It wasn’t long ago that I was calling for the Broncos to chase John Harbaugh this offseason. That may yet be the case, but with back to back wins over playoff teams the last two weeks there is now an obvious road where Vance Joseph and the vast majority of the coaching staff come back in 2019.
Now before you send me an angry email or three, hear me out. I’m not saying the 5-6 Vance Joseph has left what may be the hottest seat in the league just yet. The mistakes he made against the Chiefs and especially Texans hang over the entire season at present. After Sunday’s win over the Steelers I played with the ESPN Playoff Machine for a good while looking at every scenario in front of the team with 5 weeks to go. For any realistic shot to exist, they have to win all five. The good news? After playing one a true murderers row through 11 weeks, their remaining slate gets considerably softer.
The Broncos' final 5 games of the regular season...— Taylor Kothe (@taylorkothe_nfl) November 26, 2018
If this team stays disciplined and hungry, they should win at least 3 and possibly all 5. And fortunately, the 2 toughest games are home games.
It’s fair to expect the Broncos to win at least 3 of those games. The Bengals just lost their starting quarterback for the year and will start Jeff Driskell, who has thrown all of 36 career passes. The 49ers are starting Nick Mullens, who just finished with 18/32 221 1 TD 2 Interception line to a horrid Tampa Bay defense. The Oakland Raiders are a running joke.
If Denver finishes the year 8-8 and Vance Joseph gets a 3rd year, it’s fair to question John Elway after he claimed his rationale for hiring Kubiak in the wake of the John Fox “resignation” was his desire to have a team that’s kicking and screaming. Even 9-7 would be a disappointing season given the porous management in the Texans game.
But if Denver sweeps the Chargers in week 17 to make the dance? Vance Joseph will have proven Elway prophetic when he called the him a leader of men. One that clearly needs to improve at a lot of the little things that go into being an NFL head coach, but one who will have kept a locker room afloat in light of some serious rough waters.
At that point, I’d take whatever Elway decides without complaint. How about you Broncos Country?
On to the Broncos links
Despite some sloppy play at times, the team rallied when it needed to in order to regain the advantage in the second half and hold onto victory in the games waning moments. It was a complete team win as those plays were made on offense, defense, and even special teams. Let’s start with the man of the hour.
Barrett will likely have his snaps absorbed by Shane Ray 195 snaps (26.03%), but Denver’s head coach Vance Joseph told Orange and Blue 760’s Ryan Edwards and Andrew Mason that fans will see last season’s second-round draft pick DeMarcus Walker as well.
Suddenly a Broncos playoff run doesn’t look so absurd.
Phillip Lindsay on why he likes to give the ball to an offensive lineman to spike it after he scores:— Ryan Koenigsberg (@RyanKoenigsberg) November 26, 2018
"They deserve it. They're out there putting their body on the line 24/7 and they get talked about the least out of everybody... They deserve everything they get."
Yes, Broncos Country can now start talking playoff scenarios in Denver.
I’m not sure that win could have been any more fun. There were blocked kicks, fake field goals (grrrr), sacks, touchdowns, fumbles, fumble recoveries and interceptions.
Aside from the big play to JuJu, Big Ben was 6.5 YPA and only completed 8 passes past 10 yards.— Jeffrey Essary (@JeffreyEssary) November 26, 2018
They clearly had a quick/short passing gameplan coming in and it worked, but idk that shredded quite fits. https://t.co/P2egoUtTL4
The Denver Broncos did exactly what they needed to do with a key 24-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Here are five things we learned from today’s game.
We could talk about how many yards the defense gave up. We could talk about the Broncos giving up a fake field goal touchdown. We could point fingers. Instead, this week, we should just enjoy the moment. The one big takeaway from the game is that it is fun in Broncos Country again. I, for one, am going to enjoy it.
Getting a turnover is most beneficial when you _________ off it.— NFL Matchup on ESPN (@NFLMatchup) November 26, 2018
If your D gets a turnover, you want to not give up a _________.
