OH MY GOODNESS, THE SEASON IS HERE AND WE FINALLY GET TO WATCH BRONCOS FOOTBALL AFTER 150 YEARS OF OFF-SEASON, AND I JUST CAN’T STAND IT!!!
OK, I’ve calmed down.
A little bit.
At least enough to more intelligently introduce the first Ultimate Fan Guide of 2021. But I won’t lie. I’m pretty dang excited. For some reason, this offseason felt longer, and the anticipation to see if the Broncos can actually get back to winning football feels more intense. Probably because it seems like we’ve been in the desert for way longer than five seasons (Moses has nothing on us). And though I’m hesitant to get my hopes up too high, I am confident this team is solid and has all the pieces to turn things around. And so does Jason Ault, who is throwing down in this first UFG and setting a high bar for all to come ... which I also feel confident is going to be a fabulous group of UFGers.
Before we get to Broncos football, though, a short “moment of silence” today to honor the victims and first-responders who died in 9/11. Tomorrow the Broncos and Giants will commemorate before kickoff that sad day 20 years ago. The Giants had actually lost to the Broncos in Denver on Monday Night Football on the eve of 9/11, so it’s fitting the two teams will play each other a day after the 20th anniversary just miles from where the Twin Towers were attacked.
We all will remember where we were and we will all remember that day and we MUST all remember the lives lost , the families forever affected and the heroes on 9/11 pic.twitter.com/6HPohvpsGn— Zach Azzanni COACH Z (@CoachZBroncos) September 11, 2021
OK, on to football... let’s get this freaking winning party started!
Week 1: Broncos at Giants
MHR - A new year. A new quarterback. Von back. Fans in the stands. What are you most excited about for this season?
JasonAult16: First and foremost, I am just excited to be back in the stands. I am not too much of a material “stuff” person. I would rather spend money on experiences. I love...ABSOLUTELY LOVE...going to Broncos games and pretty much plan my year around that. To not be able to do that last season was difficult. I know that is a “first-world problem,” but that’s what brings me joy. Not just the game itself, but to be able to spend time with family and/or friends who attend the games with me in such an electric, raucous atmosphere is so special.
As for the team, I just feel that there is enough talent on this team to have a successful season. We certainly have to hope that the injury bug stays away from the team more than last year (knocking on my wooden kitchen table), but the talent is there to compete.
MHR - After Bridgewater was named the starter, a lot of fans melted down over the decision. What’s your take on why Bridgewater was the choice and do you think it was the right one?
JasonAult16: I am fine with the decision. I probably was pulling for Drew Lock to be the starter and still believe that he will have an impact on the season, but I am ready for Teddy. I have read so many people rave about his leadership qualities. He seems to have a great chemistry already with Jerry Jeudy (who I think will be a breakout star this season). Teddy has overcome his own adversity with a devastating injury that could have ended his career, so he probably has some perspective on making the most of opportunities. Ultimately though, he’ll have to help the Broncos win football games, especially because this team and fanbase is so starved and hungry for success.
MHR - Finish this sentence: If Teddy Bridgewater just _________, the Broncos will ___________ on Sunday and will __________ this season.
JasonAult16: If Teddy just takes care of the football (limit turnovers) and stays on schedule with down and distance (limit third and long situations), the Broncos will win on Sunday and will be a playoff team this season. Again, there is too much talent on this football team not to be successful. I love the overall defense. I love the offensive line, backs, and receiving corps. The biggest question is obviously the quarterback spot. How Teddy (and Drew, possibly at some point) goes, so goes the rest of the team.
MHR - Von Miller said this Broncos’ offensive line is the best he’s had since he was a rookie in Denver. Although Von is known for his positive hyperbole about every player, it seems like he could be right. Do you think this O-line is finally becoming a strength...or at least not a weakness? What’s the missing piece for it being a top 10 or 15 O-line in the league
JasonAult16: That unit just needs to continue building consistency. Again, good health would help. There is not a better coach you could want leading this group than Mike Munchak. Garett Bolles has improved so much. I remember when he sucked against the Bears in 2019, and Broncos’ standout and my Twitter friend Mark Schlereth just ripped him on the broadcast. You kinda wondered if GB’s days were numbered in Denver. Fortunately for Garett, he kept working and kept improving. The next step for him is to play well in front of a crowd. Another one of my Twitter pals, Andrew Mason, once raised the notion that playing in empty stadiums had some quasi-positive effects for players because they didn’t have to listen to fans booing them. Could that have helped Garett last season? Sure. To prove that his development is legit, he (and the rest of the o-line too) will have to play well with 76,000 in the house.
