Ultimate fans, I’ve good news and bad news for you. The bad news, of course, is that this is the last Ultimate Fan Guide for a while (though, I’m considering one for Free Agency and The Draft if there’s interest).
But the good news is that this week’s preview of the Raiders game by iknowftbll is an outstanding finale to a fabulous season of UFG! Although the Broncos are ending with a losing record, there has been nothing but winning from these posts.
This series is my absolute favorite thing to write on MHR because it highlights many smart members and also helps put us all in a better mood going into the games (at least it does for me...though I have laughed many a time thinking about 757Boeingpilots’ comment this season that you all feel pressure from me to take a positive outlook when doing the UFG...to which I say, you’re damn right you should!)
But as usual, I digress. iknowftbll has the appropriate hate for the Raiders and pulse on this team to take us out of the 2019 season with a bang! Here’s to sending the almost soon-to-be “former” Oakland Raiders to Vegas with a “no-playoff” postseason.
Week 17: Raiders at Broncos
MHR - Although the Lions came in 3-10, they are not a terrible team and had the Broncos down 10-0 right away. What did you like/not like about how the Broncos played in that game?
iknowftbll: What I didn’t like was letting the Lions get out to that 10-0 lead to begin with. But what I liked was the team responded and didn’t pack it in the way we have seen earlier versions of the 2019 Broncos do.
MHR - Two offensive linemen who came in for injured/sick starters earned game balls last week. If Jake Rodgers and Patrick Morris are playing again, how do you expect the line to do against the Raiders’ defense - especially Maxx Crosby?
iknowftbll: The Raiders’ pass rush has been a mixed bag this year, generally a bottom tier unit that has also stepped up a few times along the way. They’re going against what can be described as a patchwork unit for the Broncos. It cannot be ignored that the Broncos o-line began improving post-Flacco and has really shown itself to be a solid unit since Lock has taken over. So I don’t necessarily expect the line to look like the second coming of the 1997 unit, but in a season finale with the team already eliminated look for guys to make a case for their names to stay high on the depth chart as 2020 approaches.
MHR - Phillip Lindsay needs just 48 yards to hit 1,000 yards for a second consecutive season. Will he be able to get that in this final game? What does it mean for him personally and the offense generally that he get it?
iknowftbll: Lindsay has been very professional and said while he wants to get that 1,000 yard season, it’s ultimately all about the win. With that said let’s keep this in mind: Lindsay is on his second coaching staff and scheme and his fourth QB since arriving at Dove Valley and it would be a nice bright spot for him as a player and a former UDFA. When you spend 2 seasons in a league where success can be fleeting, see coaching changes and numerous QB changes, and still can post back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons - it’s not an accident.
MHR - Drew Lock called himself a gunslinger but also noted that he doesn’t always have to be that if that’s not what the offense calls for against an opponent. What would you like to see from him and Rich Scangarello against the Raiders this week to take advantage of Lock’s strengths and mitigate any strength from the Raiders?
iknowftbll: Be aggressive! I want to see the team win this game but since they’re not playing for a playoff spot it’s a good opportunity to install some plays that’ll be foundational pieces for the unit going forward. Experiment, open up the playbook and call something you maybe wouldn’t have called before this game. What is there to lose?
MHR - Lock has been 3-1 since starting, losing only to a possible Super Bowl contender in the Chiefs. What is your early assessment of the kid, and do you believe the Broncos may have found their franchise QB - or is it way too early to make that claim?
iknowftbll: It is definitely way too early. But so far Lock has shown us more cause for excitement than any QB we’ve seen since Manning retired. My early assessment is he is definitely a (forgive me) lock to lead the Broncos in 2020. By this time next year we’ll all know a lot more about Drew Lock and what his potential with the Broncos can be.
