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Horse Tracks - Is it time to Suck for the Duck?

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Should the Broncos go all out to get the only consensus franchise signal caller in April?

NCAA Football: Washington at Oregon
Justin Herbert has all the tools team’s salivate over.
Troy Wayrynen-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos are eliminated from postseason contention by everything but the mathematics. After Sunday’s 23-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Denver has fallen to 2-4. Worse yet, the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Houston Texans and Chargers all won. Meanwhile in South Beach the Miami Dolphins are enjoying the beginnings of Brocktoberfest after Osweiler led the team to an upset win over the Bears.

If the NFL season ended today the Broncos would finish 14th out of 16 teams in the AFC playoff seeding. Only the hapless Raiders and Buffalo Bills have been worse through 6 games. According to Football Outsiders Playoff Odds Report the Broncos now have an 8.7 chance at the playoffs.

The Rams routinely gouged the Broncos second and third level defenders, just like the Jets.

The Broncos have a better odds for a top five pick and a 1.2% chance that they can achieve the top selection in the 2019 draft. John Elway and Matt Russell attended the recent Oregon Washington game. The Broncos are serious about pursuing a franchise altering signal caller.

One Big Problem

Fortunately for Elway, most of the team’s ahead of Denver (or behind, if that’s how you want to look at it) look set under center for the foreseeable future. Sure, Gruden could do something funky with Derek Carr, but even if Denver finishes in the 6-10 range of the draft they may get lucky and see Justin Herbert fall.

Unless the Giants finish with a worse record than them. Before the Thursday Night demolition by the Philadelphia Eagles, a vocal presence has been questioning running back Saquon Barkley at 2. Eli Manning is no spring chicken at 37 and now that New York is 1-5 the calls for fresh blood at the position have hit the mainstream.

Giants should trade Eli Manning to Jaguars: Matt Hasselbeck

Hasselbeck suggested that Giants fans could then pay closer attention to the crop of college quarterbacks they could be targeting in next year’s draft after they passed on Sam Darnold to take Saquon Barkley in this past one. “They can start watching Oregon (Justin Herbert) games or N.C. State (Ryan Finley) games or whoever the next quarterback is going to be,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s no disrespect to Eli. I sort of think this would be doing him a favor, giving him a more productive team, and when the playoffs come around, Giants fans will have someone to root for.”

While it’s possible the Giants could troll their fans by taking someone like Jonah Williams in order to fortify their woeful offensive line, passing on franchise signal callers in back to back drafts would be pretty damning for Dave Gettleman. No, Herbert’s going to the G-men unless someone nabs him before them.

That leave’s 3 scenarios for the fans as the Bronco’s 2018 plays out.

1. Suck for the Duck

This is the long term view. It means embracing youth even at the expense of wins, trading away any and all assets that lack long term value and letting the aging core go. I wondered if this approach was on the horizon before camp, but here we are.

Could John Elway blow up the Denver Broncos? - Mile High Report

Bradley Roby – UFA in 2019.

Darian Stewart – $2.8 million in dead money if he’s cut vs $3.6 million in cap savings.

Tramaine Brock – UFA in 2019.

Demaryius Thomas – $3.5 million in dead money if he’s cut vs $14 million in cap savings.

Emmanuel Sanders – $2.68 million in dead money if he’s cut vs $12.9 million in cap savings.

Jared Veldheer – UFA in 2019.

Max Garcia – UFA in 2019.

Billy Turner – UFA in 2019. Ronald Leary – $1.75 million in dead money if he’s cut vs $7.6 million in cap savings.

Derek Wolfe – $2.37 million in dead money if he’s cut vs $8.5 million in cap savings.

Domata Peko – UFA in 2019.

Zach Kerr – UFA in 2019.

Brandon Marshall – $4 million in dead money vs $5 million in cap savings.

Todd Davis – $2 million in dead money vs $3 million in cap savings.