MHR - The offensive skill positions look fierce with Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Melvin Gordon, Noah Fant and Albert O. Is the Giants’ secondary up for this crew?
JasonAult16: I have not read too much on the Giants defense, but I do feel confident with the backs and receiving corps (I won’t call them skill guys because I hope to stay in the good graces of my guy Mark Schlereth...how’s that for continued name dropping?). Where is your weak link in this group? With his injury last year, I think people could have forgotten that Courtland Sutton is a legit WR threat. Jerry Jeudy, as mentioned earlier, is a terrific route runner who can put defenders on skates. KJ Hamler is a fast human being who can burn people over the top. Noah Fant has the skill set to be hard to guard in coverage. Albert O showed great flashes before he got hurt last year. Don’t forget about Javonte Williams either. When the Broncos drafted him, I loved watching the play from college of his run against Miami where he plowed the defender because it was just so disrespectful. He had other plays in the preseason where he showed a willingness to mix it up, either while running the ball or in pass protection. He will be a good one too.
MHR - Over on the Big Blue View site, commenters were lamenting the media picking such a big victory by the Broncos over the Giants and calling this a trap game for the Broncos. MHR’s Ozark Orange commented on their site that no 5-11 team from 2020 is looking at Week 1 as a trap game. Are you concerned?
JasonAult16: I think back to a game when I was in high school where my team got up early by a couple of touchdowns and then let off the gas to let the opponent back in the game and ultimately beat us handily. I think our coach sensed that we thought we would have an easy win even though we weren’t exactly world beaters. He asked us in film the following Monday, “Since when are we Nebraska where we can overlook people?” (This was in 2000 when Nebraska was actually a great program, should any of you younger readers not understand why “Nebraska” and “great program” are used in the same sentence.)
This is absolutely not a trap game. This Broncos team of recent years has not earned the right to overlook anyone. They have to play well, and I hope they know that. The Broncos’ A-game wins this game. Their C-game loses it, and an F-game gets the pitchforks and For Sale signs headed toward Vic’s house.
MHR - The Broncos and Giants are pretty similar this season with some strong skill players on offense, questions at quarterback but strength on the D. Which side of the ball will be more important for giving the Broncos the edge on Sunday?
JasonAult16: The offense has to have early success to allow the defense to play with a lead. The defense cannot flex its muscle when playing from behind and thus allowing the Giants to run the ball, make short throws, and keep the pass rush from pinning its ears back to go get the quarterback. I read a stat that the Broncos have not scored a touchdown on a season-opening drive since 2008. Think about that. That even includes the years where Laurie’s good friend Peyton Manning was behind center at Mile High. Getting off to a fast start would be so helpful on so many levels.
Evan Engram ruled OUT for the Giants.— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) September 10, 2021
The Broncos’ job in coverage just got a whole lot easier.
MHR - There are not many - if any - holes on the Broncos’ defense. Which defensive unit are you most excited about this season? Which one will be tested the most against the Giants - the secondary? The run defense? The pass rushers?
JasonAult16: I am stoked to watch this secondary do work. It is so deep. Justin Simmons is a Pat Bowlen guy, and I was very happy to see Kareem Jackson return. I love the Surtain pick (yeah, yeah, I know that Justin Fields was available but I’m still rolling with PS2). Signing Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller also seem like good gets. As we learned last season, you can’t have too many corners. The Broncos should be great with that group, barring injury of course (knocking on wooden kitchen table
I think Sunday’s challenge will be in the trenches. During my fantasy draft, I read references to Kenny Golladay saying he thought the team could have a slow start to the season because injuries and other absences had prevented the team, particularly quarterback Daniel Jones and his receivers, from having much time to work together during the preseason. So the Giants might need to pound the ground attack, although that is a tricky thing since Saquon Barkley is still working his way back to 100% after his knee injury last season. If the Broncos can win on defense in the trenches, that will go a long way toward Vic taking his first September sip from the victory chalice.
