Oh, Broncos Country...you are in for a treat. This Ultimate Fan Guide from veteran UFG-er Todduscraig is like the pumpkin pie to your Thanksgiving dinner - so good and exactly what you wanted...even if you didn’t need it.
But as we’ve come to expect around here, Broncos fans DO NEED the Ultimate Fan Guide to keep this fan base believing.
And with Todduscraig, we definitely have a believer. Come for his great insight, stay for his hilarious analogies - and revel in his final score prediction this weekend!
Week 12: Steelers at Broncos
MHR - The Broncos had a huge comeback victory against the Chargers last week. What were your overall reactions/feelings to that game?
Todduscraig: To quote Dick Enberg, “Oh my!”
Do we have to send a thank you note to Philip Rivers for that gift? I mean, seriously, I’m afraid Rivers would find a way to choke on the mashed potatoes at the Thanksgiving dinner table.
That said, what a statement game from our leaders - Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., Phillip Lindsay, and Case Keenum all turned in gritty, gutty performances. And it might have been the first time this year where our offensive line was neither offensive or a sieve, for that matter. Claiming one of those close games when time ran out felt like a big turning point for this squad, for sure. Is it along the lines of the turning point like the Manning comeback against the Chargers, a la 2012? I think this game against the Steelers will tell.
MHR - Although the Steelers have a 7-2-1 record, the team doesn’t seem as dominant as previous years, given that it’s been a little streaky with its play. But, it has won the last six in a row. What’s your confidence level that the Broncos can beat this team at Mile High?
Todduscraig: Well, if 2018 has shown us anything, we can hang with very good teams, but can we actually win one? Until last week, my confidence was holding as steadily as a Garett Bolles block. The team I saw last week turned a bit of a psychological corner, I hope. I think the Steelers could be in for a shock, especially if Lindsay and Freeman can make that Steel Curtain look more like a shower curtain.
Villanueva: "They're a very complete group. We're going to have a tough challenge this week." pic.twitter.com/618toEIFzH— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) November 23, 2018
MHR - Against the Chargers, Case Keenum had very average stats, but he didn’t have any turnovers AND he led an amazing comeback drive at the end. Is this the best we should expect from Keenum - average with some brilliance - and if so, is that good enough down the stretch?
Todduscraig: I don’t begrudge some growing pains from Keenum. It’s easy to assume that quarterbacks can plug and play like Atari cartridges, but learning an NFL offense ain’t exactly cake and developing relationships and timing with receivers takes time. Keenum hasn’t been a Bronco for even a year, but some fans are already disappointed that he isn’t the second coming of Manning, who by the way, didn’t have his breakout game with Denver until that mid-October game in 2012 against San Diego. I’m not saying Keenum is Manning - clearly he ain’t - but for all of the free agent and rookie quarterback changes throughout the league last year, he’s certainly showing signs of trending upward. And even though we are 4-6, it’s important to remember that three of Keenum’s losses came against the Rams and KC, both of whom are still scoring touchdowns in last week’s Monday NIght Football game. I think the score is 429-420 right now.
MHR - While Keenum’s day was average (by stats), Phillip Lindsay was fantastic with 79 rushing yards, 27 receiving yards and two rushing TDs. Royce Freeman had just 38 yards but also added a touchdown. Does this ratio seem like a winning formula that Musgrave should continue against the Steelers?
Todduscraig: Honestly, I’d love to see more runs and more creative run calls as well. Lindsay, Freeman and Janovich represent the horsepower in our team’s engine. When they run well, we can beat anyone. I don’t think there’s a Broncos fan out there who’s not thrilled everytime Lindsay explodes into the secondary. I gotta imagine Santa’s elves are sewing lots of No. 30 jerseys for the first time in 25 years.
MHR - When the Broncos meet the Steelers on Sunday, it will be three weeks in a row of taking on a team with 5-plus game win streak - which is the hardest three games in the NFL. Vance Joseph called the Broncos “battle-tested” for that kind of challenge - would you agree?
Todduscraig: Agreeing with Vance Joseph feels wrong on some fundamental level, but what the heck. After that heartbreak in Houston, I was far more inclined to say that the Broncos were battle-weary than battle-tested. The thing about winning is that it tends to lead to more winning. This team might just be charged up enough to steal another close one, puns intended.
