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Horse Tracks - Dead Horses, Lame Ducks and Raging Sheep

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The Broncos hit the skids just in time for the Super Bowl-favorite Rams to come to town.

NFL: Denver Broncos at New York Jets
Case Keenum completed 69% of his passes for 377 yards and 2 touchdowns but also led an offense that converted 4 of 14 third downs.
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

In the spring of 2018 John Elway and the Broncos knew they needed fresh blood at the quarterback position. Case Keenum was the apple of their eye (or at least the consolation when Kirk Cousins showed no interest).

Then come draft day, the Broncos took most expert’s top defensive player in Bradley Chubb at 5. In so doing Elway elected to pass on quarterbacks Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson. They had no chance at Baker Mayfield, who went first overall, and never managed a deal with the Giants to jump above the Jets for Sam Darnold.

A quick look at their respective Sundays:

Josh Rosen went 10 of 25 for 170 yards and a touchdown while helping the Cardinals convert two of their 12 third downs. He finished with a QBR of 33.4

Josh Allen went 10/19 for 82 yards, no touchdowns and a pick. He also ran four times for 19 yards and a touchdown. He had a QBR of 35.5 while the Bills converted four of 13 third downs as well as two of three fourth downs.

Sam Darnold went 10/22 for 198 yards, three touchdowns and one pick. The rookie had a 58.0 QBR, while the Jets converted six of 13 third downs.

Case Keenum went 35/51 for 377 yards, two touchdowns and a pick. The Broncos converted four of 14 third downs. He had a QBR of 28.6.

The question I’m left with once again this Tuesday is why the Broncos coaching staff refuses to buoy Keenum with the elite ground game?

Before Sunday Denver had the second best rushing DVOA by FootballOutsiders. The rookie running backs averaged more than five yards a carry Sunday but in a 3rd quarter when time is not yet a critical factor? Philip Lindsay had two carries. Royce Freeman? 0.

On to the Broncos links

When is it time to bench Case Keenum for Chad Kelly? - Mile High Report

Mile High Report writers (including yours truly) gave their thoughts on the QB situation.

Audibles at the Line: Week 5 | Football Outsiders

We just had the longest non-touchdown in NFL history in New York!

If you’re looking for a reason to stick out the season, do it for the rookies. Sutton got robbed a long catch yesterday, got hurt and still chased down Marcus Maye. Even if they’re not being utilized properly, Philip Lindsay and Royce Freeman have been incredible. Bradley Chubb has been quietly impressive. Josey Jewell should improve as he learns to recognize play action. Isaac Yiadom is... a on the field.

5 things we learned from Denver Broncos 34-16 loss to the New York Jets - Mile High Report

Here is what I learned: this team is not a serious playoff contender. Vance Joseph is left hoping that some injury luck will work in their favor and the Broncos will find a way to steal enough wins to squeak in. That may be enough to save his job. Maybe.

3 winners, 8 losers in Denver Broncos 34-16 road loss to New York Jets - Mile High Report

The Jets and Broncos are both sitting at 2-3. This year they’re likely headed for similar finishes. That’s where the similarities probably end though. One team has a top tier defense and very young rookie quarterback who is growing as he goes. The other team has a 30-year old journeyman and aging core. They’re heading in different directions because Elway chose to patch a hole and in order to chase the playoffs this year.

Anyone who follows the Broncos knows that Mike Klis basically runs PR for the team, so this tweet is a bit of a weird. The team’s done a great job... at losing?

Derek Wolfe: I’m tired of talking about the same shit the last 2 years. - Mile High Report

“I’m upset,” Wolfe said. “We come off a short week and we are practicing hard, lifting hard, doing everything we can to be a good player then we go out and lose. The investment is too big. You invest so much into your body to make sure you’re healthy for the game just to come out and lose. That upsets you.”

Can’t help but wonder what the locker room is like behind closed doors if things like this are slipping out into public.

Injury Updates: Adam Jones, Garett Bolles suffer injuries against Jets

In his post-game press conference, Head Coach Vance Joseph announced that Jones has a hamstring injury.

You’re almost left wondering if it makes sense to have your 35-year old slot corner returning punts.

Right tackle Garett Bolles also suffered a right ankle injury, per Joseph.

They meant left, obviously, but if Bolles can’t go it means Elijah Wilkinson steps into action for Sunday’s game with the Rams. Billy Turner is already playing for Jared Veldheer.

Denver Broncos need to fire Vance Joseph - Mile High Report

In terms of Joseph, what more does Elway and the Broncos need to see?

I’ve been pretty critical of the Joseph hire from the start, but it’s too soon to move on from Vance Joseph. Not because he’ll figure it out and the Denver will stumble into the dance after a comet strikes Kansas City. Elway would be mistaken to give the coach his walking papers now because the Broncos are all of 5 games into a 16 game schedule. All the move would do now would throw extra work onto the other coaches and potentially shock the roster. It’s a short term feel good move for a longer term issue.

