.

Team you most hate for the Broncos to lose to?

Raiders. As much as it is to whoop up on them, nothing boils the blood more than losing to them. I can't stand that team. Bitter, bitter rival as far as I can remember. Losing to them is just pouring salt on a wound. A close second would be the Chiefs, because they are the Chiefs.

Favorite Broncos player on the current roster?

Demaryius Thomas. I absolutely love the guy. His jersey is the second jersey I've ever owned (Atwater was the first). And I had to buy my little girl (she just turned one) a matching DT jersey to wear with daddy during game days.

Favorite Broncos player of all time?

I'd have to go with Steve Atwater. But a close second would be Karl Mecklenburg.

Atwater was just a classic Broncos player. I will never forfet the buildup to the Broncos-Chiefs game when they had Christian Okoye. Atwater laid such a hit on him. He had the entire state of Colorado and Broncos Coutnry behind me. Just beautiful stuff.  -RebelChris

Back in the day when the Broncos had training camp in Greeley, we would go down for at least one day. My sister was just a baby during one of those trips. During a period when the D was taking a breather, Meck spotted my sister toddling along the sidelines. He waved at her and she waved back. It was probably the coolest thing to witness as an 11-year-old boy. And ever since then I've been a huge fan of his.

But Atwater was just a classic Broncos player. I will never forget the build up to the Broncos/Chiefs game when they had Christian Okoye. Talk, talk, talk, talk is all we heard about how Okoye was going to run rough shod on the Denver D.

Then when the game finally came, they handed the ball up the middle to Okoye and Atwater laid such a hit on him that I don't think he was the same back afterward. It was a statement and Atwater had the entire state of Colorado and all of Broncos Country behind him during that hit. Just beautiful stuff.

Favorite thing to eat during a game?

Honestly, I'm so busy (nervous) watching the game that I can hardly think about food. So I'm usually just sitting there watching the game with a cup of water. Lame, I know, but that's been my tradition for years now.

Favorite Game-Day ritual?

Oh man... I was dreading this question. I'm such a superstitious person, that I'm almost embarrassed to say what the ritual is. I've been trying like heck to let it all go but there's something deep down inside of me that just can't get past my superstitious ways. But the biggest one right now is making sure the carpet is vacuumed a certain way. Dang it... I let it out. Yes... I'll go hide in shame now.

*Editor's Note: Do not hide. That is the best ever ritual I've ever heard [goes to get vacuum right away].

What is your favorite Game-Day attire?

Jeans (or shorts, depending on weather), blue tshirt under my DT jersey. I wear it every game, only during the game. I only wash the jersey after the season is over. Did I mention I'm a superstitious person?

Most embarrassing-to-admit superstitious behavior regarding Broncos on Game Day?

I don't know if this is necessarily as embarrassing as making sure the carpet is vacuumed a certain way. But during the run up to the first Super Bowl win, my family was getting ready for our annual holiday celebrations. My mom was getting an appetizer tray of nuts together and had a brand new, white plastic nutcracker.

Anyway, somehow, I ended up grabbing that nutcracker during the game and would squeeze it, and play with it during the games... and we kept on winning. The worst part is that the "rally cap" location during the season was I had to be on the stairs, watching the game with trusty nutcracker in hand. I used that nutcracker the rest of the season, all the way to the Super Bowl victory. My mom still has that nutcracker somewhere... might be time to break it out again.

Best Broncos game ever played?

This is such a toss up for me. There are so many memorable games, that I'm not sure I can pick one? So here's a couple: We had season tickets during the Super Bowl years, only giving them up when my dad got sick shortly after Invesco was built. Our seats were in the North Endzone, 28 rows up, right behind the goal posts. One of the most memorable games was the Monday night shellacking the Broncos put on the Raiders in 97 (31-3), my voice was gone for about a week after that game. Another one would have to be the Revenge game against the Jaguars in the 97 playoffs.

But two more stick in my mind for various reasons. One was the playoff game against New England where Champ intercepted Brady in the end zone and ran it back to the 1-yard line. My mom bought my dad and I tickets to that game for Christmas. However, the most interesting part of that game was the fact that she bought us Club Level seats by mistake. That game was sweet to begin with, but Club Level seats was just the icing on the cake.

steelers - ufg

And last but not least would be the OT victory against the Steelers a few years ago. My neighbor came over and offered us his two extra tickets to the game. Without hesitation my wife and I jumped at the chance to go. During the celebration after DT's catch and touchdown in overtime, I reached over to give my neighbor a high five and accidentally punched my wife in the nose. I didn't know it at the time and when I saw her crying, I thought she was crying for joy! But as it turns out, it was because I tried to give her a shiner. Awww... the things we do for love, right?

Who makes your Hall of Fame Broncos team?

QB: John Elway

RB: Terrell Davis, Floyd Little and Mike Anderson

OL: Clady, Zimmerman, Chris Kuper, Mark Schlereth , Tom Nalen (they can all fight it out for positioning  because this is the five best)

WR: DT, McCaffery, Rod Smith, Haven Moses

TE: Shannon Sharpe

DL: Neil Smith, Paul Smith, Alfred Williams, Trevor Pryce

LB: Von Miller, Karl Mecklenburg, John Mobley, Tom Jackson

DB: Atwater, Champ Bailey, Dennis Smith, Louis Wright

PK: Jason Elam (although Rich Karlis gets a close second)

P: Tom Rouen