MHR - The offensive line held together really well against a stout Chargers’ front 7 - despite having just moved a couple guys up to “starters” late in the week - and didn’t allow a single sack. What does the line need to do this week to continue that success against the Steelers? How can Musgrave help his QB with play calling to also help avoid sacks?
Todduscraig: Run, run and run some more. My biggest gripe about the Musgrave offense is that we need to call pass plays that don’t require the line to block for a half an hour. Hit Courtland Sutton and Emmanuel Sanders in stride with a two-second release and let ‘em turn seven-yard passes into 27-yard gains.
MHR - The Steelers defense has given up the most yards on the ground when playing from behind. Since the Broncos’ running game is a big key to its success, how does the offense make sure it is playing with a lead against a Big Ben offense?
Todduscraig: To my eye, Denver’s offense works when it plays with aggression. I think that Keenum plays worse when he tries to play mistake-free. Our mentality needs to be go-out-there-and-score-touchdowns, not go-out-there-and-don’t-mess-up. I want to see Janovich blowing up blocks, Lindsay running wild, and Freeman pounding their linebackers into submission. Let Keenum play action to Sanders and Sutton when the opportunities present themselves, and we’ll shred the steel curtain into steel wool. Let’s start playing to win instead of playing not to lose.
MHR - Both JuJu Smith Schuster and Antonio Brown combined for more than 200 yards receiving last week. Can the Broncos’ secondary keep up with those two? Which corners would you like to see on which receivers?
Todduscraig: Harris Jr. can take Brown. That’ll be a fun match up, for sure. But, like most of Broncos Country, I’ve watched our No Fly Zone devolve into Our-Fly-Is-Down Zone at the start of the year. I really don’t know what to make of this group. But Cravens hasn’t played enough. Roby is in concussion protocol. Pacman ran into a ghost. The only things this unit is missing are duct tape and baling wires and the MASH theme song playing in the background.
In our last five games, @VonMiller and @astronaut have each recorded at least half a sack.— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 23, 2018
If they do it again in #PITvsDEN, they’ll become the first NFL teammates to have simultaneous six-game sack streaks.
via @TheAthleticDEN » https://t.co/k5CUhQLPqT pic.twitter.com/Kcgezagyoz
MHR - Ben Roethlisberger is a tank and always hard to bring down - plus his offensive line has been playing together for years and has allowed the fewest pressures on a QB. But Von Miller and Bradley Chubb have combined for the most sacks by any duo in the NFL at 19 so far, proving they could wreak havoc. Who wins this duel between the Steelers’ QB and the Broncos’ pass rush?
Todduscraig: As with playing any elite quarterback, pressure and hits are everything. And I have been very pleased with how our line has stepped up lately. It’s been nice to see Adam Gotsis and Derek Wolfe and Todd Davis getting pressure up the middle, while the dynamic duo close in from the sides. To me, this defense is like Thanksgiving: it’s always better when everybody feasts.
MHR - Big Ben has thrown 23 touchdowns this year but also 10 interceptions. How does the Broncos’ defense make sure the ratio is in their favor on Sunday?
Todduscraig: Again, I think aggression is the key. No one has ever accused Big Ben of being a cerebral quarterback, so we need to keep the blitzes coming from every angle Joe Woods can dream of. If we try to get pressure with three or four guys, we’ll get carved up. We need to bring five or six on passing downs.
MHR - Denver hasn’t allowed more than 100 total rushing yards in each game over the past three weeks, and opponents are only averaging 3.1 yards per carry. Although Steelers’ running back James Connor has been a big key to Pittsburgh’s success of late, the Broncos defense seems poised to keep their positive trend going. How does Denver stop Pittsburgh’s running game?
Todduscraig: Hakuna Domata means no worries when teams run against Peko. Todd Davis is quietly having his best year ever, in my opinion. Josey is turning into a jewel as well. To me, those three guys can coral Connor up the middle, and if Chubb and Von can maintain the edges, this is definitely a match up that bodes well for Denver.
MHR - Hines Ward and Champ Bailey are both Hall-of-Fame candidates this year. Back at the height of their games, who was the better player?
Todduscraig: Champ…duh. Great receivers are a dime a dozen; great cornerbacks are tougher to find. Hines Ward may not even be the best receiver in Steelers history. (Seriously, if you had to choose between Hines Ward, Lynn Swann, and Antonio Brown, you’d have to think about it a little.)