MHR - The Giants have had a way of spoiling the Broncos’ hopes for wins. In 2017, a hobbled and winless NYG team marched into Mile High and whooped us. In 1998, Giants played spoiler to the Super Bowl champs and ruined an undefeated record. How do the Broncos avoid letting the home team get the upset?
JasonAult16: Yeah, those were some bad memories. As I have said, get off to a fast start on offense, so that the defense can play aggressively. Don’t turn the ball over. No stupid penalties on either side of the ball. This is a very winnable game if the Broncos can play well but a very losable one if they don’t.
MHR - After five losing seasons, how important is it for morale to get a win on Sunday? How important is morale for the entire season?
JasonAult16: It is HUGE. This team and fan base are tired of losing. The Broncos need to start winning. They can’t just talk about it but also have to go out and do it. Otherwise, we will have those thoughts fester of “Oh boy, here we go again.” A win in the Meadowlands won’t guarantee a successful season, but a loss would be a huge setback and an unwanted reason for continued negativity among the fanbase. Gotta get the dub!
"This is a different team, it's a different mindset. It's just a different feel.” - @VonMiller— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) September 10, 2021
Stats for Teddy Bridgewater? 250 yards passing, 2 TD passes
Stats for each Broncos RB? Gordon 90 yards and TD run; Williams 50 yards; Others 20 yards
Number of yards receiving/TDs for each receiver? Jeudy 80 yards with TD catch; Sutton 60 yards; Hamler 30 yards; Fant 50 yards with TD catch; Others 30 yards
Longest FG for McManus? 45 yards
Number of sacks to Bridgewater? 2 sacks
Number of sacks to Daniel Jones? 5 sacks
Broncos player with the most tackles? Alexander Johnson
Who gets the first regular season sack for the Broncos? The most? Von Miller for both questions. I think he will be on a mission this year to get back to 2015 Von.
How many INTs/FF/FR for the Broncos D? Two INTs and a fumble recovery
How many penalties will the refs get wrong? All of them. But hopefully not enough to cost the Broncos a victory.
Final Score? The Broncos leave The Big Apple with a 27-13 victory. LET’S FREAKING GO!!!!!!
Favorite Broncos game SINCE Peyton Manning (tricked ya!) Oy vey. Not many great options from which to choose. I was at the last season opening win in 2018 against Seattle. Pretty exciting game. I also loved Drew’s break-out game at Houston in 2019. I had high hopes for him, but that hasn’t quite materialized as much as I hoped that it would yet.
Team you hate to lose to the most in the AFC West? I live in south-central Kansas, so I hate losing to Kansas City.
Team you love to beat the most in the AFC West? Previous question.
Team you hate to lose to the most in the AFC? I used to hate losing to New England and still mumble words under my breath not suitable for my young children when I see Josh McDaniels and his smug mug show up on my television screen.
Team you love to beat the most in the AFC? Other than previously-mentioned New England, I enjoy beating the Pittsburgh Steelers because they are usually always solid, so it means that the Broncos earned a hard-fought victory. Same with the Baltimore Ravens.
NFC team you cannot stand? I used to HATE the Dallas Cowboys from my days of living in Oklahoma as a kid in the early/mid 90s when EVERYONE in my school rooted for Dallas except me. I might have even hated them more than the Chiefs at the time. That hatred has diminished as I no longer live among that fanbase and since the Broncos have won six straight against them. I just cannot stand Jerry Jones and think it is an absolute travesty that he got into Canton for Pat Bowlen did. Jerry Jones is more concerned about being a billionaire than winning a Super Bowl.
NFC team you could root for in the Super Bowl (if not playing the Broncos, of course)? The Broncos are my forever favorite team with a gigantic gap between them and a second favorite, but if I had to name a second favorite, I would probably say Chicago. Not sure why, but I can’t ever recall disliking the Bears. I like the 49ers too because of Broncos connections with Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch. Oddly enough, as I think back through past Super Bowls, if the Broncos aren’t playing, I’m usually rooting for the NFC team because the AFC team has often been a team that I cannot stand (Chiefs and Patriots at the top of the list).