MHR - Drew Lock, Phillip Lindsay, Courtland Sutton, Dalton Risner and Noah Fant are the lynch pins to the youngest offense in the league. With this solid core to build around, which pieces would you add in the offseason? And where would you go recruiting for each - draft or FA?
iknowftbll: Maybe I’m old school or just sentimental, but I am looking forward to seeing Janovich paired up with this emerging offense. A fullback isn’t going to be the flashiest guy on the field, but he could easily be the unsung hero who makes a big difference at the right time week in and week out. This can be a flashy unit, but Jano will bring a nasty element to it that can leave defenses just feeling defeated.
Aside from that I’d like to see the Broncos address the offensive line through the draft. The big ticket FAs just haven’t worked out, but Risner has been awesome. If we could find another one of him in this year’s class that would be awesome.
We also need depth at TE, and we still don’t have an answer at the #2 WR position. Hamilton had a big day and guys have stepped up as defenses have schemed around Sutton, but we really need another wife out who is going to demand a DC’a attention the way DT and Decker did during the Manning years. I think they can get away with a bandaid fix there in free agency but would still like to see them draft some young talent too.
MHR - Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Tim Patrick, DaeSean Hamilton, Jeff Heuerman and even Devontae Booker and Andrew Beck have been key pieces to the passing game. How should Scangarello and Lock use these weapons against a pretty weak Raiders’ secondary?
iknowftbll: Get the ball to the TEs. Sutton is going to draw help from the safeties so there will probably be some match-up nightmares up the seems for Lock and the Broncos to exploit.
MHR - According to DVOA rankings, the Raiders have the 31st-ranked defense but the 8th-best offense. And Derek Carr is famously fast at getting rid of the ball. How should Fangio and Donatell get the defense after Carr so he’s just uncomfortable enough to make mistakes?
iknowftbll:The secondary has to cover and break up the short passes. That could cause Carr just enough delay to allow the pressure to get home. For all the criticism CHJ has received this year we are going to need a big game from him.
Darren Waller is a matchup beast and may dictate help from the safety. But beyond him the Raiders are lacking a clear #2 (sound familiar?) and I like our chances of keeping the short passing game under control.
MHR - Josh Jacobs is not likely to play on Sunday, and the Broncos’ run defense has been holding its own of late in spite of losing Derek Wolfe. What will be the key to stopping the run game and forcing the Raiders into third-and-longs, a place Carr tends to get antsy?
iknowftbll: I actually believe the key to forcing the Raiders into 3rd and long will be breaking up short passes from Carr. Since Gruden arrived in Oakland, the Raiders have attacked the Broncos with short fast passes in a classic and effective dink-and-dunk offense. Stopping the run is always a priority but scheming specifically to stop this short passing attack is key to defending against this offense this week.
MHR - The celebrities of the Broncos’ defense - Chris Harris Jr. and Von Miller - have mostly not been the super stars week-to-week while guys like Alexander Johnson, Kareem Jackson, Shelby Harris, Dre’Mont Jones and even Todd Davis have made the headlines. What does that tell you about Vic Fangio’s defense?
iknowftbll: I’m going to share a quick story. In the early weeks of 2009 I was a First Lieutenant stationed at Camp Pendleton, California, and fast approaching a deployment to Afghanistan. At one point the battalion Commanding Officer held an informal officer’s call at a busted up former club there on the base. All these years later I recall as clearly as though it were yesterday: the boss and a few of us standing around drinking Bud Light out of cans in what was once a short order kitchen. We were leaning against stainless steel tables and other industrial kitchen equipment and just enjoying the camaraderie. At one point the room grew quiet and the boss broke the silence by telling us a story about Herb Brooks, the famed USA Hockey coach during 1980s “Miracle on Ice.” Coach Brooks was criticized for his selection of players. He was challenged because he had not chosen the best players. Coach Brooks response was “no, but these are the RIGHT players.” Our commanding officer went on to compare that to us: a group of officers who, across the board may not have been the best at our given assignment, but as a group we fit together as a unit unlike anything else the Marine Corps has ever seen, not to mention our enemy in Afghanistan.