Now realistically the team and specifically Elway seems reluctant to take this approach. Mile High Stadium already had almost 10,000 no shows for the Rams game. Hard to believe management wants to see more of that, even if it is in their own interests for 2019 and beyond.

2. Playoffs or bust

Who to fire for this one?

This one’s for the diehards, the CAPS LOCK SUPERSTARS who rage every time the Broncos comeback efforts wind up just short, they want to fire Thunder because his attitude ain’t right. These guys and gals are the definition of fandom and question anyone who doesn’t sip the Kool-aid they found under their 1977 Ford Bronco’s seats.

3. The “is what it is” fans.

These are the realists. While the die hards and Day 3 draft experts are fighting over how much Kool-aid is left in their glass these guys are quenching their thirst. At the end of the day the 2018 Broncos team is a flawed team, but next year is pretty far away. Today is all that’s promised so you may as well enjoy it for what it is.

On to the links

Denver Broncos: Lack leadership has left franchise in a sorry state - Mile High Report

There’s no Mr. B. There’s no owner to hold the decision-makers accountable. Yes, Joseph will eventually get fired, as will his inept staff. The franchise will move on from the older veterans with larger salary cap hits and continue to push the “we’re a few moves away” bullshit. But what about the people at the top of the pecking order who triggered this derailment? Does anyone believe Ellis will even contemplate moving on from Elway? Does anyone honestly think Ellis will correct his own deficiencies? That’s the problem.

Elway: ‘Only way out of this is to get a win’ - Mile High Report

“It’s a combination of everything. And bottom line is it starts with me and goes on down because everybody has their responsibility,” he acknowledged. “In football it’s never one player, it’s never one situation. That’s why it’s hard to win because you have to have the right combination on the coaching staff, the right kind of combination of players, and it all has to mend together.”

Von Miller blames himself for 23-20 loss: ‘I have to be a game-changer’ - Mile High Report

“I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to get there. I’ve got to make the big plays. Sacks, forced fumbles, the plays that I’m known for. I’m just not making them,” the frustrated veteran said. “I’m falling into sacks like the other guys in the league and that’s just not me. I’ve got to do better and I’ve started. I will do better.”

Denver Broncos: 9,131 no shows to game on Sunday is most since 2010 - Mile High Report

According to Mike Klis of 9News, the last time this many fans no showed to a game was when Josh McDaniels was coaching the team against the St. Louis Rams in 2010. That could be a bad omen for Vance Joseph as he continues to try to field a winning football team. As it stands, Joseph has the worst winning percentage as a Broncos head coach since the 60s and patience has all but worn out with fans.

Broncos Fans Are Fed Up With Case Keenum

Among the 34 NFL quarterbacks with enough attempts to qualify, Keenum ranks 21st in yards per attempt, 28th in passer rating, 29th in total QBR, and is tied for the league lead in interceptions, with eight picks against just seven touchdowns. The Broncos were not expecting Keenum, a career journeyman backup, to repeat his MVP-level 2017 (or at least should not have expected it), but so far he hasn’t even really offered “game manager” levels of competence.

Vance Joseph: ‘Case Keenum is our quarterback’ - Mile High Report

Case Keenum is now having a year that is kind of right in the middle of his pre-2017 and 2017 seasons, so a regression back to the mean. He is 122/192 for a 63.5 completion percentage with 1365 yards and 5 touchdowns and 7 interceptions on the year. Pretty much pedestrian and a slight improvement over the Trevor Siemian era. The Broncos paid $18 million for the quarterback they saw last year and got a bottom third in the league quarterback instead.

Denver Broncos show heart as 2018 starts to slip away - Mile High Report

Why do we lengthen games and kill drives by putting the ball into the air?

Audibles at the Line: Week 6 | Football Outsiders

Scott Kacsmar: Didn’t we look into something with Denver’s defense after 2016 about the run defense falling off? They were incredible to start 2017, then that Orleans Darkwa game happened. Now the Broncos have allowed 593 rushing yards in the last two weeks, the most since 1960 in any two-game stretch by my calculations.

