STDL: Wild Card - Broncos vs Steelers

The Broncos at 8-8 enter today's first-round playoff game as the #4 seed hosts of the #5 seed defending AFC Champion Steelers, who won 12 games despite a rough 2-2 start which included 11 giveaways by their offense (seven of them in their opener at Baltimore). And while the Broncos have lost three straight and the Steelers have won 6 of their last 7 games, Pittsburgh is also limping into this matchup - both physically and in terms of the quality of their play. The Steelers offense is on another bad run of turnovers, having given it up 10 times in four weeks, the same as Denver.

Neither team's defense has taken the ball away much, either on the season (18 by Denver, 15 by Pittsburgh) or in those past four weeks (2 by the Broncos, 3 for the Steelers). Turnovers are again were the Broncos' hopes lie today. Let's check out the numbers:

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The Daily Lard 1-8-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Here we are - it's been six years, but the Broncos are back in the playoffs, and they're facing the same franchise that beat them last time and prevented them from whipping facing the Seahawks in SB 40. Of course, these Broncos bear little resemblance to that eariier version, with only Champ Bailey and D.J. Williams remaining; of course, Champ made the key play the week prior to help the Broncos halt the Patriots' quest for a threepeat championship. It will probably take something similar today (multiple takeaways, not necessarily of the 100-yard return variety) to send the Broncos to a matchup with the Patriots in Foxborough next week.

What would be more poetic than a rematch of Tim Tebow and Tom Brady's Week 15 duel, and a faceoff between the Broncos and Josh McDaniels, their last head coach and new (again) OC of the Patriots? Not much, obviously. But first things first...

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Open Thread - Wild Card Saturday

Enjoy the games, everyone!

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Crennel to remain Chiefs HC; McDaniels to Pats

A few post-Lard news bits:

  • Mike Florio is still sticking by his story, and he now says that John Fox is ready to pull Tim Tebow tomorrow should he struggle against the Steelers.
  • According to Adam Schefter, the Chiefs are going to remove the interim tag from Romeo Crennel and retain him as their head coach next season.
  • Schefter also says the Patriots have hired Josh McDaniels effective immediately; McDaniels will reportedly join New England's offensive staff in coaching the Patriots in the playoffs.
  • Meanwhile, the Broncos have signed CB Josh Moore to a future contract. Moore was a fifth-round choice of the Chicago Bears in 2010 out of Kansas State and appeared in three games for them as a rookie but was released just after final cuts this season when Chicago signed Brandon Meriweather.

The Daily Lard 1-7-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Yesterday was a strange one in terms of Broncos/Steelers news, as a bunch of football reporters posted dueling and conflicting entries about practices none of them witnessed with their own eyes and something that hasn't even happened yet.

By now you've probably seen the back-and-forth as expertly chronicled by TJ yesterday; add Mike Klis and Jeff Legwold to those contradicting Mike Florio's claim that Brady Quinn took roughly half the first-team snaps in practice this week. Of course, none of Florio, Klis, Legwold, Darlington, or Mason actually saw more than 10 minutes of Denver's practice on any given day this week, so they're all reporting whatever information they've been given by players, coaches and sources within the team. In other words, it's all hearsay, and if Florio turns out to be right, they can all simply admit after the fact that the Broncos did a mostly good job of protecting state secrets. Even better, Tim Tebow can play the entire game and Florio can still claim that Quinn took half the practice snaps.

Either the Broncos want the Steelers to be unsure of who will be playing QB tomorrow and thus someone is feeding Florio misinformation, or Florio is correct and there are some loose lips at Dove Valley.

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Miller named second-team All-Pro

Granted, this is something more akin to a 'runner-up' designation, but Von Miller has been named a second-team All-Pro by the Associated Press. Miller was beaten out by Terrell Suggs and DeMarcus Ware for first-team honors. Miller has already been named a Pro Bowler, along with fellow defenders Elvis Dumervil and Champ Bailey. Here is the complete All-Pro roster, plus the associated story on the All-Pro team.