Favorite game looking forward to this season? My best bud and I will be flying out-and-back from Wichita to Denver on the same day for the Ravens game, so we feel like big shots. If you see #AultZieglerBroncosDay trending on Twitter, it’s because I give my buddy an almost-daily fun Broncos countdown of our upcoming day. I can guarantee that tears will be shed during the national anthem as I soak in the atmosphere of being back in my happy place at Mile High. By the way, I will also be at the Raiders and Chargers home games, so I am pumped for those too.
Toughest game on the schedule? I hate to say it, but all roads to getting back to the Super Bowl go through the God-forsaken place that is GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium (had to get that dig in since I know the fan base hates the new addition to the official stadium name)
Favorite Broncos player on the current roster? Dalton Risner is a good dude. He has liked some of my tweets to him. He is a K-State guy, which appeals to my in-laws. He is someone who I hope my young son grows to emulate not just on the field, but more importantly off the field.
Favorite Broncos player of all time? John Albert Elway, Jr
Favorite new guy/rookie on the team? Along with PS2 and Javonte Williams, I am highly intrigued by Quinn Meinerz. When I saw his information after the Broncos drafted him, I kinda figured he would be a goober type, but Dude appears to be pretty sharp. His mauling style and fearless attitude to mix it up in the trenches should serve him well.
Superstitions on game day? Text my buddies on a Broncos text chain. Travis, Eric, Chad, and Matt are brothers from other mothers who share life with me. Our faith is the most important part of our lives, but we have all been brought together because of the Broncos.
Least favorite game analyst/commentator? Cris Collinsworth can be pretty annoying. I also didn’t like Phil Simms when he worked Broncos games because he always seemed to be negative on them. For some reason, Ian Eagle also annoys me, though I’m not sure why.
Favorite sports cliche? I’m a Wichita State guy, so I’m a big fan of PLAY ANGRY
Favorite sports movie? 42 and 61. Both are great stories of guys overcoming (very different) adversities. I rooted for the Dodgers and Yankees as a kid because of family ties, and I still root for them now, though not near the level of fandom that I have for the Broncos.
How did you become a Broncos fan and what is it like being a fan of Denver in Kansas?
I have told this story before, but my Broncos fandom comes from my dad, who started rooting for them when his older sister moved to Denver and sent him a Broncos shirt. By the time I was born and old enough to start watching football, John Elway was doing his thing. I adored watching him play. Meeting him is one of my bucket list items, so if anyone can help with that, you’ll forever be in my good graces. I am fortunate to have had Broncos season tickets since 2009. I named my son Denver (which surprised absolutely no one who knows me), and I am looking forward to taking him to his first Broncos game, probably in the 2023 season.
Oh boy. Living among Chiefs fans. I know that all successful teams have their bandwagoners, but dang, I have never seen so much red than I have in the last five years. Kind of annoying, and by “kind of,” I really mean “a whole heckuva lot.” Having to watch entire newscasts in Wichita going nonstop about the Chiefs during Super Bowl week the last two years was gross. I was literally in a bad mood for quite awhile having to watch the Chiefs brag about their Super Bowl victory. I blamed the Chiefs Super Bowl win for causing the world to go to hell in a handbasket in 2020. Fortunately, our old foe Tom Brady (or as Laurie would say, #FYTB) redeemed himself and set the world straight last February by helping the Bucs knock off the Chiefs in last year’s Super Bowl.
Probably the worst part about being a Broncos fan in Kansas is the TV coverage. I know that if the Chiefs and Broncos play conflicting games, then the local stations will cover the Chiefs game. Fine, whatever, I get it. What annoys me are times like this week when the Chiefs game isn’t conflicting with the Broncos game but the local station still won’t show the Broncos game, instead opting for another game. I know that it isn’t the local station who makes that call, and I am told that there are times where the local station can make requests to the network to switch. Still, it makes me mad. The Broncos certainly need to do their part and have success so that the TV people can justify showing the Broncos game, but for being the third closest NFL team to Wichita (and in some parts of western Kansas where Denver is THE CLOSEST NFL city), we seem to have to hold our breath to be able to get to see the Broncos here on local TV. I know that there are other ways to view games (legally or maybe not-so-legally), but it’s just the principle of the matter.
Which team’s fans are the most insufferable?
#FYTB fans ;)