Welcome to the Bye Week, Broncos fans - glory, glory hallelujah! The Broncos are 7-3, knocking on the door to the Raiders and Chiefs who currently sit atop the AFC West at 7-2 (though Week 11 could change that, so get your anti-Raiders, anti-Chiefs cheers ready - or if you’re like me, your Raiders and Chiefs voodoo dolls).
It’s been an up-and-down season in many ways, though mostly up as this very young offense and deep defense have drowned out any sort of "Super Bowl hangover" at Mile High. But the remaining six games will be crucial for working out some big kinks in the offensive line, running game and quarterback play.
So while you are lamenting no Broncos on TV today (and are simultaneously cheering for Jameis Winston and Brock Osweiler - yes, Brock! - to have big days), you can get pumped for the last six weeks of the season with some enlightening - and always entertaining - insights from our Ultimate Fans, Whorfin and T.Kothe.
It doesn’t get better than this on a bye week, folks!
Week 11: BYE WEEK
MHR – Whew. Broncos have had some crazy, crazy wins in their time. But have you ever watched them win a game like last Sunday? Share your reaction to that awesome ending and compare it to any other win you remember!
Whorfin: Mile High Magic is alive and well, even in the Bayou. I was calculating the odds of getting back into field goal range in a minute and a half and not happy with the result. On the other hand, I was looking forward to McMoney setting a new NFL record and bringing that home to the Broncos where it belongs. The only other comparison is the Overtime win against the Steelers for a surprise finish. Or Earnest Byner coughing up the ball on his way to score the tying touchdown in the 1987 AFC Championship Game. Or Rod Smith’s 43-yard TD reception to beat the Washington Redskins in 1995. Or C.J. Anderson’s 48-yard romp to the end zone in overtime to start the heretofore undefeated P*tsies’ two-game losing streak last year. Come to think about it, shocking finishes aren’t all that rare for the Broncos.
T.Kothe: Honestly, I was absolutely floored by that play. Like most people I figured the PAT was a foregone conclusion and was worrying about whether or not we could get into field goal range in the time remaining. I try to be an optimist during Broncos games, and we’ve seen Siemian make some big last-second throws before. With DT and Sanders out there and up against a really bad Saints secondary, there was no ruling the possibility out. Fortunately, we never had to find out! As for comparing this win to any other, I think there’s a natural comparison in recent Broncos history that was just as big, just as exciting, and just as unexpected. We’re talking 2011 Steelers playoff game in overtime, Tebow to DT for 80 yards and the win! This victory is right up there with that miracle.
MHR – Let’s assess the various offensive units to talk about what is working, what isn't and how to fix it.
Quarterback (T.Kothe): Can I talk about how to achieve world peace instead? Or maybe how to reconcile the Republicans and Democrats? No? Well, OK.
My overall impression of Trevor Siemian is that he’s serviceable. He hasn’t been great, nor has he been terrible. There are some significant issues he needs to work on, and there are some things he’s been doing pretty well. I don’t think it would be fair to say that he’s holding our offense back, at least not without at least equal blame going to the offensive line and lack of a running game. But it would probably be fair to say that he isn’t elevating our offense. He doesn’t deserve to lose his job, especially given his youth and the learning curve, but he certainly shouldn’t feel comfortable either. As for Paxton Lynch, I want to see him…when he’s ready. If that’s soon, cool. If it isn’t until next season, cool. He’ll have his own struggles regardless of the timing, but the one thing I don’t want to see is him on the field before he’s ready.
I know I didn’t really get into Xs and Os here, but frankly that’s been done so many times by more qualified people that I’ll avoid rehashing it. Lots of things aren’t working at this position at the moment, at least compared to what we got used to with Peyton. The new day hasn’t been overly exciting, but it’s still early.