These teams are making turnovers work in their favor!#DaBears #LARams #Texans #GoSaints #BroncosCountry #GoPats #DallasCowboys #ChiefsKingdom pic.twitter.com/G5ncYLb2en
Broncos: A- If you’re ever wondering what a “bend, but don’t break defense” looks like, just watch film from this game. Although the Broncos defense got shredded by the Steelers, no one will remember that because they came up with big plays when they had to. The Broncos forced four turnovers, which led to a total of 14 points for Denver. Two of those turnovers also came with Pittsburgh inside of the Broncos’ two-yard line, which kept the Steelers from scoring points. Those turnovers were big, because the Steelers were on a roll for most of the game, racking up 527 yards of offense. This game actually marked the first time in franchise history that the Broncos won after surrendering 525 or more yards of total offense. Going into Sunday, they were 0-8 in that situation. Offensively, Phillip Lindsay did a good job of carrying the load with 14 carries 110 yards. Although Case Keenum struggled with his accuracy (15 of 28) he did come up big with two touchdown passes.
Aaron Schatz: I actually don’t mind the Denver pass/run ratio. We’re not talking about him like we talk about the hot young offensive playcallers, but I think Bill Musgrave deserves some credit for designing a Denver offense that’s so good on the ground and has a lot of misdirection in it to prop up Case Keenum. They just went up 24-17 and on the touchdown drive there was a sweet little pass play that was fake screen left, then fake screen right, then toss up the middle to a wide-open tight end Jeff Heuerman. The Denver offense also uses a lot of motion to confuse defenses, like the best modern offenses. I mean, if I asked where Denver ranked in offensive DVOA going into this week, you would probably guess something in the bottom half of the league, right? They’re 11th.
Bill Musgrave The now-Broncos offensive coordinator was jettisoned from Oakland after getting the best from Derek Carr and is now making chicken salad out of a Broncos offense full of disjointed parts (but some damn good running backs).
“You just have to limit them. ‘Big Ben’ is a Hall of Famer. He is going to throw it 40 or 50 times. We knew it was coming. We couldn’t give up the big plays,” said Bradley Roby, who contributed his own big play by creating a fumble that was recovered by Darian Stewart in the third quarter. “For the most part, we did that today.”
“I think right now, like Coach V.J. said, ‘We have to start off 0-0 each week until Sunday’s results,’” safety Will Parks said. “You don’t just beat a team on Sunday, you beat them on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. You tune up on Saturday and Sunday you wake up with confidence. I could tell everybody woke up with confidence (Sunday) morning. I was geeked all day. I wasn’t stressed out, getting all types of body works and I was talking to my masseuses and my church people like, ‘Hey man, today’s the day. Today is the day we come alive, we come together.’”
9. Denver Broncos (5-6) FPI playoff chances: 9.7 percent Two weeks ago, I mentioned that the Broncos were better than their 3-6 record and likely to improve during the second half of the season. I didn’t expect those developments to take place immediately. The Broncos have saved their season by beating the Chargers and Steelers in consecutive weeks. A team that looked like it might be firing coach Vance Joseph before the season actually has an outside shot at making it back to the postseason. With the win, though, the Broncos unlock the easiest part of their schedule. It includes three road games in four weeks, but the opponents -- the Bengals, 49ers, Browns and Raiders -- aren’t scaring anyone. The best-case scenario for the Broncos is that they stay on a hot streak while the Chargers struggle without Melvin Gordon in advance of a Week 17 rematch between the two in Denver.
With two tackles hitting the age of 30, the Steelers used a third-round pick on Okorafor seeing a raw talent that Mike Munchak could potentially mold into being a very good football player who could start somewhere down the line. Yesterday offered no evidence to the contrary.
Maurkice Pouncey... Leading pro bowl vote getter at C...— Sam Monson (@PFF_Sam) November 25, 2018
...mere speed bump for Shelby Harris pic.twitter.com/VRacTRBx0t
The joy on the Broncos’ sideline and in the locker room after the 24-17 win over the Steelers was undeniable, as these photos from Broncos team photographers clearly show.
“I never thought a defensive lineman would get blocked right into the interception,” Roethlisberger said after te. “Good play by him.”
#Steelers Big Ben called this one of "flukiest" interceptions of his career. He thought Harris was blocked into the pick. He stood up. So that was only part of it. But timing was off on fake and Roby was in position for INT if Harris doesn't catch it. #Broncos #Denver7 pic.twitter.com/SuM1qsodwN— Troy Renck (@TroyRenck) November 26, 2018
“It’s our inside-the-5 defense—we call it Cub Free,” Joseph said over the phone after the win. “It’s really a 46 defense with an extra defender in to fill. And it’s designed to stop the run game obviously, and then play leverage on the slot. Our D-linemen obviously play the run game first, and then they pop [into coverage] for the pass. So we knew the pass rush wasn’t going to be our premium for that call, but if he threw it, it was gonna be short and across the middle. “So we have a low-ball player, and we have a guy popping in the hole. It was a great call by [coordinator] Joe Woods, something we practice all the time. On first down, it was the same defense, Chris Harris makes the play on the inverted fade. The second down, we stop the run. And the third down was Shelby’s play.”