Aaron Schatz: I don’t remember something specific with Denver’s defense, but we get this weird effect where run defense is a better predictor of defense in Y+1 than pass defense, yet run defense DVOA itself is fairly difficult to predict. The Broncos were 21st in run defense DVOA in 2016, despite being No. 1 against the pass. Then last year, they were up to third in run defense DVOA (second in the first half of the season, eighth in the second half). This year, 26th in run defense DVOA before today, and probably lower after today.

Denver Broncos fear guard Ronald Leary tore his Achilles in loss to Rams - Mile High Report

Max Garcia would be the player who steps in to replace Leary along the offensive line moving forward, but there might be additional moves made as the Broncos look to refill the depth at the position.

On the bright side, at least Oakland’s worse. On to them and the rest of the West.

Problems with Jon Gruden, Oakland Raiders | SI.com

Halloween is weeks away and Jon Gruden, returning from a trip to London that he didn’t want to take, has just one more win than he would have had if he’d stayed in the Monday Night Football broadcast booth.

Jon Gruden looks ready to launch Raiders rebuild

The big hello season of Gruden in 2018 has morphed into the big goodbye for seemingly everyone else. And when this finally shakes out – for better or worse – we’ll see that from the moment Gruden stepped in the door, nobody outside of Davis was safe. Not general manager Reggie McKenzie. Not the remainder of the personnel department. Not the high-priced young stars, like All-Pro “program guy” Khalil Mack. Not the affordable old stars, like Michael Crabtree. Not any draft pick prior to the 2018 class. And not even presumed franchise quarterback Derek Carr, who is absolutely in the midst of a job interview and has a contract that can easily be shed starting this offseason.

Loss in London shows every move Jon Gruden has made is leading to disaster - Silver And Black Pride

Conley was sat for getting beat deep against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5. But when Worley got beat deep three times including a 19-yard TD Sunday, everything was okay. And Gruden had nothing but nice things to say about Worley after he was charbroiled. “Worley’s a good football player. He’s going to be a starter here,” Gruden said after the game. “He’s a guy that’s established himself as a true corner for the Raiders and Conley’s still a young guy. We’re going to reiterate that over and over. His career is just getting started.” But don’t you want to develop your young guys when you’re rebuilding like the Raiders are?

About that Amaria Cooper trade...

Chargers quietly proving to be a contender one win at a time - NFL.com

“There are so many guys contributing,” Rivers said when asked about his team’s recent success. “It’s not just one side of the ball. It’s not one guy. It’s not one element, whether it’s the passing game or running game. It’s everybody -- offense, defense and special teams. I know it’s cliché to say it but that’s how you win.

AFC on notice: Los Angeles Chargers set up to be legitimate threats 2018

”I feel like we’re the Vikings,” Chargers coach Anthony Lynn said, referencing not to the Minnesota Vikings but rather the seafaring Scandinavians of ninth- and 10th-century lore. “Packing up, kissing the wife and kids goodbye and heading off. Hopefully, come back with some plunder.”

Chargers game report: Melvin Gordon gets the offense running this time - Los Angeles Times

“We haven’t had many days when we’ve run more than we’ve thrown,” Rivers said. “Those are fun. I’ll take those any time we can get them.” Gordon finished with 18 carries for 132 yards and three touchdowns in the Chargers’ 38-14 victory at Cleveland.

NFL Week 6: Brady Shows Mahomes, and the World, Who’s Still Boss | SI.com

The Chargers are staying in Northeast Ohio this week—they’ll practice at Baldwin-Wallace (ex-Ohio State coach Jim Tressel’s alma mater) in suburban Berea. They’ll then fly to London on Thursday in advance of their Sunday game with the Titans. Their bye follows that, and then they have trips to Seattle on Nov. 4 and Oakland on Nov. 11. If they run the table? They’ll come home to face the Broncos at 7-2. “I like the character of this group,” Lynn said. “I told them, you don’t have to have a lot of great players to do something special—you have to have a great team to do something special. And that’s what I think we have a chance to have, is a great team. It doesn’t hurt to have some great players, but I do think we have that makeup, that character to do that.”