Bailey, Dumervil, Chris Kuper, Britton Colquitt and Matt Prater also received votes.

Dawkins out, Larsen doubtful; Pouncey questionable despite earlier report

The Broncos will again be without Brian Dawkins on Sunday, which means Denver is likely to again have Quinton Carter and David Bruton manning the starting safety spots. In slightly better news, FB Spencer Larsen is listed as doubtful after it was said earlier in the week that he would definitely miss the game due to his knee sprain. Bruton and dime corner Jonathan Wilhite are questionable, while Von Miller and Eddie Royal are probable for Sunday.

For Pittsburgh, CB Cortez Allen and RB Mewelde Moore are out as expected (S Ryan Clark is out as well but not on the injury report, presumably because his absence is a coaching decision), while C Maurkice Pouncey is listed as questionable after being limited in practice, despite earlier reports that he will miss the game. Several key Steelers are probable, including QB Ben Roethlisberger, G Doug Legursky (who would start at center if Pouncey cannot), LB James Harrison, LB LaMarr Woodley, DE Brett Keisel, S Troy Polamalu and T Jonathan Scott.

McDaniels expected to interview for Pats OC gig

It looks like Josh McDaniels will be interviewing to get his old job back. No, not that one. With Patriots OC Bill O'Brien reportedly heading to Penn State to take over their HC gig, McDaniels received permission from the Rams (who fired HC Steve Spagnuolo earlier in the week) to seek out a new position for himself, and the Pats have subsequently sought the Rams' approval to chat with their former assistant. It'll be interesting to see which way McDaniels goes should he have a choice between going back to New England and joining Scott Pioli and possibly Romeo Crennel in KC.

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Digesting the Steelers

Happy Friday, friends.  I’ve been sick lately with a cold for the last few days, so I decided that going a little light today was better than nothing, since I wasn’t able to go heavy.  On Sunday afternoon, the Broncos play the Pittsburgh Steelers.  I respectfully dislike the Steelers, but I disrespectfully hate their idiot fans.  You probably know a few, but I know a lot of them, living two hours from Pittsburgh, and they’re just insufferable.  The Steelers fan knows nothing about football, and all they can say is “Six rings.”  Unfortunately, it looks like a lot of the yahoos will be at the game on Sunday, due to some piker Broncos fans selling off their tickets (to a playoff game!!!!!!!) 

I don’t really love the Broncos’ chances in this game, but making the playoffs is an accomplishment worthy of using your tickets on.  I don’t know, I’m the guy that says you should support your team even if you don’t like a specific player or a coach, and around here, I feel like that makes me old-fashioned sometimes.  In fantasy football, we can all pick which players to like!  <vomits/>

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The Daily Lard 1-6-12

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Dave Krieger decided to debunk dig into this ridiculous notion that the play calling is completely* to blame for Denver's recent offensive struggles. So, he asked John Fox why the team hasn't utilized more screens and quick slants. Here's what the coach said:

Everybody's mush-rushing us because of Tim's ability to scramble. They're not really rushing. Really, the screen pass and the draw play are typically for a very aggressive, penetrating, up-the-field style of defense, and because of the style of run game we have, we're not getting that.

Krieger also checked in with Brian Griese, asking him about the so-called "conservativeness" of the offensive game plan:

I don't agree that the play calling was too conservative. We talked at halftime about coming out and throwing the ball, play-action, specifically on first down, and Mike McCoy did that on three successive downs in the third quarter, called those passes. And the thing that happened was Tim Tebow didn't feel comfortable letting that ball fly and brought the football down and either took a sack or got a minimal gain.

So, the plays were called and Tim, for whatever reason, whether it was confidence, whether he wasn't able to see well enough, or whether he just got nervous, I'm not sure what it was, but he did not look like the same player that he was during the six-game winning streak.

* I just realized that I didn't quite express my point clearly this morning, thanks to a comment from BRASO (Thanks for that). I don't mean to suggest the play calling is completely blameless, but I find calls for Mike McCoy's head to be ludicrous.

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