11. Denver Broncos (5-6): The Broncos are suddenly alive too with this win -- they have a major uphill battle to make the playoffs, but if they can rip off a few decent wins, they’re far from dead. Von Miller is a monster.
12. The Broncos offensive line imploded at an awful time Denver led 24-17 with a little more than five minutes to play when Case Keenum lined up for a vital third down. Gaining four yards meant salting time off the clock and potentially extending a game-sealing drive. A Steelers stop meant punting the ball back to Pittsburgh and giving Ben Roethlisberger the chance to lead his club back for a game-tying touchdown with plenty of time left on the clock.
It’s understandable given the fact that he’s the 4th guard, but Elijah Wilkinson is an obvious weak link along the Broncos offensive line.
8. Antonio Brown: not a quarterback The Steelers had pushed into Broncos territory when they dialed up the perfect trick play. Ben Roethlisberger’s backward pass to Antonio Brown shifted 10 members of the Denver defense to the right side of the field, leaving running back Jaylen Samuels wide open down the left sideline. Any pass within five yards of the streaking Steeler would have resulted in a walk-in touchdown.
2. Ben Roethlisberger brain farted the game to the Broncos Ben Roethlisberger torched the Broncos in the face of fierce pressure when he delivered a perfect deep ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 97-yard touchdown. Two passes later, he’d land on the opposite end of the spectrum.
That 97-yard touchdown was one of the few times all day that the Broncos corners did not play off coverage on the dynamic duo.
The Broncos were an opportunistic defense and they deserve credit for capitalizing on the Steelers’ miscues.
Four drives for the Steelers that crossed the 50-yard line ended with a turnover. Those mistakes kept points off the scoreboard, and the fourth turnover of the day hammered the nail in their coffin.
Dear followers, I would like to share with you the worst possible analysis of yesterday’s Steelers-Broncos game. To paraphrase a line from “Billy Madison,” I am now dumber for having read this. pic.twitter.com/utViKRXNac— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) November 26, 2018
14. Denver Broncos Greedy Williams, CB, LSU Denver likely would have snagged Jeffery Simmons/Ed Oliver if Atlanta had taken Greedy; so if you really hate the pick for either team, just switch ‘em and don’t complain to me about it. We know Denver has found success in recent history with elite corner play, and that’s why they invest a first rounder in Greedy Williams. Williams has the frame, quickness, and eye discipline to play in almost any alignment, though he has struggled int he press this year. Off coverage, as Denver often deploys, is a great use of his skill set.
If the Broncos can’t grab a quarterback in next year’s draft, the most obvious route to building up the 2019 team is finding a dynamic corner or safety prospect. Greedy Williams is all that and more.
13. Denver Broncos Daniel Jones, QB, Duke. Jones has the size, arm talent, and collegiate schooling from David Cutcliffe, to be a quality quarterback at the NFL level. He could sit behind Case Keenum to begin 2019, but the Broncos probably need to take a signal-caller in the first round.
Taking a quarterback simply because of the need at the position is how Elway wound up with Paxton Lynch.
”The medical staff feels Andy will make a full recovery for the start of the 2019 offseason,” coach Marvin Lewis said in a statement. “Our team now will move forward led by Jeff Driskel. Jeff has prepared each week as though he were the starting QB and demonstrated he has a great command of the offensive system.”
The reins will now be handed to Jeff Driskel, who has been groomed by the Bengals since they claimed him off waivers from the San Francisco 49ers in 2016.
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse for the Bengals, they did. And then it got even worse than that.
AFC West Links
Although Los Angeles rebounded strongly from their defeat at the hands of the Broncos in Arizona with a 45-10 win over the Cardinals, their win did not come without cost after Melvin Gordon was forced from the game early in the third quarter with a suspected MCL injury. If he is unable to play in Week 13, it should be expected the spread will see some significant movement as the week progresses.
