Good Morning, Broncos fans! Denver has gone four weeks without having lost a fumble. In most years, this probably wouldn't be particularly notable.
But in the case of these 2012 Broncos, it's quite a turnaround, given that they had lost at least one fumble in nine of their first ten games, for a total of 13 lost fumbles out of 16. As we had shown after nine games, much of this was a matter of luck, but the team's improved fortunes have not solely been about not losing fumbles - they've also been putting the ball on the ground much less often.
After those 16 fumbles in 10 games, Denver has just three fumbles in its past four games - a poor snap by Dan Koppen against Tampa Bay, a muffed punt by Trindon Holliday at Oakland, and a Holliday fumble on a kickoff last week. The former two were recovered by Denver, while the latter went out of bounds and stayed with the Broncos.
Dominating Defense Fuels Win Streak
The team’s highest statistical jump since the beginning of the win streak has been in third-down conversions. During the first five games of the season, opponents were successful on 46.7 percent of their third-down attempts, which ranked 29th out of the 32 NFL teams. Since then, that number has plummeted to 20.9, which is best in the league—6.3 percentage points ahead of the second-place San Francisco 49ers.
Lower your salt intake, increase your servings of fruits and veggies, add a little Wesley Woodyard, Chris Harris, and Tony Carter, and watch what happens to your defense's third-down percentage.
Rockin' around the Christmas tree, at the Christmas party slop.
I love the myth of the free market and the bootstrapping entrepreneur. Without it, our business schools wouldn't continue to surge with wide-eyed future (and underemployed) alumni donors. I also love it because the narrative is so simple. It's black and white, really--I did everything, all by myself. Despite the lessons from behavioral economics and history, the narrative's insistence on oversimplifying complex issues into laissez-faire dogma provides for some great comedic context.
Enter the humor of Bills owner Ralph Wilson. In 2011, Wilson gave an interview in which he gave this tidy little homespun answer to a question about how much he profits from his ownership of the Buffalo Bills:
I came into this game 50 years ago because I enjoyed the game of pro football. Not to make money. In those days, everybody was hoping to break even. We lost money for a number of years. I am really not into the game to make money, but I would like to break even or make a little.
Broncos starting right guard Chris Kuper again missed practice Friday and is listed as doubtful for Sunday's game against Cleveland; it would be the third consecutive game he's missed due to injury, and the ninth in total.
According to John Fox, Kuper continues to be hindered by scar tissue in his surgically-repaired ankle, and is also dealing with migraine problems. Manny Ramirez will again start in his place; Peyton Manning has taken just two sacks with Kuper in the lineup, but 19 with Ramirez starting.
Apocalypse Now: Chicago Bears and the NFL’s Greatest Second-Half Collapses
The Bears are now on the verge of missing the playoffs after a 7-1 start, which has rarely happened since the 16-game season began in 1978. A total of 61 teams started exactly 7-1 from 1978 to 2011, and 58 of them made the playoffs.
Chicago (8-6) must win out on the road against Arizona (5-9) and Detroit (4-10), and even then will need some help to make the playoffs.
We all remember 2008, so there's no need to rehash beyond threegameleadthreegameslefttoplaybuhbye. And of course, this can't all be Jay's fault, as he's playing behind an absolutely atrocious offensive line, as per usual.
But Cutler hasn't been so good himself - his QB rating is four points below his career figure, and he's thrown more TD passes than picks in only six games this season. To compare him to a totally random NFL QB - how about Peyton Manning - PMFM has a rating 8.6 points higher than his pre-2012 career, and has tossed more scores than interceptions in 12 of his 14 games.
Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Hey, so we're still all here, right?
In lieu of a full STDL column, let's take a quick look at the advanced metrics and where the Broncos and Browns stand:
Denver remains atop Brian Burke's efficiency rankings (third on offense, second on defense), with an 81% probability of beating the Browns and an 86% chance of gaining a first-round bye. Cleveland is 23rd in overall efficiency (25th on offense, 13th on defense).
PFR's Simple Rating System ranks Denver fourth overall (offense second, defense fifth), and Cleveland 25th (28th, 17th (tie)).
The Broncos remain second to the Niners in PFF's grading, but they narrowed the gap a good deal last week. Denver grades out at third on offense, and first on defense, while Cleveland ranks 23rd on offense, 11th on defense, and 17th overall.
Peyton Manning tops fan voting
Manning, who has 31 touchdown passes and has thrown for 4,016 yards this season, topped the fan balloting with 993,045 votes cast on NFL.com.
Before we get too carried away, remember that this is only 1/3 of the vote. The players and coaches still have their turn. Manning leads everyone, while Bailey and Miller are tops at their respective positions.
It's hard to imagine, though, the outcome changing for these three Broncos.
Tebow's time in New York nears end
It surely can’t end soon enough, because this season — Tebow has attempted all of eight passes — has done nothing to convince his detractors he can throw the ball well enough to be an NFL quarterback.
A high-ranking NFL personnel evaluator, who spoke on condition of anonymity to share his scouting report, said: “(Tebow) attempts to play quarterback despite poor footwork, throwing platforms, release, timing, efficiency, progression, reads, anticipation, arm strength, accuracy and any other position-specific category you can think of.
“God bless him for trying,” the personnel man said, “but I wouldn’t touch him and would pass on the Jacksonville (Jaguars) job if it forced me to take him.”
Interesting to see everyone coming out of their zombie shelters now that Rex Ryan (stupidly) made it safe and the risk of infection is so much lower.
Weenies. Where were these guys yuking it up last year when we were fighting off the bath salts crowd with only our keyboard and Bill F-ing Murray?
The good news for these cats? We've stockpiled tetanus shots.
To answer some questions that were in the comments of today's Lard, the Broncos play a hybrid defense, which is more akin to a 3-4 than it is to a true 4-3. You can think of it as a 3.5-3.5 if you’d like. The discussion was around whether the Broncos have featured an adequate interior pass rush from its defensive tackles, and whether the scheme actually calls for them to really rush the passer.
The Broncos use three 300-pounders on their base defensive line, in Derek Wolfe, Kevin Vickerson, and Justin Bannan. That’s why I say it’s more like a 3-4 than it is like a 4-3, because in the base running scheme, the defense is asking those three players to two-gap, and to effectively control six of the eight gaps. That’s a challenging task, and the front three for the Broncos has been consistently up to the task this year.
The two edges are manned by SLB Von Miller and open-side DE Elvis Dumervil (or Robert Ayers). Eight gaps are accounted for by five players, and that allows the ILBs (two from among Wesley Woodyard, Keith Brooking, D.J. Williams, and Danny Trevathan) to read the run play, and flow to the action. It also allows them to briefly maintain their initial depth, and avoid biting on play action.
Ryan Clady Says Peyton Manning Has Made Him a Better Player
How different it is blocking for Peyton Manning as opposed to Tim Tebow:
“One of the differences is pretty obvious. Peyton Manning just gets rid of the ball a little faster. That definitely helps out the offensive line. Also with Peyton you know the spot he is going to be in for the most part. With Tebow it was kind of up in the air as to where he was going to be.”
On the improved running game:
“Yeah, no question. It’s something our coaches have been harping on. Something they have been harping on and the past couple of weeks it’s something that all good playoff teams need to have is a good running game so I think we have done that and we need to continue to run the ball well.”
Whether he feels like Peyton Manning has made him a better player:
“I feel like he has. His ability to play the quarterback position always helps out the offensive line. When he was in Indy he never really had any big name offensive linemen but he made them look good which is a good thing and that’s what good quarterbacks do.”
Does this mean Clady is cool if the Broncos slap the franchise tag on him at the end of the season?