AFC deserves playoff edition of Tom Brady-Patrick Mahomes

“Just got a little too greedy,” Mahomes explained. “I thought I could throw it a little higher and Kelce could go get it and I kind of got hit as I threw and just left it short.”

We may never know who Chiefs’ Mahomes was throwing to on touchdown - Arrowhead Pride

Mahomes was asked about the play after the game, and he delivered his best line yet. “A magician never reveals his tricks,” he said.

What does Patrick Mahomes’ voice sound like? - SBNation.com

“When I hear Patrick Mahomes’ voice, it sounds like a choir of angels, singing in harmony — specifically angels named Bobcat Goldthwait and Nick Nolte.” — Danny Kelly, The Ringer

“I can’t one up Andy Reid. Mahomes is so froggy that any other attempt to describe would fall short like 98% of my 3-point attempts in rec league hoops.” — Field Yates, ESPN

“He sounds like Froggy from the 1995 version of Little Rascals, played by Jordan Warkol, who also voiced ‘Chocolate Boy’ on eight episodes of Hey Arnold!” — Robert Klemko, MMQB

Chiefs’ defense on pace to allow most yards in NFL history – ProFootballTalk

Kansas City is giving up an average of 468.2 yards per game this season. That’s not just the worst in the NFL this year, it’s on pace to be the worst in NFL history: If Kansas City continues this pace for 16 games, it will give up 7,491 yards this season. The most yards allowed in NFL history was 7,042, set by the Saints in 2012

Speaks thought ‘ball was gone’ on missed Brady tackle - NFL.com

”Because I thought the ball was gone, I ain’t taking him to the ground,” Speaks told reporters. “It sucks. It sucks. You’re supposed to finish plays like that.” This is where the league’s at in 2018. Speaks said he won’t commit the same mistake in the future. “You’ve got to. It’s just the risk we’ve got to take now,” Speaks said. “Whether we get the flag or not, whatever happens, you’ve just got to go ahead and push through it and go ahead and make that play.”

Chiefs vs. Patriots: Making sense of snap counts - Arrowhead Pride

With Justin Houston out of the lineup, Breeland Speaks played 76 defensive snaps (97 percent). The Chiefs like rookie Derrick Nnadi at nose tackle—he out-snapped Xavier Williams for the second week in a row. This week it was 39-26. The Chiefs have had Nnadi playing around 50 percent of defensive snaps in the last two games.

Eric Berry will play this season, but the Chiefs star’s timetable to return remains unclear - CBSSports.com

The Chiefs continue to exude extreme caution with All-Pro safety Eric Berry in his return from Achilles and heel injuries, but sources said they remain extremely confident that he will play this season.

An early look at the Broncos upcoming opponent, the Arizona Cardinals

Cardinals Lack Clear Direction - Revenge of the Birds

The gist is—-the offense can’t stay on the field—-the defense can’t get off the field——and the special teams are undisciplined and undependable.

Run-Stopping Issues Irk Defensive Line In Loss To Vikings

When Kirk Cousins dropped back to pass on Sunday afternoon, the Cardinals’ defensive line was menacing. It totaled four sacks of the Minnesota quarterback, including a strip-sack by Chandler Jones that resulted in a 36-yard fumble return touchdown by safety Budda Baker. When the Vikings ran the ball, the defense did not fare nearly as well. Minnesota accumulated 195 rushing yards at 6.1 yards per carry, led by running back Latavius Murray’s 155 yards and a touchdown. The Vikings were without starting ball-carrier Dalvin Cook but the holes were big enough that any running back would have found success.