This Just In: Chargers RB Melvin Gordon is week-to-week after suffering an MCL sprain in his right knee on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/myNc7xg3m2— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 26, 2018
Even in their two losses, the Chiefs have eaten up a lot of yardage, but in a few weeks they will face the Chargers’ tough combination of pass-rushers and playmakers in the secondary.
Guess noone told the Times that Denver held the Chiefs to two of their three lowest point totals all year.
God help the NFL if Reid hires Kingsbury.
Winner: Philip Rivers Rivers made history Sunday, which isn’t a thing he does often. He’s never won a Super Bowl, he’s never been MVP, he has no shot at topping any major statistical leaderboards. He’s just been consistently great for about 13 years, so it’s fitting that the records he set Sunday were about consistency. Rivers completed his first 25 passes Sunday and finished the game 28-for-29 with 259 yards and three touchdowns.
It’s fair to wonder if the Chargers made a huge mistake in letting their battered back play Sunday.
Coming into the game at 5-5 and still very much alive in the playoff race, the Bengals did their best impersonation of the Louisville Cardinals a team with the NFL’s worst record.
For one, it’s possible the Raiders believed the Bears’ first-round picks would be “worth” more because they were supposed to be worse than the 49ers this year. With Jimmy Garoppolo under center, the 49ers were widely viewed as a potential playoff contender, while the Bears were picked by most people to finish in third or fourth place.
Houston gained 281 of its 462 yards on the ground, with Lamar Miller gaining 162 yards on 12 carries, including a 97-yard touchdown. It was his most rushing yards since he picked up 175 on 14 carries for Miami in a game against the Texans in 2015. Two plays later, Watson threw his second touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas. Thomas scored on touchdowns of 12 and 10 yards, catching four passes for 38 yards.
Coaches: You gotta be ready as a rookie. They’ll throw new things at you every week pic.twitter.com/UQv8UZIKNp— Josh Rosen (@josh3rosen) November 26, 2018
After passing on the Colts job last year, I’d be shocked if McDaniels goes anywhere. He looks like the heir apparent to Belichick.
I love it, can’t wait to see a picture of the little man https://t.co/TP0PQyOjxv— Baker Mayfield (@bakermayfield) November 25, 2018
It turns out lots of people named their kids after Baker Mayfield, including at least one born before his Heisman-winning season.
“Our offense is a lot more complex than the old Air Raid, because Coach Kingsbury, coming from the NFL, has made it more complex,” Mahomes told me in April, 2017, a couple weeks before the Chiefs took him in the first round. “And that’s why it’s so successful.”
If Elway moves on from Joseph and Musgrave after 2018, there isn’t an offensive mind I’d want more than Kingsbury. He’s going to be a star if he jumps to the NFL.
In undergrad I needed to raise $5k for a scholarship and was gonna ask Kliff Kingsbury to come speak and sell tickets. Kliff agreed to come speak but said he didn’t want students to pay to hear him speak. When I met him that day he handed me a check for $5k. I’ll miss him.— Mikaela Mitcham (@MikaelaMitcham) November 25, 2018
Sunday’s win over the Jets was a big step for the Patriots in terms of the division standings, but the Steelers’ loss to the Broncos was even bigger for New England’s overall AFC outlook.
“I’m not going to get into any of that, for a lot of reasons,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN.com. “Whether the decision has been made or not, it’s not important for anybody to know but us. If I decide to do it one way or another, I don’t want our opponent to know. So, I’m probably not going to announce it for obvious reasons, just to make it tough for our opponent.”
“I thought I was [retired], now I am,” Luck said, via the Indianapolis Star. “I think I am.”
“I don’t think he played very well, just looking at some of our situations, but that wasn’t all on him,” Shanahan said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “No one played very well, especially in the passing game.”
“I trust him,” Gase said, via the Palm Beach Post. “It wouldn’t matter who was back there. That’s a s—-y situation to be in. It’s third and long. You’re backed up. It’s a bad situation. I’ve been in that before and watched a Hall of Fame quarterback [Peyton Manning] take a safety. In this building.”
For the second time since February, the linebacker has been accused of domestic violence by his girlfriend Elissa Ennis. And this time, it allegedly happened in the most unbelievable of places: inside the team hotel on the road, the night before the 49ers were set to play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. While Foster’s alleged conduct is concerning enough, there’s also a question to be asked of the organization as well: Why was his girlfriend in the team hotel in the first place?