MHR - There have been some iconic and historic matchups between these two teams over the decades, beginning with the AFC divisional playoff win 1977 in which the underdog Broncos eventually moved on to the Super Bowl all the way to the 2016 divisional playoff during the year the Broncos went on to win the Super Bowl. And there’s always the Tim Tebow - Demaryius Thomas miracle... So what is your favorite game between these two teams?
Todduscraig: I’m gonna go with the AFC divisional championship back in 1990. I was 18 years old, and my parents surprised me with tickets for my Christmas present that year. We took a bus from my hometown of Rapid City, South Dakota, to Denver to see Elway scratch and claw his way back from a 10-point deficit not once, but twice during the game. I remember the crowd exploding as the defense sealed the deal by recovering a last-second Bubby Brister fumble. It was my first playoff game ever, the old Mile High was rocking, and Elway played like a magician. I’m getting teary-eyed even remembering the game. It was the best Christmas present I’ve ever received.
(and now here’s one for everyone - rewatch the magic!)
Stats for Case Keenum? 16/28, 212 yards, 1 TD
Stats for each Broncos RB? Lindsay - 17 carries, 121 yards, 1 TD; Freeman - 12 carries, 55 yards, 1 TD; Janovich - 2 carries, 10 yards, 1 TD.
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each Broncos receiver? Sanders - 6 catches, 75 yards. Sutton - 4 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD. Heuerman- 5 catches, 40 yards. Patrick - 2 catches, 25 yards. Hamilton - 1 catch, 7 yards.
Longest FG for McManus? 45
Number of sacks to Keenum? 2
Number of sacks to Big Ben? 5
How many things do you and Big Ben agree on? Just this...
Broncos player with the most tackles? Von
Broncos player with the most penalties? Bolles
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 1 INT/ 2 FF/ 1 FR
Final Score? Denver 31, Pittsburgh 24
“#Steelers r 1 of the best on the road per record of 15-1-1 since Nov 2016, which Roethlisberger attributed to their focus when going into enemy territory.#Broncos - & THE MILE HIGH CROWD - need to take that comfort away immediately...& then never let up the gas.” @docllv— Kevin Crumley (@crumley_kevin) November 22, 2018
Favorite Broncos game EVER? “This one’s for John!”
Team(s) you hate to lose to the most? Ugh…the Patriots. Every time they win, Tom Brady comes one step closer to turning into Gwyneth Paltrow.
Team you love to beat? The Raiders. If VJ can’t beat them twice this year, then he should be fired.
Favorite upcoming game this season? I’d love to wax the Raiders like we waxed the Cardinals and send Gruden all the way back to the 90s.
Toughest game (left) on the schedule? This one.
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Emmanuel Sanders!
Favorite Broncos player of all time? Elway!
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Lindsay!
Superstitions on game day? I have two large plastic iced tea glasses - one orange and one blue. I choose one and refill only at halftime.
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? I’m still emotionally scarred from Phil Simms and his commentary. He never met a hyperbole he didn’t like.
Favorite sports cliche? “It was a great week of practice.” Every time VJ drops that one, it’s like hearing Billy Ray Cyrus croon Achy Breaky Heart. It means nothing, it’s apropos of nothing, you can’t stand listening to it, and you can’t get it out of your head once you hear it. It’s sports cliché gold.
.@I_CU_boy already has the third-most rushing yards by an undrafted rookie RB in team history.— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) November 23, 2018
He just needs 60 rushing yards to pass Selvin Young for the most by a #Broncos undrafted rookie. #BeatTheSteelers pic.twitter.com/rMI0tRu1jF
How did you become a Broncos fan?
South Dakota is a state divided into two halves by the Missouri River: West River and East River. If you’re from West River, SD, you got Denver channels on cable. If you’re from East River, you got Minneapolis channels on cable. As a result, Western South Dakota is definitely Broncos Country, whereas East River is Vikings territory. I was 12 years old in 1983 when Elway was drafted. We grew up together, and we failed our way through the 80s together. The rest, as they say on Thanksgiving week, is gravy.
Side note: I need to shout out to my cousin-in-law Becky, one of the Steelers’ biggest fans and recovering nicely from surgery this past week. If Pittsburgh does beat Denver, it’ll be because of her big heart and passion for Steelers football! I’d hate to see my Broncos lose, but I’ll be happy for her if the final score turns out in Pittsburgh’s favor!
What is YOUR favorite Broncos-Steelers matchup?
This poll is closed
1977 divisional playoff win
1989 divisional playoff win
2012 OT wildcard win
2016 divisional playoff win