I like to think of some of these up-and comin- players in the same vein: none of these guys are the best in the league at what they do. But as a unit they appear to be a very good fit. And that’s with year 1 of this coaching staff and the inevitable trial and error that comes with it. 2019 saw a complete overhaul of this team, defense included but expect good things in 2020 as this coach finds the right pieces to make this scheme work even better.
Kareem Jackson has been suspended for the last two games but his KJackTV is still the best. So I’ll pick up the slack for his absence and continue doing our own version:
Which Bronco not named Von Miller would throw the best New Year’s Eve party? Best is relative to personality and I’ve always thought I’d get along well with Derek Wolfe. Maybe not a big glamorous party so much as sipping Bourbon and toasting the things in life we love most.
Which Bronco would most likely toast with sparkling grape juice instead of champagne? Oh man...is Tim Tebow still around?
Which Bronco probably hates the Raiders the most? I have to admit I was encouraged to see how Courtland Sutton gets how important this rivalry is to fans. As fans we need to remember these players often have a professional and mutual respect for their opponents. Some of them went to college together and a lot of them work out together in the off season. The rivalries often mean more to the fans than the players. So to see a young and emerging star like Sutton get it bodes well.
Which Bronco would you most want to marry into the family? Well they’re all just a little too old for my daughter but who wouldn’t want Von Miller in your living room on Christmas morning!
Which Bronco (other than the coach) would watch Hallmark movies? See above! Seriously. I have a feeling Von Miller somehow finds the time for a Hallmark special at least once or twice a year. Aside from him being a very dynamic personality on and off the field his charity work tells me he has a sensitive side. I can see him now in his media room surrounded by the jerseys of QBs he’s sacked, wiping a tear from his eye and putting his glasses back on his face with an emotionally satisfied smile...
MHR - Despite the inevitability of a losing season, how big of a deal is it to have a winning home record this season as well as winning the final game...and of course of beating the Raiders?
iknowftbll: A 5-3 home record helps preserve the Mile High Mystique. Denver should be a place that, upon seeing it on the schedule, fans and players of opponents alike groan and chalk up a loss. And while the 5-3 record would be a nice feather in the cap of an otherwise forgettable season, let’s not forget how close this team was to 2 additional home wins earlier in the season. In year two of the Fangio Administration I think we can expect the Broncos to seal the deal in those close home games.
As for beating the Raiders, it is ALWAYS important to do that. The Raiders, along with the Steelers and Titans, will enter the week 17 all vying for that #6 playoff seed. I think it’s important to send a message to the Raiders early and often - regardless of the results of the Steelers’ and Titans’ games, the Raiders season will end in Denver on Sunday.
Stats for Drew Lock? I think he gets 65% for about 275, a pair of TDs and 1 pick.
Stats for each Broncos RB? Lindsay averages 4.5 a carry for 20 carries, pushing him past that 1,000 yard mark. He gets the yards but Freeman gets the scores, putting it in for 2 scores and adding about 50 rushing yards of his own.
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? You’re asking a lot! Have you seen the way Lock has spread it around? I think Sutton and Fant have big days, but don’t forget Hamilton and Patrick. I’ll say Sutton leads in catches, Fant in yards, but it’ll be the depth guys like Hamilton and Patrick that reign in those aforementioned TDs.
Longest FG for McManus? 46 to give the Broncos a 17-7 lead as time expires on the first half.
Number of sacks to Derek Carr? Tough to say, since Gruden has done a good job scheming around the Broncos pass rush and the Broncos front is testing their depth. Still I think they manage 3 sacks against Carr.
Broncos player with the most tackles? Justin Simmons. The Raiders are going to get some passes out and attempt to exploit a make-over secondary. Simmons has a big day in run support and cleaning up against the pass.
Who gets the first sack for the Broncos? Shelby Harris. He’s been under rated against the interior and I think he breaks through early.
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? 1 INT, 3FF, 1FR, for 2 turnovers.
