Happy Friday, friends. I’ve spent all week (9 to 5 every day) in an SAP workshop that’s part of my MBA program, and it’s had me busy day and night. (I don’t know why I expected different, but I did.) As such, I haven’t had much time to write or watch film lately. I haven’t seen any Patriots stuff since they played the Broncos, so I don’t have any great new insight to offer on that front. What I was thinking I’d do is share some strategy thoughts for tomorrow night’s game, heavily leveraging what I saw four weeks ago and what I’ve seen lately from the Broncos. Something is better than nothing, right? For more detail, you can refer to my Digesting piece from a month ago.
The Broncos finally hit some throws against heavy boxes against Pittsburgh, and it won them the game, obviously. I didn’t expect Pittsburgh to play the Broncos any differently than they play anybody else, but they did. They played a lot of nine in the box, and they played their CBs in man coverage, which isn’t their strength. I don’t think that Dick LeBeau had a particularly good plan, and I think that Mike McCoy had a very good plan.
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/>
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.
Happy Friday, friends. Today, we digest the formerly ascendant Buffalo Bills, who have lately been pretty descendant. In fact, they’ve lost seven in a row and are 5-9. They've won two blowouts, lost four, and are 3-4 in close games. It’s been a weird season.
Really, the 5-2 start was the case of a team with below-average talent and no depth overachieving on the strength of excellent coaching and good early health. The good health significantly disappeared, some marginal players had to play, defenses started playing to take away the short passing game, and the overachievement ended. After the jump, we’ll explore the Bills in detail.
Happy Friday, friends. It’s time to Digest the New England Patriots. This isn’t the same Patriots team that we’re used to, and the Broncos obviously aren’t the same Broncos team that Tom Brady and company are used to losing to, so it should be very interesting.
Off the top, it’s interesting that the Patriots are seven-point favorites on the road against a team that has won six straight games. I almost never talk about betting lines, because I don’t believe in betting on sports, but this is an interesting bit of narrative psychology to me. The media has set a narrative around the Broncos such that Joe Six-pack is led to believe that there was some magic happening, and a plucky QB who loves his Jesus was behind it, but just wait until the Tebows play the Bradys. The Tebows will come back to Earth. People are betting heavy for the Patriots, obviously, I think because they think in terms of media narratives.
Of course, I think conflating a whole team with its QB is completely stupid. There’s so much happening on a football field on any play that it’s silly to just focus on who’s throwing the ball. As always, today, we’re going to explore the rest of the story.
Happy Friday, friends. It’s time to Digest the Minnesota Vikings, who despite their 2-9 record have a bit of power behind their punches, and can knock you out if you don’t come correct. They’re lining up to have a very high draft pick in 2012, and I think that they can have a pretty quick turnaround in 2012 assuming they pick wisely, and their young QB improves. For now, though, let’s take a look at them in their current state.
Generally, I’d say that the Vikings profile kind of similarly to the Broncos in some important ways. To wit:
a. Both teams start young QBs who can look good one play and bad the next.
b. Both teams struggle to protect the passer in the straight-up dropback passing game, but both can get the running game blocked a lot of the time.
c. Both teams can rush the passer creditably from both edges, although the Vikings’ second-best guy (Brian Robison) is not really close to the Broncos’ (Elvis Dumervil) level.
d. Both teams have a good set of DTs who stuff the run well, and both teams’ LB corps are better against the run than in coverage.
Happy Fat Man Friday, friends. On Sunday, the Broncos will plays the Chargers for the second time this season. What’s changed since October 9th? Well, on the surface, the answer is everything. Tim Tebow took over the Broncos offense in the second half of that game, with his team trailing 23-10 and looking sluggish. Tebow then rallied the team to fall just short of winning at 29-24, as a pass into the end zone on the game’s final play was nearly caught by Matt Willis in the typical Hail Mary crowd. On that day, the Chargers improved to 4-1, and the Broncos fell to 1-4.
Since then, the Broncos are 4-1 on the strength of an improved defense and running game, as well as some timely plays by Tebow. The Chargers are 0-5 in that same period and have gotten really banged up in the process. I can’t see any way that their season isn’t over, in terms of playoff meaning, at this point.
Happy Victory Tuesday, friends. Today, you’re going to get a Serving of thoughts on the Chiefs game, and something to Digest about the Jets, since that game is being played on Thursday night. Get excited, because it’s a two-fer Tuesday. Ready… BEGIN!!
1. Sunday’s win came in an unusual way, but you should never apologize for a victory. One of the Denver reporters got a little smart-assed with John Fox, and asked if he’d ever coached a game like that before. Fox kind of smirked, and said that yes, he had. It turned out that he won that one too. Jake Delhomme was out, and they pounded the hell out of the Falcons that day and played good defense.
For the last two weeks, the Broncos have gotten in touch with their physical side on offense, and a creative and effective running game has led to back-to-back road AFC West victories against both of the Broncos’ most hated rivals. For a Denver Broncos fan, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Somehow, though, being a Broncos fan has gotten to be more complicated than that. Somehow, everything came to revolve around the Quarterback, and sides have been chosen; everybody seems to have a bias one way or another, and the Broncos and Tim Tebow keep confirming it, whatever it is. For a while this was amusing, but it’s really kind of tiresome to me at this point.
A wise man once said, "Certain things have come to light, man."
He could have been talking about defending the zone read.
As I scouted the Kansas City Chiefs this week, I could have focused on the Chiefs' running game or Matt Cassel's limited ability to stretch the field. Instead, it made more sense to continue to make fun of the Oakland Raiders. That's because the Raiders' stupidity is as instructive as any scouting report. This is especially true when considering the zone read. Let's face it. The Chiefs are going to see a ton of it tomorrow.
The Broncos--if we believe Jeff Legwold--ran some version of the zone read 17 times against the Raiders. Football coaches are creatures of habit: they go with what works. So unless the Broncos suddenly decide they want to unleash Tim Tebow's pocket awareness, it's likely they are going to pull the same stunts they did against the Raiders.
Will it work against the Chiefs? Well, dude, we just don't know.
Until we find out, though, let's take a quick look at how they might defend it.
Happy Friday, friends. Today we Digest the Kansas City Chiefs, who’ve had a really weird season. They lost key players in Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki and Jamaal Charles early on, and they lost their first three games huge, being outscored by a total of 109-27 in those games. They then went on to win four in a row, beating Minnesota and San Diego at home, and Indianapolis and Oakland on the road. Just when it seemed that they’d figured out how to play good undermanned football, they got crushed 31-3 at home by the Dolphins last Sunday. As TJ would say in Gut Reactions, who the heck knows?
Today, we’re going to try to figure out what the Chiefs really are, and what we can expect to see on Sunday afternoon. Really, what do you call a team that’s been blown out three times, blown out the first-place Raiders once (when they caught them on a Kyle Boller/rusty Carson Palmer day), and gone 3-1 in games decided by less than five points? That’s what we’re going to try to figure out today.