Look ahead to Los Angeles. Is there any hope the Broncos can beat the Rams?

Ranking 2018 NFL season's biggest playoff risers, fallers - Postseason odds improved and declined

The Seahawks weren't good enough to beat the Rams, but teams are going to look toward their formula to try to pull off their own upset. Seattle ran the ball up and down the field, racking up 190 yards and eight first downs on 32 carries. Running against the Rams serves two masters: It attacks the weakest part of Los Angeles's defense, while keeping your own defense on the sideline, giving pass-rushers valuable rest.

The Seahawks also used play-action to take big shots downfield while isolating Los Angeles' cornerbacks in coverage. Marcus Peters is an elite playmaker, but teams can take advantage of his propensity to look into the backfield and read the quarterback by sending speedy receivers past him and running double moves. Russell Wilson was nine of 11 passing for 172 yards and three touchdowns on play-action Sunday. The Rams are allowing the league's seventh-best passer rating when teams throw without a play fake, but when teams go with play-action, Los Angeles is allowing a 154.8 passer rating, the worst mark in football.

I’ll be doing a deeper dive into this with GIF Horse and potentially 3 and Out this week, but that’s the recipe in a nutshell. Barnwell’s piece also starts to dig into a potential Derek Carr Jon Gruden split beginning to brew. Worth a look.

Rams rally to remain undefeated with 33-31 win at Seattle - Los Angeles Times

“I thought we were punting,” Goff said. “Went back onto the field just to talk to one of the officials about something, and as I’m turning around the offense is running back on.

“I’m like, ‘All right, I guess we’re going for it.’ ”

Goff wasn’t the only player caught off guard. Left tackle Andrew Whitworth said that he was on the bench with his helmet on the ground. He joked that he was in “full pouting mode” about not getting the job done and having to punt.

“And I realized the whole offense was out there,” he said, “and took off running.”

So did Gurley. “I just see Goff ran back on and then, I’m like, ‘Oh, snap,’” he said.

Left guard Rodger Saffold lobbied for McVay to go for it.

“He was either going to be the saint or the donkey of the week,” Saffold said.

Rams will need to find some defensive consistency with more big matchups ahead - Los Angeles Rams Blog- ESPN

The defense could face some relief – and gain time to solve its issues -- in the coming weeks as they prepare for the struggling offenses of the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers. But larger tests loom within the next 6 weeks, with match ups against Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes awaiting.

If Broncos Country is looking for any small semblance of hope, it may be this:

4 takeaways from the Rams’ thrilling win over the Seahawks

Either Peters is playing at far less than 100 percent, or the absence of Aqib Talib is causing his play to dip. Peters looked shaky at times in last Thursday’s win over the Vikings, and it appeared that his injured calf was still bothering him.

A look around the rest of the West, where at least the Raiders continue Grudening.

Positive momentum from Raiders first win gives way to rash of all too familiar issues in loss to Chargers - Silver And Black Pride

So much for the heroic win vs the Browns leading to better things. Instead it was a concentrated collection of familiar failures.

Amari Cooper frustrated with just one target in Raiders brutal loss to Chargers - Silver And Black Pride

“Yeah, especially in a loss because you feel like you can do more to help your team win,” Coop said when I asked him if he was frustrated with having just one target.

Raiders week five report card vs Chargers - Silver And Black Pride

Only a matter of time before Gruden get's a grade, but right now the faithful at Silver And Black seem to be in denial.

What Did the Raiders Say After Losing to the Bolts?

“They did a good job of covering the first two guys. Derek Carrier popped late and beat his guy. I saw that he beat his guy and by the time I threw it, Melvin Ingram, who had been on the run, made a great play. I wasn’t trying to force it. I saw our guy and I was trying to throw it in the backline to him, but they made a play and that was the one.” – QB Derek Carr

From Near Disaster to Incredible TD: The Bizarre Play that Saved the Bolts

It looked like it was going to be a disaster.

Heck, it probably should have been a disaster.

But that’s the value of having a 15-year vet behind center, starting his league-leading 197th consecutive game.

Melvin Ingram, defense (finally) lead way as Chargers humble Raiders - Los Angeles Chargers Blog- ESPN

"We aren't happy yet," Ingram said. "We have a long way to go. We're just trying to build stepping stones. We are just trying to put wins on top of wins and try to get to our ultimate goal, and that is to win a championship."

Chiefs RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif fractured fibula against Jacksonville - Arrowhead Pride

Looks like the Chiefs starting guard is out for the year.