This seems self explanatory, but just in case Musgrave is reading this for some reason: run the #%@(ing ball.

I’ll go into this more for GIF Horse, but the Cardinals are susceptible to runs like this.

Cardinals’ Nickel Giving Up Dimes and Quarters - Revenge of the Birds

The Broncos may have a mismatch here if they can force the Cardinals into nickel sets.

4 warning signs we should have seen about this Arizona Cardinals coaching staff - Revenge of the Birds

Can they turn it around? It might take doing something they haven’t been willing to do so far this year. Take a risk and make a change.

Larry Fitzgerald Sr. rips Cardinals’ coaches – ProFootballTalk

“Are you kidding me, Mike McCoy,” Fitzgerald Sr. wrote, in a tweet he later deleted. “Larry Fitzgerald not even on the field? Vikings stuff Cardinals! At 1 yard line.” Fitzgerald Sr. also suggested that Cardinals head coach Steve Wilks deserves criticism for hiring McCoy. “Tough to win in the NFL Steve Wilks appears to have put offense in questionable hands,” Fitzgerald Sr. wrote. “Larry Fitzgerald has never gone 6 games without a TD.”

Four winners and a bunch of losers from the Arizona Cardinals 27-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings - Revenge of the Birds

It is already a long season. The Arizona Cardinals lost five games or less in two of Bruce Arians five seasons as the Cardinals head coach and in six weeks they are already there.

Arizona Cardinals offensive line banged up in loss to Vikings

In their 27-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings, the Cardinals saw offensive linemen Justin Pugh, Jeremy Vujnovich and Mike Iupati all leave the game due to injury.

This could be really big for the Broncos pass rush.

Steve Wilks Calls Patrick Peterson Trade Speculation ‘Ludicrous’

“I was getting ready for a football game,” Peterson said. “This is my first time hearing about it. That’s something that’s out of my control. I want to continue doing what I have to do to help this team win ballgames. That’s what I can control, and that’s what I want to do each and every week.”

What’s ludicrous is that fans think reports like this from their team’s website is anything but pure P.R. Of course the team is going to deny interest in trading their franchise star until Peterson is on the flight out of town.

Cardinals open to discussing a potential Patrick Peterson trade, willing to reshape roster

Regardless, the Cardinals will be one of the most closely watched teams in the NFL ahead of the deadline, and with most of the intense trade talks taking place in Week 8, there is a strong expectation that the Cardinals will be among the best-positioned teams to wheel and deal with playoff teams seeking various players off their roster.

Lastly, a look around the rest of the league.

NFL - Biggest injuries of Week 6, prognosis for Week 7

Big big week for injuries around the league. Here are some that will directly impact the Broncos.

Justin Pugh, OG, Arizona Cardinals Right guard Justin Pugh, who was among three offensive linemen to leave the game with injuries, broke his left hand, he told ESPN. With Pugh and Mike Iupati (back) sidelined, the Cardinals used a guard duo of John Wetzel and Daniel Munyer. -- Josh Weinfuss

Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns Mayfield played the entire game, but his ankle will bear watching. Mayfield turned his right ankle stepping on the turf as he ran out of bounds in the first quarter. He is not expected to miss any time, but the team will pay attention to see if the ankle swells or gets worse overnight. -- Pat McManamon

Nick Vigil, LB, Cincinnati Bengals Vigil injured his left knee in the first quarter, and was on crutches after the game. Vigil is the Bengals’ leading tackler thus far this season, and if he is out for any extended time, the Bengals will likely replace him with Vincent Rey. -- Katherine Terrell

Speaking of big injuries...

Tyler Kroft of Cincinnati Bengals has broken bone in foot, will meet with specialist to determine if surgery is needed

Kroft will miss Sunday’s game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and next week’s contest against the Kansas City Chiefs, and will meet with a specialist within the next two weeks to determine whether he can play through the injury or needs season-ending surgery, according to a source.