Running backs/Fullback (Whorfin): We’re feeling the loss of C.J. to IR. Anderson and Devontae Booker seemed a great tandem; the competition between the two were paying great dividends. But as much as sportscasters were saying that C.J. performed better with Booker on his heels, it’s looking like Booker also needs competition from C.J. As for The JanoBeast, "Romeo, Romeo, where for art thou, Romeo?" He’s just not getting the snap counts he needs to really affect the running game, and I can’t figure out why Kubes isn’t using him more. Even with a broken hand, he contributes to the passing game, for cripessakes. "Put [him] in Coach, he’s ready to play!" Oh, and Hey, Booker – always, always, ALWAYS follow the JanoBeast through the line! Don’t think, just do it.
Wide Receivers (T. Kothe): If there’s an offensive skill position to be jazzed about, it’s our wide receivers. Emmanuel Sanders is his usual relentless, passionate self this season, and DT has been playing with some fire lately too. And it was almost inevitable that Sunshine’s first TD reception would be crazy and athletic.
Tight ends (Whorfin): This position group is a work in progress, but I’d like to see less work and more progress. Especially in the redzone. I still have high hopes for VG to contribute to his potential, but we need the QB to give him more looks.
O-Line (we need both on this one!)
Whorfin: I’m philosophical on this one. With the salary cap, there’s only so much change a team can manage season to season. When TYJE came in, he got us a record setting offense. Then he went and got us a record setting defense. I have a strong expectation that a road grading offensive line is next on his shopping list.
T.Kothe: This is definitely an interesting position group. I’ve got high hopes for the present and future of our offensive line, but the tackles are being major killjoys in the present. Why can we never find a good Right Tackle? I feel like that position alone has caused the Broncos more grief than and three other positions combined over the last three or four years. Paradis should be a Pro Bowler, perhaps even an All Pro, this season. And I feel like Max Garcia may be Pro Bowl worthy in the next year or two.
MHR – On defense, we’ve seen some weaknesses this year but also some added strengths (or at least great future potential). What do you think is the strongest part of our defense?
Whorfin: Wade Phillips, hands down. TYJE went and got him some of the best toys to play with, but nobody puts that unit to better use than the Son of Bum. What is the weakest and where should Wade Phillips concentrate his efforts this week during some down time?
T.Kothe: The secondary is easily the strongest part of our defense. It’s just ridiculous compared to what some other NFL teams trot out onto the field.
MHR – How much of an impact will having Derek Wolfe and Aqib Talib back in the starting line-up help the defense going into the final six-game stretch?
Whorfin: Night and day. I don’t think much could have been done against Oakland’s "15 guys on the line of scrimmage" run formations, but I see a serious upgrade to our run defense when Wolfe gets back. Wolfe being out has allowed Crick, Gotsis, Winn, and Williams some good snaps to develop their skills. With Wolfe back, I think the D-Line will be stronger than before he went down. Without Talib, we’ve had the Not-Very-Often-Fly-Zone, he’s a serious contributor and we missed him. I see our rematch with the faiders will be completely different with him back, and the griefs will regret not playing us during this period.
T.Kothe: It’s huge. It lets our secondary run on all cylinders while also letting them get more rest than they do otherwise, both of which result in lockdown 4th quarter defense. It’s been nice to see Crick step up a bit without Wolfe, but honestly getting Wolfe back and keeping him might be the difference in making the playoffs or missing them over this final stretch. And once we’re there it could be the difference between going one and done or winning in January.
MHR – Kubiak has called the last six games "playoffs," and he’s right. Looking ahead, which games are the most critical for the Broncos to win, and which ones do you think will be the toughest?
Whorfin: 10-0, Baby!! Coming off the bye to face the griefs will set the tone for the balance of the season. When we handily dispatch them in Mile High, I think we’ll be on a roll. The P*tsies will be a challenge, of course, but we’ve seen how they
choke perform at altitude.
T.Kothe: They’re all pretty much critical at this point. We’ve absolutely got to at least split all our division matchups. I’d prefer to see us sweep the Chiefs if at all possible. And then the Patriots and Titans games are really important for seeding tiebreakers. Chiefs at Arrowhead and Pats and home will be the toughest. Jacksonville will be the easiest by far.