Kansas City Chiefs beat Jacksonville Jaguars: 15 winners and 9 losers - Arrowhead Pride

While the defense did allow 502 yards (it was on the field for 83 Jaguars offensive plays), it did find a way to force five turnovers—four interceptions of Blake Bortles and one forced fumble and recovery. “I thought there was a great game plan,” head coach Andy Reid said after the game. “Guys executed, drove on the ball, and had pressure on the quarterback for what seemed like the entire time, which is a plus. I think that’s why.”

Chiefs' Chris Jones, Dee Ford ejected vs. Jaguars - NFL.com

Jones was ejected in the third quarter after punching a Jacksonville Jaguar in the back of the thigh during a PAT attempt of the Chiefs' 30-14 win Sunday.

In other news, Drew Brees passed Peyton Manning for the All Time Passing Yardage record last night.

Where does New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees rank among all-time great quarterbacks? - NFL Videos

I would put Brees in the top 5. An interesting theoretical question: how would the careers of Brees, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady gone if they had landed on different teams? Call me crazy, but I think both Brees and Manning do what Brady did if they landed with the Patriots and Belichick.

On to the rest of the league

Mike McCarthy: I believe in Mason Crosby – ProFootballTalk

“He’s a proven highly successful kicker, and I believe in him but he’s got to make those kicks.”

Will Colts' Andrew Luck set the NFL career passing records?

With Andrew Luck throwing an obscene amount of passes (121) the last two weeks for the Indianapolis Colts and on pace to obliterate the season attempts (on pace for 784, Matthew Stafford holds the record at 727) and completions (on pace for 522, Brees holds the record at 471) marks, it's just a decade before he's knocking today's older generation down a notch on those lists, right?

Graham Gano’s 63-yard field goal saved the Panthers from themselves vs. the Giants - SBNation.com

Gano is now tied for the 2nd longest field goal of all time, and didn’t kick it at altitude.

Eric Reid takes a knee during national anthem - NFL.com

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Reid's signing was a "football decision" founded upon getting the best player available after safety Da'Norris Searcy was lost for the season because of concussions. Quarterback Cam Newton told reporters last week he wasn't concerned about Reid's stances on social issues being a potential distraction for the team.

NFL Week 5 Breakdown & Analysis: Bortles, Rams, Gano | SI.com

Lions Eating Legends: They join the 2011 Giants, 2012 Seahawks, 2012 49ers, and 2017 Panthers as teams to beat Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers in the same season.

Guess Sports Illustrated doesn’t consider what the 2015 Broncos did a “beating.” I wouldn’t either since they basically strangled both quarterbacks.

Buffalo Bills Upsets: Breaking Down How They're Winning | SI.com

The Bills, just like last year, are a cautionary tale against dismissing an “untalented” roster. With the right coaching and in the right system, untalented players—especially professionals—are capable of overachieving.

Could the Eagles trade for Le’Veon Bell or David Johnson?

Eagles place Jay Ajayi on injured reserve with torn ACL – ProFootballTalk

The fourth-year tailback, acquired in a trade last October with the Dolphins, will end the season with 145 rushing yards. And as he heads toward free agency, he’ll likely need to sign a one-year prove-it deal in 2019, before ever cashing in.

Jerry Jones on OT punt: It was time for risk – ProFootballTalk

“We were being outplayed. It’s time for risks at that particular time,” Jones said, via the team’s website.

Garrett explained his mindset after the game.

“Yeah, it was a long one,” Garrett said. “You know, we had a 3rd-and-2 and we didn’t make much on it and we just felt like at that point in the game, the way our defense was playing, the idea was to pin them down there.”

While we’re talking about decisions that cost teams games, on to this week’s Zebra watch

Mike Tomlin faces possible fine for his comments about officiating – ProFootballTalk

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin opted to vent regarding subpar officiating, after Sunday’s victory over the Falcons. It could end up costing him.

Unless it doesn’t.

Teams Should Aggressively Pursue Arizona LB Haason Reddick - The Draft Network

My first offer is a conditional Day 3 selection. In all reality, Haason Reddick’s cap hit peaks in 2020 with a $4.29M figure. Any team in the league can eat that, and they SHOULD be willing to eat it plus a Day 3 pick to gamble on Reddick’s promise and athletic ability.

You’re weekly look at what the experts are projecting to Denver in next years NFL draft.

Marino's 2019 Mock Draft 2.0 - Page 2 of 3 - The Draft Network

No. 14 – Denver Broncos

PICK: Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama

Denver has seen its share of off-ball LBs depart in recent years and haven’t truly replaced them. The Broncos defense needs talent on the second level and Wilson is a perfect fit for today’s game. He is an explosive linebacker with sideline-to-sideline range, strong instincts in coverage and the physicality to work into the line of scrimmage. He’s the next great Bama linebacker.