Kuper doubtful with ankle, migraine problems

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.

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Post-Mayan apocalypse Lard

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.

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You Got Served: Talking DTs, and dipping our toe in the draft

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.

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Vick to LOLJets would be more of the same Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's been an especially rough few days for the LOLJets and their QB impersonators; it's only getting worse for their fans. 

Monday night saw Buttfumble commit five more turnovers, including a game-ending bobble that put to rest the team's slim playoff hopes. That brought his two-year giveaway total to an even fifty, the most in the league.

The next day, it was announced that the team's third-string quarterback would take over for the starter, leapfrogging the purported backup. BTW, does that sound familiar?

For his part, the most epic of NFL fizzles says that all he ever wanted was a chance; apparently, the opportunity to prove oneself in practice doesn't count. Adding insult to insult, the UT™ is reportedly single once more.

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Broncos rack up another weekly award - this time, Knowshon

Nine straight wins, all by a touchdown or more. Nine games scoring at least 30 points. Six weekly player honors.

Make that seven.

Knowshon Moreno has been named the AFC's Offensive POW for his 24-touch, 126-yard, one-touchdown effort at Baltimore, which came on the heels of a more prolific 36-touch, 167-yard, one-score performance at Oakland.

Denver seeking streak of all streaks Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Denver has a chance to close out its year with 14 straight wins, and wouldn't that be something?

It would be the longest such streak since the 2003 Patriots won 15.

Mike Klis thinks they could get there by pulling of Revenge Tour 2, with postseason wins over New England, Houston, and Atlanta avenging their three regular season losses. Also in Klis's mailbag is our first indication that the DP has discovered PFF, his opinion that Manning will run away with both MVP and CPOY, and his vision of Knowshon Moreno, Willis McGahee, and Ronnie Hillman splitting carries next year. Sounds pretty good.

Also notable about Denver's nine-game streak is that every win has been by at least a touchdown; it's the longest such streak in the past decade, save the 13-game stretch Peyton led his Colts to in 2005. 

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Ultimate Teammate™ gets ultimate letdown

Here they come at a furious pace--a wave of Tebow-related articles that all basically say the same thing:

Rex Ryan finally decided to bench Mark Sanchez, but he won't let Tim Tebow start.

Mike Freeman is hearing that the Ultimate Teammate™ feels like he was lied to.  Jeff Darlington thinks Tebow will ask out of New York (very un-team) and compares the situation to when Tebow was in high school and decided to switch schools so someone would let him play quarterback instead of linebacker.

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Thinking through defending the Patriots

Happy Tuesday, friends.  Assuming the Broncos can take care of business against Cleveland and Kansas City in the next couple weeks, it’s looking like the Patriots will be in line to make a trip to SAF@MH in the divisional round of the playoffs.  I thought it might be fun to think through some ideas for defending them, the next time they play the Broncos.

First of all, I’ve been advocating playing straight-up Cover 2 against New England, and hoping to get some stops.  After Sunday night’s 49ers-Patriots game, not so much.  If anybody could be successful playing zone, the 49ers would have been the team.  They did play pretty well in man-to-man, though, and that tells me it can be done.  Let’s start this exercise with that thought - that good man-to-man coverage can be effective.

The Patriots are difficult because both their talent and their scheme are outstanding.  The parts fit well together, and Tom Brady always has somewhere to go with the ball quickly if he gets blitzed.  Let’s say that blitzing very often is a bad idea, based on the evidence.

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Indeed, Raiders/Chiefs was for the birds, or, bird.

Tough to discern which is the more courageous act - staying on the field for more than seven minutes as large humans run by, or the willingness to be subjected to Raiders/Chiefs for that long.

via Shutdown Corner

AFC playoff race down to eight teams Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! With last night's typically embarrassing 14-10 loss by the LOLJets (6-8) to the Titans (5-9), the AFC playoff picture became a shade clearer.

Week 15's results eliminated Buffalo, Cleveland, San Diego, and New Jersey from contention, leaving only Pittsburgh (7-7) and Miami (6-8) competing for playoff spots they're currently not in position for.

The AFCN title is still up for grabs between Pittsburgh, Cincinnati (8-6), and Baltimore (9-5), who clinched a playoff spot when the Steelers lost to Dallas on Sunday.

A Bengals win Sunday over the Steelers would put both Cincy and Indy into the playoffs, and the Colts can get themselves in with either a win or tie at Kansas City, where Ricky Stanzi may get the start due to Brady Quinn's injured ribs.

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