How many PI calls will the refs miss? All the ones that benefit the good guys!
Final Score? Broncos 34, Raiders 17.
Favorite Broncos game EVER? Super Bowl wins and playoff games are too easy so I have to qualify this by saying I am talking specifically about regular season games. And it’s got to be week 2, at Kansas City in 2015. The Chiefs have every reason to win that game: it was a short week and the Broncos were on the road. Manning was a shadow of himself, and playing in a new offense. It was the Chiefs home opener, and they were bringing back feel-good story Eric Berry, who had won a bout with cancer (it really is a feel good story, rivalry or not). The overwhelming sentiment among Chiefs fans was they were going to end Manning’s career. Winning the game 31-24 wasn’t good enough. It was how the Broncos won it that made it so sweet. Roby’s scoop and score after Manning drove to tie the game sent a stunned Arrowhead crowd home in silence. Sure the Broncos haven’t beaten the Chiefs since then, but they have won a Super Bowl since then while the Chiefs have been little more than an honorable mention. It’s good to be a Broncos fan.
Where were you the day the Broncos won the AFC West in 1977? I was born in 1980 so...
SB32? I actually had to catch this one on the radio. My grandfather was a youth pastor who had no use for the Broncos and had a Sunday evening youth hour. My mom made me go and I recall a bunch of us piled into my car listening on the radio!
SB50? My living room in Fredericksburg, Virginia. I have never been more certain of a Super Bowl outcome. I knew without question the Broncos were winning and picked a 24-20 final. Looks like I sold short one of the greatest defenses ever to do it!
Team(s) you hate to lose to the most? Raiders, Chiefs, Chargers (I’ve lived in both the Raiders and Chargers markets.)
Teams you love to beat? See above. Nothing better than slapping around your division rivals!
Favorite game this season? Has to be the 23-20 win over the Chargers. Seems appropriate to usher in what we all hope will be a new era with a win over a division rival.
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Still Von Miller. A consummate professional and all around fun guy. But this team is loaded with guys who seem like a good time.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? John Elway. Easy.
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Right now it’s Drew Lock just because of the hope he represents.
Former Broncos player who most deserves HOF? Randy Gradishar
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Booger McFarland. Please, make him stop!
Your 2020 New Year’s resolution? I will be retiring from the Marine Corps this year after 21 years of service. My goal is to make as smooth a transition to civilian life as possible while being the best husband and father I can be.
Superstitions on game day? I only have a few but I did have one years ago that to this day I believe made a difference in that playoff tilt between Tebow’s Broncos and the Steelers. My wife had bought me Broncos mini helmets and at one point just as the Broncos went on that improbable run I placed those mini helmets on the TV stand, facing each other. As you may recall, the Broncos finished the season on a 3-game skid for a final finish of 8-8. In the week between the season finale and the wild card game I was walking by the TV and paused, turned the helmets outboard and continued on. It worked. Obviously it worked. I don’t see how you can argue otherwise. Science and all...
How did you become a Broncos fan?
Actually the Raiders are why I am a Broncos fan. I am originally from the Los Angeles area and in the late 1980s the L.A. Raiders were nothing but bad news. Seemed every kid or teen in Raiders gear was a thug or bully, and I wanted no part of them. We were visiting a friend’s home one game-day afternoon and the Raiders were playing the Broncos. I started rooting for them just because they were playing the Raiders and stuck with them after that. I became a Broncos fan just in time to watch the Redskins annihilate them in the Super Bowl. As providence would have it, my family moved to Colorado shortly after I became a Broncos fan, and just in time to watch the 49ers annihilate them in the Super Bowl. Such is life as a Broncos fan, right?
I always forget to ask "most heartbreaking" loss, so here it is for the group:
This poll is closed
Jaguars in the playoffs 1997 (96 season)
Ravens in the playoffs 2013 (2012 season)
Cowboys in SB XII
Giants in SB XXI
Redskins in SB XXII
Niners in SB XXIV
Seahawks in SB 48