Fun fact, one of my high school classmates writes for the show.
Fun fact: Since the judge on The Good Place declared "The Jacksonville Jaguars are good now," the Jags have gone 0-7.— Andrew Gruttadaro (@andrewgrutt) November 26, 2018
”We would like to thank Nathaniel for his hard work and dedication to the Jaguars organization, and we wish him and his family the best moving forward,” coach Doug Marrone said in a statement. “These are always tough decisions, but as the head coach, I have to do what I think is best for this football team.”
Far stranger than the decision, about which Marrone offers little insight, is the timing. The Jaguars are essentially out of the playoff chase, so it’s not as if a late November shakeup will propel a 3-8 team toward contention. If anything, it feels like an effort by Marrone to alter the conversation that inevitably will happen when owner Shad Khan, who had a taste of life in the NFL’s penthouse in 2017 and has taken the Super Fun Happy Slide straight back to the outhouse, starts asking tough questions after Week 17.
I was in a hipster coffee shop this morning surrounded by Jaguars fans taking a break from Cyber Monday shopping. A group of them next to me were whispering about how grateful they are that the team fired their OC, now allowing Blake Bortles to operate unhindered.— Collin McCollough (@cmccollo) November 26, 2018
We ask that you please do not @ us during this very difficult time. https://t.co/HBYnXmS4rN— Blake Bortles Facts (@BortlesFacts) November 26, 2018
The Packers seem to be predisposed to ugly endings. More than a few high-profile coaches and players have left on a sour note.
Head coach Mike McCarthy has been criticized for running a stale offense, but that hasn’t been the case over the last two months as he’s incorporated concepts from, among other systems, Sean McVay’s Rams offense. It’s time for an examination of Aaron Rodgers’s role in Green Bay’s uneven performance.
Stop telling me there’s something wrong with Aaron Rodgers. A coaches job is to be ready and prepared for all situations. The fact Minn showed the all up blitz 3 times last night and GB never hurt them, or even had the plan to do so, is NOT OK. https://t.co/X3IF3Pyib9— Dan Orlovsky (@danorlovsky7) November 26, 2018
Green Bay vs. Minnesota The situation: GB trailing 14-24, 2:25 left in the 4th quarter, 4th and 1 from the MIN 20 – Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy decides to attempt a field goal instead of going for it on fourth down Although McCarthy has been the target of criticism in recent weeks for his fourth down decision making, the EdjFootball model supports his decision in this particular situation. By kicking the field goal, the Packers retained 1.5 percent GWC whereas going for it would have dropped their GWC down to 1.0 percent. With limited time, only one timeout, and trailing by 10 points, this decision gave the Packers the best chance to quickly tie the game. McCarthy followed up the made field goal with an attempted onside kick. This decision improved the Packers GWC to 2.3 percent. This was also the right call as a regular kickoff would have dropped their GWC down to 1.7 percent.
”Obviously, I’ve got a lot more gray in the beard than I did a few years ago. So I know that football mortality catches up to everybody, and you never want to lose a season -- especially when you felt great starting the season about our prospects. But we’re going to battle the next five weeks and put ourselves in a position to be in the conversation. Then hopefully it’ll be enough, and like I always say, you’ve just got to get in. So we’ve got to win these five and see what happens.”
Benching Aaron Jones, bringing in Jamaal Williams for pass pro and then immediately giving up a sack is peak Mike McCarthy— James Koh (@JamesDKoh) November 26, 2018
”The good thing about the world we live in is everyone can have an opinion,” Ramsey said. “I stick by my opinions usually. He did enough for the team to get a win and that’s really what matters at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter what I said. I’m sure that’s what he was thinking on his side.
This tweet didn’t age well. pic.twitter.com/4liA2qJU1n— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) November 25, 2018
Kaepernick continues to work out daily in hopes of an opportunity to audition for an NFL team again, sources said. His agents have reached out to NFL personnel on a weekly basis throughout each of the last two seasons seeking an opportunity to come in for a try-out, or to throw for NFL scouts at another location, but they have yet to receive an opportunity to do so.
Eric Reid feels that the NFL is targeting him with drug tests: ‘It doesn’t feel very random’ [Video]
Eric Reid is taking issue with the NFL’s random drug testing. The safety was signed by the Carolina Panthers on September 27, which was the Panthers’ bye week, and has been tested in five out of the eight weeks he’s played.