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Horse Tracks - Will Vance Joseph save his job?

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It wouldn’t be as crazy as you think.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Denver Broncos
Could Joseph prove himself as a leader of men with a trip to the postseason?
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

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.

He’s had his issues, but Bill Musgrave has coached the Keenum-led to a top 12 DVOA rating. That’s impressive, especially given the injuries along the line and D.T. trade.

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.

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?

A week after an up and down game Chris Harris played an integral role in the Broncos upset victory.

On to the Broncos links

Denver Broncos: Shelby Harris, Phillip Lindsay headline game balls - Mile High Report

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.

Broncos OLB Shaquil Barrett out 2-4 weeks, TE Jeff Heuerman done for year - Mile High Report

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.

Denver Broncos 8 winners, 3 losers, 1 both in 24-17 win over Steelers - Mile High Report

Suddenly a Broncos playoff run doesn’t look so absurd.

Denver Broncos 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 17: Playoffs in the mix now - Mile High Report

Yes, Broncos Country can now start talking playoff scenarios in Denver.

Twitter mood is on fire over Broncos’ win - Mile High Report

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.

Denver Broncos: 5 things learned in 24-17 win over Pittsburgh Steelers - Mile High Report

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.

The Broncos are fun again, and it feels good - Mile High Report

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.

NFL Week 12 Grades: Ravens get an A- with Lamar Jackson, Bengals fail miserably in loss to Browns - CBSSports.com

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.

Audibles at the Line: Week 12 | Football Outsiders

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.

Browns, Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper: NFL’s most vindicated through Week 12 | SI.com

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).

Broncos take ‘bend don’t break’ to the limit in triumph over the Steelers - Mile High Report

“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.”

NFL playoff picture: Broncos in prime position to make postseason run - Mile High Report

“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.’”

2018 NFL AFC playoff race - Sorting wild division scenarios through Week 12

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.

Big Ben: Chuks Okorafor ‘Stepped In And Played A Great Game’ - Steelers Depot

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.

Shots of the Game: Celebrating a huge win over the Steelers

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.

Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger’s interception seals loss

“I never thought a defensive lineman would get blocked right into the interception,” Roethlisberger said after te. “Good play by him.”

Baker Mayfield and Philip Rivers take control: Week 12 in the NFL | SI.com

“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.”

NFL Playoff Picture Standings, Updates for Week 12: Seahawks create chaos in NFC wild card race - CBSSports.com

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.

NFL Week 12: The 12 dumbest mistakes from Sunday, ranked - SBNation.com

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.

9 Takeaways after the Steelers crushing defeat against the Broncos - Behind the SteelCurtain

The Broncos were an opportunistic defense and they deserve credit for capitalizing on the Steelers’ miscues.

How the Steelers blew it over and over in a Week 12 loss to the Broncos - SBNation.com

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.

Solak Mock Draft 3.0 - Page 2 of 4 - The Draft Network

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.

2019 NFL Mock Draft: Chiefs add pass-rushing defensive tackle, Rams pick playmaking cornerback - CBSSports.com

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.

Bengals Links

Bengals QB Andy Dalton put on IR with thumb injury

”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.”

Andy Dalton’s injury could force Bengals to look to future - NFL Nation- ESPN

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.

Cincinnati Bengals embarrassed in Battle of Ohio, lose to Browns 35-20 - Cincy Jungle

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

Steelers open as 3.5-point favorites over Chargers in Week 13 - Behind the Steel Curtain

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.

Can Anyone Slow Down the Chiefs’ Offense? Try the Chargers - The New York Times

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.

Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury fired, and could land in the NFL - Arrowhead Pride

God help the NFL if Reid hires Kingsbury.

The Winners and Losers of NFL Week 12 - The Ringer

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.

Melvin Gordon injures knee in Chargers win

It’s fair to wonder if the Chargers made a huge mistake in letting their battered back play Sunday.

NFL News: Bengals should fire Marvin Lewis immediately - Cincy Jungle

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.

One team apparently topped the Bears’ offer for Khalil Mack, but the Raiders turned it down - CBSSports.com

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.

NFL Links

Texans run for 281 yards in 34-17 victory over Titans – ProFootballTalk

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.

Big Ten Takeaways: Haskins Puts Up QB1 Numbers As OSU Rolls - The Draft Network

Haskins QB1?

Josh McDaniels once again a hot head-coaching candidate despite pulling out of Colts job - CBSSports.com

After passing on the Colts job last year, I’d be shocked if McDaniels goes anywhere. He looks like the heir apparent to Belichick.

Baker Mayfield: Browns, Oklahoma fans name babies after QB | SI.com

It turns out lots of people named their kids after Baker Mayfield, including at least one born before his Heisman-winning season.

Why Kliff Kingsbury should be the NFL’s next offensive coordinator hire | Touchdown Wire

“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.

NFL playoff picture: Vikings bury Packers; Broncos help Patriots | NFL | Sporting News

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.

John Harbaugh may not name a starting QB this week – ProFootballTalk

“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.”

Andrew Luck thinks he’s done playing wide receiver – ProFootballTalk

“I thought I was [retired], now I am,” Luck said, via the Indianapolis Star. “I think I am.”

Kyle Shanahan: Nick Mullens didn’t play very well – ProFootballTalk

“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.”

Gase: Field position, not lack of trust in Tannehill, dictated late game playcalling – ProFootballTalk

“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.”

49ers GM John Lynch deserves criticism for Reuben Foster

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.

Jaguars fire offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett - NFL.com

”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.”

In making a coordinator change, Doug Marrone’s timing is odd, and maybe perfect – ProFootballTalk

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.

Mike McCarthy Could Be the Next Ugly Exit in Green Bay

The Packers seem to be predisposed to ugly endings. More than a few high-profile coaches and players have left on a sour note.

Packers Offense Problems Aren’t All on Mike McCarthy | SI.com

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.

NFL Week 12: Game-Winning Chance Analysis | EdjSports

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.

Rodgers: Football mortality catches up to everybody - NFL.com

”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.”

Ramsey: Josh Allen ‘did enough’ to get win for Bills - NFL.com

”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.

Colin Kaepernick collusion case: No progress in settlement talks, hearing coming in 2019- CBSSports.com

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.