Happy New Year’s weekend, friends. Today, we re-digest the Kansas City Chiefs, hoping to avoid the rare situation of going 3-0 on the road in the AFC West, and 0-3 at home. Everybody knows this, I think, but if the Broncos win on Sunday, they’ll be division champions. If they lose, and the Raiders lose to San Diego, the Broncos would still back into winning the division. We shouldn’t be counting on that to happen, though, because the Raiders have a habit of beating San Diego, having taken 3 in a row from the Chargers. It’s a tough matchup for the Chargers, and it served as the first hint that their grip on the AFC West was slipping.
The Broncos, however, match up very well with Kansas City, and these matchup situations are a big part of what makes the AFC West interesting and competitive. (No, dumbass ESPN people – having a dominant team, two average teams, and a hopeless loser isn’t more interesting than having 4 closely matched teams in a division race, even if none of the closely matched teams are likely to compete for a Super Bowl. First things first.) The Broncos are a craptastic performance by Kyle Orton from last December away from having won 3 in a row against the Chiefs. The Broncos defend the Chiefs well, and their running game works really well against the Chiefs defense too.
By now, you know what's at stake. Seven weeks ago, the Broncos went into KC and came out victorious despite the fact that Tim Tebow completed just two of his eight pass attempts. Denver reeled off 244 rushing yards that day, the bulk of them provided by Lance Ball, Tebow and Knowshon Moreno. Neither team committed a turnover, and they combined for just 193 net passing yards. Overall, it was a snoozefest. Nine days later, Denver released Kyle Orton.
Tomorrow will be anything but boring - even if it's three hours of three-and-outs. After all, the AFC West is on the line, and as much as the two teams are trying to downplay it, the game really is Tim versus Kyle. About the only way this game could have had more drama is if the Chiefs had managed to beat Oakland last week (they were just a blocked FG shy of doing so), thus turning it into a winner-takes-all contest. So, how do the teams match up?
I like the improvement of J.D. Walton from last year, but I don’t see Denver running fourth and inches through his slot at this point, and I’m not sure that he ever will be that guy. He’s just not hitting with enough of a punch to drive people back, ala Tom Nalen. I’m sorry to compare him to one of the best from Denver’s past, but Denver wants to consistently be in the postseason playing for the Lombardi Trophy, and you won’t get there without a very good or elite center. Right now, J.D. doesn’t seem to be that. I like him, and he’s growing, but the lack of power and leverage are too often issues. J.D. snapped to two Heismann winners in college (including the one in Denver) but as important as his position is, they’re going to let him grow into it, or find a guy who can get those last inches. I’ve never heard anyone speak badly of Walton, and my only complaint is with his technical game - he’s tough-minded, he’s willing to mix it up and I like his moves to the second level, but he’s not dominating DTs. In a team that’s made no bones about going with a running attack, one of the three interior linemen have to be able to create that push. Right now, I haven’t seen it. To be clear, I like Walton and Chris Kuper in particular - I also follow Zane Beadles’ tweets and he’s the kind of guy I’d love to have a beer with, but he does have his balance troubles, and that can’t help Walton, either.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Chris Benson previews tomorrow's game for PFF, and he's expecting the Broncos to utilize a more conventional rushing attack since KC will presumably will be better prepared for the read option than they were last time. On defense, Benson figures that although Von Miller's struggles since he injured his thumb have been well chronicled, he should impact the game matching up against Barry Richardson - the worst right tackle in the game according to PFF's grading.
For PFF's latest Scramble column, Benson writes that the turning point for Denver's season may have been Chris Harris' interception of Carson Palmer and subsequent 60-yard touchdown run by Willis McGahee. It was a remarkable sequence of events, one that should not be underestimated. I think people look back at the 38-24 final score and recall the game as a thumping by Denver, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. The first half was all Oakland, and the Broncos running game didn't really dominate until that McGahee run to end the third quarter. Denver was 2-5 at that point, and here we are eight weeks later and they've got a chance to win the division tomorrow. Incredible.