MHR – The quarterback. I don’t actually have a question here. Just write anything you want to say to MHR, the staff, the coaches… about the QB scenario in Denver.
Whorfin: RELAX!! We have two great quarterbacks-in-training. Take the long view, people, even TYJE was considered a "bust" by some half way through his first season, and he sure wasn’t 7-2 as a starter.
T.Kothe: I’m in a patient mood regarding the QBs. I’d like to see Siemian do well. If he doesn’t, I’d like to see Lynch at some point. But only if Lynch is ready.
MHR – Pro Bowl selections are starting. Give me your top 7 players on this team who deserve a Pro Bowl nod.
Whorfin: Von, just because we pay him so darned much and I don’t want the "couldn’t-even-make-the-Pro-Bowl" trolling we’d suffer. After that, CHJr, Aqib, and Roby have been doing well. On offense, Paradis needs recognition, I’d like to see He-man get the nod and for DT to play well enough to be considered. But, most of all, The JanoBeast, just cuz. Is that seven? You assured me there would be no math.
T.Kothe: Von Miller, Aqib Talib, Chris Harris, Jr., Darian Stewart, Emmanuel Sanders, Kayvon Webster, Matt Paradis and Derek Wolfe. You really can’t get this list below eight.
MHR - With just six games left, tell us your overall opinion of the team. Is this where you expected to be (7-3) in a post-Super Bowl win year?
Whorfin: I think we’re doing extremely well relative to all the other Super Bowl teams from last year. Considering the normal post-championship FA poaching, retirement(s), other roster changes, injuries, and new scheme installation I think we’re doing extremely well. I am a little dismayed at how competitive the division has become, but even the faiders couldn’t suck forever, otherwise they’d be called "The Browns." In the AFC, we’re a half game off the pace, (which is a three-way tie); so the No 1 seed is certainly within reach. By comparison, the glitter kitties are doing their best to dive to the bottom, but can’t even seem to succeed at doing that.
T.Kothe: We’re right about where I thought we’d be record-wise, though the mix of losses surprised me a bit. I think this is definitely a playoff team, even a team that’ll win a playoff game or two. I’m not sure it’s a Super Bowl team, though.
Predictions – T.Kothe:
How many more articles complaining about the QB will be on at MHR? ;) There’s no telling. It depends heavily on the week-to-week outcomes.
How many yards will Sanders and Thomas each finish with at the end of the season? I’ll say DT finishes at just over 1,100 yards and Sanders racks up just over 1,000.
Which game do you predict Andy Janovich is the breakout star? Honestly, none. I believe in the legend of the Manovich as much as anyone, but I think there are just too many other good weapons available and too much need of him as a blocker for a true breakout game to happen.
When will a ref actually call a hold against Von Miller? Probably only if the tackle manages to choke Von out.
When will Terrell Davis get into the Hall of Fame? It better be this year. But it should have been several years ago. I’ll say sometime this decade.
In how many Broncos games will Whorfin actually wear pants? "Whorfin"
Which will come first – a zombie attack or good protection from the O-line? Good protection. We actually have three or four out of five pieces necessary. We’ve just got to find a right tackle and then get them all working together consistently well.
Which team wins the AFC West? I’ll take the Broncos. We have a lot of tough games coming up, but the home vs away schedule is favorable. As the AFCW starts beating itself up, I think we’ll rise to the top.
How many times will the Broncos collectively sack the quarterbacks in the remaining six regular season games? I’ll go with 22 sacks. It’s a high bar to set, but these are basically playoff games. It’s time to start bringing it like we did all throughout this past January.
Predictions – Whorfin:
How many more articles complaining about the QB will be on at MHR? ;) Hmmmm…Stars in the sky…no….grains of sand….no….oh, rats, where’s Carl Sagan when you really need him?
How many yards will Sanders and Thomas each finish with at the end of the season? About a thousand each.
Which game do you predict Andy Janovich is the breakout star? The one the coaches finally put him to good use.