The Broncos play the Bengals December 2nd. So far Denver has been one of the worst teams in the league against tight ends so this bears monitoring.

A “letter of disinvite.”

Brock Osweiler gave Kenyan Drake a much-needed pep talk – ProFootballTalk

“I went up to Drake right before Chicago kicked the field goal, and I just said, ‘Listen, they’re gonna miss this field goal, and I need you to bring the swagger and confidence you’ve been playing with all day.’ He looked me in the eye and said, ‘OK.’ And sure enough, he’s the guy that made the big play to get us into field goal range. So if that doesn’t talk about working through adversity and mental toughness, I don’t know what does. That’s an example of mental toughness at its finest,”

Adam Gase: I really don’t know how long Ryan Tannehill will be out – ProFootballTalk

“I’m not sure. I really don’t know. I don’t know the answer. It’s day to day. It’s really going to come down to how he feels,” Gase said.

Looks like Brocktober will continue. Got to wonder when the hangover will hit.

Rob Gronkowski shares the money advice he gives his NFL teammates

As he revealed in his 2015 book, “It’s Good to Be Gronk,” he lives off his endorsements instead.

Allegedly, Gronk has not spent a dime of his NFL contract money to date. Must be nice, as I’m writing this I’m wondering if five days is too long for leftover slow cooked curry chicken.

Steelers still haven’t heard from Le’Veon Bell – ProFootballTalk

While that doesn’t preclude him from showing up and signing the tender, there’s an open question regarding whether the Steelers will apply for a two-week roster exemption and, if so, whether they will try to pay Bell less than the $855,000 per week he’s due to earn for the balance of 2018. By rule, the Steelers and Bell must agree in writing as to the amount of Bell’s compensation before he signs the tender.

Mason Crosby of Green Bay Packers rebounds from disastrous week with game-winning field goal vs. San Francisco 49ers

”How do I feel? I don’t even know,” an emotional Crosby told ESPN’s Lisa Salters immediately after the game. “Awesome game to come back, and bounce back. Obviously, I was just hoping I’d get a lot of chances and help this team win. I can’t say much; I’m kinda broken up about it.

Here’s the heart-breaker, I inexplicably played Aaron Jones over Sony Michel in my ESPN fantasy league this week. Ran into Aaron Rodgers. Lost by 8. Let’s hope I find my brain before Thursday.

NFL Week 6 News and Notes: NFL Team to London to Soon | SI.com

The NFL doesn’t have a team in London yet. But the league’s executive vice president of international, Mark Waller, believes the UK is ready for one now.

Kyle Lauletta May Be the Real Leader of This Year’s NFL Draft Quarterback Class | Bleacher Report | Latest News, Videos and Highlights

Broncos fans should hope that if/when Lauletta comes in for the Giants he lights the world on fire and starts all sorts of speculation that he’s a long term option at the position (or that he wins enough to push New York past Denver in the draft order)

Of course, if New York wants to go the other way and insure they land Justin Herbert this guy could help...

Solak’s 2019 Mock Draft 2.0 - The Draft Network

8. Denver Broncos Pick: Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn If you trust John Elway to make a good QB pick, stand up. Now that we’re all seated, let me explain why the Broncos are going to take Jarrett Stidham. Teams will continue to like Jarrett Stidham for as long as 1) he doesn’t get any smaller, 2) he continues to hit on a few deep balls a game (the quality of these deep balls is irrelevant) and 3) his arm strength remains close enough to great that they can call it great. (It’s not great.) Oh, and the big one: 4) he is a choir boy off the field and in the huddle. Denver could use help at other positions, but QB is a big’un. They will be the center of QB conversations in a year that doesn’t see a ton of teams with QB needs — and there will be a lot of pressure from the fan base, which hasn’t seen good quarterbacking since 2013. So they swing for the fences here — and I expect them to miss.

What do you think Broncos Country?