Denver safety Brian Dawkins is doubtful
Denver safety Brian Dawkins is doubtful for Sunday’s game against Kansas City with a neck injury that has been bothering him for several weeks. He did not practice all week. It will be up to rookies Quinton Carter and Rahim Moore to anchor the defense in a critical game against the Chiefs. Denver will win the AFC West with a victory over the Chiefs and former Denver quarterback Kyle Orton.
If Denver losses, we may not see Dawkins in a Denver uniform again. He is 38 and there is concern in Denver about the neck injury. He has been the unquestioned leader of the team since he arrived as a free agent from Philadelphia in 2009.
For Kansas City, running back Jackie Battle (foot) is out and safety Jon McGraw (ankle) is doubtful to play Sunday.
Denver's Tebow now officially a 'super hero', thanks to Marvel
The three pieces, rendered in full color, are the work of Marvel comic artists Bong Dazo, Scott Koblish and Todd Nauck and all depict Tebow in various states of on-the-field action. One shows Tebow racing downfield while a scoreboard behind him shows the “visitors” with a (temporary?) 14-7 lead with 2:24 left in the fourth quarter. Marvel says Tebow has been “nothing short of a super hero” for the Broncos this season due to his heroics, which makes the work of the artists appropriate.
“Like the Marvel heroes who pull off last minute victories, Tim Tebow has fans around the world on the edge of their seats and believing that in our own lives - when time is running out and all looks lost, we can dig deep inside and use our various strengths to triumph over insurmountable odds,” said Marvel Custom Solutions spokesman Bill Rosemann.
Na na na na na na na na...Tebow!
Rams' Lloyd will follow McDaniels
“I can’t even lie about that,” Lloyd said. “I’m tied to McDaniels. He uses me differently than other offensive coordinators used me in my entire career. He uses me as an every-play receiver. The short game, mid-range game, gimmick passes, deep balls. I do everything in this offense as opposed to other coordinators who would just run me off as the deep guy; run me off into double coverage and then say I’m not open. So I really like how Josh uses me within the offense. I’m extremely comfortable in the offense.”
When informed of those comments by Lloyd, McDaniels replied: “I appreciate that, and he knows I feel that way about him, too. I would love to have an opportunity to continue working with him. I think you grow fond of certain players; you grow fond of all of them. But some of ‘em you may get closer with than others, and that’s definitely true with him.”
Chiefs Week will be that much more interesting if it involves Josh McDaniels, Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd all suiting up for KC, won't it?
Four days after a billboard in Denver on 58th Avenue one block east of Interstate 25 publicly called for coach John Fox to bench Orton in favor of No. 15, the quarterbacks decided to begin fining Tebow every day that it remained up.
No one ever gave him a reason, but according to sources, this was it: Tebow never made any attempt to publicly admonish the divisive gesture by the fan base. So they fined him. For six days. Until he eventually replaced Orton and there was no longer a reason for the billboard to exist.
During that span, while fans were up in arms after the team started 1-4 with Orton under center, there were never any confrontations between the players. Never tense words exchanged. Never anything that would indicate a problem at all except for the strange and awkward situation surrounding that billboard. But all of it—even if unspoken—was not unnoticed.
Of course Tebow wouldn't say anything to admonish the billboards. Why would he purposely hurt his FRS/Jockey/Nike brand?
Some things really are more important than football.
Speaking of Orton, the Chiefs will make an effort to sign him this offseason and bring him back for another year to compete with starter Matt Cassel…[Sam] Bradford will know soon that the Rams won’t be picking a quarterback with the first or second pick and that they will hopefully parlay that pick into a much-needed infusion of talent…Something tells me the next head coach at Penn State will come from the pro ranks…The word out of Tampa seems to indicate that Raheem Morris will be coaching his last game on Sunday.
Mike Martz is not expected back with the Bears even though head coach Lovie Smith seems annoyed with all the questions. Martz has told people that he did not sign an extension and is not going back. Who would the Bears go after? Maybe Jay Cutler’s former offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, who is now available. Last time the Bears had a position open they wanted to talk to Bates, but he took the Seattle job before they had a chance.
Plenty of interesting nuggest from Lombardi today - having Josh McDaniels reunite with Kyle Orton in KC, and Jeremy Bates with Jay Cutler in Chicago? Ugh, the memories...