The Butkus Award and Matt Russell

For many years, Mike Ryoko was the best newspaper writer in Chicago. The City of the Big Shoulders lived and breathed in the artful, insightful prose that comprised Ryoko’s column. Much like Studs Terkel, Ryoko’s columns were about people - the famous, sometimes, sure.

He had a running battle going with corruption and political shenanigans, and Chicago never has had a shortage of either. But most of the columns were simply about working stiffs - the effect of things on the actual people who lived, worked, and paid their taxes to Chicago - those people that made the city possible.  If you ever want a great read, his Chicago Confidential is still around.

Ryoko liked to tap out his columns on a portable typewriter, surrounded by a haze of tobacco smoke and the sounds of men drinking in a bar/restaurant located beneath State Street. Called the Billy Goat Tavern, it was the origin of the Saturday Night Live skit ‘Cheeseburger, Cheeseburger’ and also of the infamous Curse of the Billy Goat that troubled the Chicago Cubs for generations.

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Who wins a battle between Ditka and a stroke? Ditka Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Elvis Dumervil made a limited return to practice Friday, and is listed as questionable for Sunday's matchup against San Diego.

Chris Kuper and Tracy Porter also practiced on a limited basis, but Kuper is doubtful, while Porter will miss his fifth straight game.

Dumervil would likely play in a limited role if at all, while D.J. Williams will probably see some action tomorrow, once he's expectedly added to the active roster later today.

For the Chargers, RB Ryan Mathews returned to practice yesterday and expects to play, while LT Jared Gaither is listed as doubtful and figures to be replaced again by rookie Mike Harris.

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A Second Helping of Denver’s recovery woes: Opponent fumbles

The Broncos have been recovering fumbles at a puzzlingly low rate in 2012.

Explanations for this issue have resembled a Randian debate. Either, the Broncos aren't trying hard enough to recover fumbles, and are being outworked by their opponents, or they're trying to do too much (ie. scoop and run instead of falling on the ball).

It's Denver's fault - because anything unfavorable that happens to them, they've put themselves in that position.

Alternatively, the ball just hasn't bounced Denver's way as much as would be expected, and them's the breaks.

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STDL: Ho hum, Broncos are still #1

Another week, another Broncos win. And of course, the advanced metrics still count Denver among the league's elite teams.

You didn't expect anything else, did you?

Denver remains atop Brian Burke's efficiency rankings for the fifth straight week, and are even creating some distance between themselves and the other top teams. Burke's figures again have the Broncos ranked first in offensive efficiency (first in passing, sixth in rushing) and second on defense (fifth against the pass, 11th versus the run).

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Von, Vick fined for iffy hits Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Elvis Dumervil missed practice for the second consecutive day due to the shoulder injury he suffered on Sunday.

But Elvis says he plans to practice today and play on Sunday, calling his shoulder strain much less severe than the one that delayed the start of his 2011 season.

The six sacks Dumervil has tallied against Philip Rivers are the most he's had against any quarterback.

Chris Kuper was limited in practice again, but Manny Ramirez is expected to again start in his place. FWIW, Manny graded out at +1.1 against Carolina - his third-best grade of the year, according to PFF.

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Fox making right decision on kickoffs, but for wrong reason

Jim Trotter posted a thought-provoking column today on kickoff deferrals:

Since the start of the 2010 season, flip-winning clubs that have opted to receive first are 185-209 (.470), versus 140-115 (.549) for those deferring.

"Six and a half-dozen," said Broncos coach John Fox. "You don't know how it's going to go."..."There are two principals that apply to coaching," Fox says. "One is, If it ain't broke don't fix it. Two is, Don't get caught up in the same old stuff."
Because the Broncos have scored touchdowns three of the last four games after receiving the second-half kickoff, look for Fox to stay with the same old stuff and not fix what ain't broke.

We've been heartened by John Fox's recent choices to defer possession until the second half kickoff in recent weeks, but it's just as disappointing to learn he's been doing so thanks to some sort of gut feeling.

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You Got Served: Revisiting the Broncos as Super Bowl contenders

Happy Thursday, friends.  In typical salaried-employee fashion, as I prepare to go on vacation Friday, I’m scrambling to do eight days of work in four days this week.  As such, my writing time has been a bit limited, but I want to share some quick thoughts today about team expectations and the stupidity of reporters.

One of my favorite drums to beat is that the NFL is a complex and dynamic system, where the facts of yesterday become the “not so much” of today.  I laugh every year as the John Claytons of the world, and also his imitators, attempt to forecast the NFL in the preseason.

Usually, this takes two forms: the dumber ones, like Clayton himself, will tend to predict that about 10 of the 12 teams that made the playoffs the year before will do so again, and that two other teams which had hyped draft or free agent classes will also get into the mix.  The smarter ones will note that on average, only 7 of 12 teams tend to make the playoffs in back-to-back years, and they’ll try to find the 10 teams that they think are mostly likely to move up and down in class.

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John Elway to Tebow fans: Go f$#@ yourselves

Elway still on a Rocky Mountain high

Elway said he believes moving on from Tebow to a more traditional quarterback was the right move.

“I believe that there are Tebow fans, and there are Broncos fans,” he said. “My responsibility is to the Broncos fans, and my responsibility is to (owner) Pat Bowlen and what he wants to do, and that’s win championships. “

Thank you, John Elway.

If, for some reason, you don't go to heaven, we'd be happy to join you in your blue and orange hell.

Jets are a clown show, Bro Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! During each of Denver's games this season, we've seen several shots of Peyton Manning speaking with his teammates after a drive.

Usually the camera shot only shows Manning surrounded by his five linemen and perhaps line coach Dave Magazu, but this apparently isn't a matter of just the quarterback and his linemen discussing protection and calls.

According to Peyton, the entire offense has been meeting after every possession, good or bad, to discuss what they saw on the field. Taking inspiration from the military, and encouraged to do so by John Fox, Manning & Co. refer to these get-togethers as their "debriefing sessions."

As for the location of these conferences, Manning says the skill players head over to where the big heavies sit, hence our television view of the backs of the offensive linemen, and Peyton facing the camera.

NFL Films captured a bunch of these conversations from the Carolina game in their latest Sound FX piece. (h/t AldenBrown)

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It’s the little things for the Broncos

It’s often said that it’s the little things that count in life. By my count, during the Broncos' 36-14 win over the Panthers, there were five of them in particular that deserved a big pat on the back.

The first one hits big. He often plays big. He’s Danny Trevathan, the 6-1, 232-lb nickel- and dime-package linebacker whom the Broncos took as their sixth-round draft choice in April. It doesn’t take much knowledge of the game to notice that he’s usually around the ball at the tackle, and that he’s essentially fearless. Danny’s been getting into games in nickel and dime coverage, paired with his Kentucky fellow alum and super ‘backer, Wesley Woodyard.

Trevathan looked outright diminutive next to the 6-5, 255-lb Carolina tight end Greg Olsen. But discriminating fans may have noticed that after Olsen had gashed the Broncos early on, the team assigned Danny to cover Olsen, with immediate positive results. Trevathan did not shut him down, and he will learn a lot from the encounter, but it shows clearly the confidence Denver is developing in him. And, it was a pretty good start, given what he was being asked to do on the fly. Olsen wasn’t the guy he was mostly studying in film work last week, and the rookie still bothered the TE and made his job harder.

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