When will a ref actually call a hold against Von Miller? Not in my lifetime, considering they’re not calling facemask penalties, either.
When will Terrell Davis get into the Hall of Fame? Not in my lifetime, either. Which is fine with me. He’s ours, and they can’t have him.
In how many Broncos games will Whorfin actually wear pants? Not in my lifetime, either.
Which will come first – a zombie attack or good protection from the O-line? My storeroom says "Zombie Apocalypse, Baby!!"
Which team wins the AFC West? Is this a trick question?
How many times will the Broncos collectively sack the quarterbacks in the remaining six regular season games? I’d say "Lots and lots," but we do have two games against Capt. Checkdown, so I’ll say, "Lots."
The Favorites – T.Kothe:
Favorite win you’ve watched the Broncos accomplish? Super Bowl 32
Favorite non-Super Bowl game you’ve watched? Last year’s AFCCG. It was insanely intense and I loved seeing Brady getting hit again and again until it was just too much punishment for him to overcome.
Team you hate to lose to the most? Patriots
Team you love to beat? Chiefs
Game most looking forward to this season? Patriots at home.
Game most worried about this season? It would have been the P*ts game, but now I’ll say Raiders. We can’t afford to lose to them at home in Week 17.
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Chris Harris Jr. He’s from the town I live in and who wouldn’t love his story and his loyalty?
Favorite rookie/young guy on the team? Andy Janovich edges out our rookie safeties. I love how he plays and the clear contributions he makes to our offense.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? John Elway.
Superstitions on game day? None at the moment. I used to avoid my parents’ house on game days, though, because we seemed to lose every time I watched a game there.
Favorite Broncos jersey color combo? Blue jersey, white pants.
How did you come up with your MHR handle? Full disclosure: this isn’t original whatsoever. T.Kothe is my first initial and last name.
The Favorites - Whorfin:
Favorite win you’ve watched the Broncos accomplish? Super Bowl XXXII. (I know saying that is against the rooowells, but a huge 30-year-old monkey got off our backs that day.)
Favorite non-Super Bowl game you’ve watched? The Comeback against SD a few years ago. I think that one really put the zap to Phyllis for a good while.
Team you hate to lose to the most? Faiders
Team you love to beat? The one we’re playing.
Game most looking forward to this season? Winning the Super Bowl.
Game most worried about this season? "Worry is imagination put to ill use."
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? He-man, because he embodies the spirit I like see in my Beloved Broncos.
Favorite rookie/young guy on the team? JanoBeast. I’ve always wanted a fullback, and now we have the best.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? I love them all because they all worked and trained to make the Broncos the best franchise ever.
Superstitions on game day? I am not superstitious; rather, I am merely aware of causal relationships that others are not. That said, I wear The Shirt and have within reach, as appropriate, "Offense Kitty" and "Defense Doggie"
Favorite Broncos jersey color combo? Mid-80s Orange.
How did you come up with your MHR handle? Whorfin is easier to write than Dr. Emilio Lizardo.
Favorite touchdown celebration? Do they do those anymore? This IS the No Fun League we're talking about. Favorite ever is the Mile High Salute. What I'd really like to see is it be adopted into the ongoing culture of the franchise, now and forever.
Favorite personal TD celebration? I have "The History of Rock and Roll, Part 2" queued up in the stereo. We stamp our feet and pump our arms just like the Glory Days in Mile High.
Favorite cliché from the coaches/players? "Best position to win"
How did you become a Broncos fan?
T.Kothe: My dad became a Broncos fan when he and my mom moved to CO in the late 80s. As a result, my earliest memory of football whatsoever is of sitting with my dad in the living room as a 7 year old and watching John Elway and Terrell Davis lead the Broncos to victory over the Packers. After that, it was a foregone conclusion.
If you walked into an elevator and John Elway was there, what would say/do?
Whorfin: Point to his tie and say, "There's a spot on your tie." Then flick his nose when he looks down. I'll bet he'd remember ME, by God.