The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

The Daily Lard 11-20-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Yesterday we covered the crucial Chargers/Bears game, so today let's take a quick peek at the game with the most immediate impact on Denver's season: Raiders/Vikings. An Oakland loss would drop them to 5-5 and into a first-place tie ZOMG with the Broncos, and they will be without several key players in RB Darren McFadden, WR Jacoby Ford and CB Chris Johnson, while three others are listed as questionable but expected to play: K Sebastian Janikowski, DT Richard Seymour and S Michael Huff.

As Jerry McDonald stresses, Oakland's first priority will be keeping pass rusher extraordinaire Jared Allen away from Carson Palmer, who will benefit from the absence of starters CB Antoine Winfield and S Husain Abdullah from Minnesota's secondary. The Vikings have struggled to put points on the board all year, but they also also lost to Detroit and Green Bay by just nine combined points, while Adrian Peterson has 11 TDs and nearly 1,000 yards from scrimmage; so you never know. Either way, how great/wild/unimaginable is it that we're talking about the Broncos potentially ending the day today in first place in the division?

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The Daily Lard 11-19-11

Good Morning (barely), Broncos fans! If there's one game for Denver fans to narrow in on tomorrow, it's the Chargers at Bears at 415pm ET. Denver heads to San Diego next Sunday (Week 12) and hosts Jay Cutler & Co two weeks after that. So aside from scouting Denver's future opponents, a Bears victory would put San Diego a full game behind the Broncos in the AFC West standings and give Denver the opportunity to go up two games on Phil Rivers and the Bolts with a win next week.

PFF's Rodney Hart is interested to see how the Chargers' offensive tackles fare against pass rusher Julius Peppers, which of course will suggest how they'll contain (or not) Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil. Looks like a brutal pair of Sundays for Marcus McNeil/Brandyn Dombrowski and Jeromey Clary. Vincent Jackson also draws some tough assignments, as he'll be up against Bears CB Charles Tillman on Sunday and Champ Bailey a week later. Finally, Hart is interested to see how San Diego manages Devin Hester and the Bears' kick return game; as we all recall not so fondly, Hester torched Denver in the teams' last meeting to the tune of two TDs - one on a punt and the other on a kickoff.

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The Daily Lard 11-18-11

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Hard to believe it, but after beating the tired and bumbling Jets 17-13 (box score), the Denver Broncos are 5-5 and a half-game behind the Raiders for first place in the AFC West, pending this weekend's games. That makes three straight wins and four out of five, and the formula remains the same: dominant play from Von Miller and timely, fortuitous plays on both defense and special teams.

I mean, how else do you win a game in which your offense generates 10 points, 229 net yards (134 before the 95-yard game-winning drive), 4.1 yards per play, 11 first downs, nine pass completions, eight possessions of three plays or fewer, and eight punts? At this point, maybe it's just best not to ask why, and roll with it. Because Andrew Lady Luck is most definitely on Denver's side right now, and you're not supposed to look John Elway in the mouth or you may find that lady is really Sexy Rexy singing, right? BTW, you know who else was on the Broncos' side last night? The NFL schedulers, who did the Jets (SNF game followed by a Thursday game at altitude) like they did the Chargers (three games in 11 days).

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The Daily Lard 11-17-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Greg Cosell was likely speculating when he suggested during his weekly podcast with Doug Farrar that Rex Ryan's Jets might keep nine men in the box and run Cover-0 with Darrelle Revis and OctoDad. Because as Ryan Wilson pointed out in a post yesterday, Sexy Rexy's book Coaching Football's 46 Defense has an entire chapter devoted to defending the option, and as part of the lead-in to the chapter, he writes:

As a DC, you should avoid rigging a "special" defensive plan versus the option. Every defensive scheme can be manipulated to meet the demands of stopping an explosive option attack. Generally, it is a bad idea and an unsound premise to structure a special defense for the option. With the 46 pressure defense, you don't need a special plan or a gimmick, you only need practice at the sound strategies available inside the package...The 46 allows you to plan various strategies to attack the option. These looks are accomplished through varying the individual responsibilities of your perimeter and second-level players...Just as the DE can be assigned different responsiblities, so can the free safety and linebacker.

I think you get the picture, but if not then sign into your Amazon account, click on Search inside this book, submit option and you'll find that Rexy devotes more than eight pages to the weakside option. Hopefully Mike McCoy or one of his assistants brushed up on this chapter, because frankly they'll need some creative wrinkles to outscheme a guy who literally wrote a book on defense. Either that, or they'll need to have superior personnel or out-execute the Jets defense, which is tied with Denver for eighth-best in terms of yards per rush allowed. Which one do you think the Broncos are counting on accomplishing?

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The Daily Lard 11-16-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! As Ted pointed out yesterday, Tim Tebow and the Broncos continue to affirm inclinations all over Broncos Country - so much so that Confirmation Bias Week has stretched for over a month now, and there's no sign of it ending anytime soon. It's been a perfect recipe, as the Broncos are 3-1 with Tebow as their starting QB thus far, and he's been exceptional running the ball while rather inept at throwing the ball during that stretch. So, Tim's "just a winner" who will obviously continue to do so, and work so hard that he'll become a 60% passer someday - because all of this winning will buy him the time to do so. A reader even wrote something to the effect of, "Tebow is already almost a 50% passer" last week in our comment section. Of course, the other side of the debate (since there are only two, right?) is that Tim is so far from being a legitimate NFL thrower of the football that the Broncos, John Elway and John Fox aren't long enough time or political capital (yes, even Elway) to wait for that to happen.

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The Daily Lard 11-15-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! PFF's John Breitenbach analyzes the Jets' loss to the Patriots Sunday night, and he says NJ played quite well at times but blew their opportunities with poor special teams play and turnovers. They allowed 4.5 sacks to Shanny favorite and Denver son Andre Carter, with Mark Sanchez deserving plenty of blame for holding the ball too long. We'll see how that works out against Von Miller.

Meanwhile, Breitenbach has plenty of praise for Jets NT Sione Pouha, whom he says is always involved in running plays and "occupies double teams but gets off blocks and makes tackles too." He then goes on to list the virtues of Jets C Nick Mangold, comparing him to ex-Broncos C Chris Myers, who has excelled with the Texans after Shanny & Co. sent him to Kubes in a rare sign-and-trade deal. Finally, Breitenbach writes that Jets S Eric Smith had a rough day trying to cover Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker, and that his tackles in the run game all came downfield. Hopefully there'll be more of that come Thursday...

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The Daily Lard 11-14-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Last week, the Broncos wore out a college play and rode it to a divisional road win. Yesterday, they employed the high school strategy of running the ball 87% of the time in a road division game, and it worked - Denver won at Arrowhead 17-10 (box score). What will they do on Thursday night when the Jets come to town? Punt on third down? Who cares, right? After all, the Broncos are just a game below .500 now and that same margin behind the first-place Raiders (5-4), tied with the Chargers and Chiefs at 4-5.

In case it wasn't abundantly clear after Tim Tebow did not attempt a single pass during the fourth quarter in Oakland with the game on the line, yesterday absolutely confirmed that John Fox and Mike McCoy do not trust their young QB to throw the ball. It was a record-setting day in that regard: in 51.5 seasons of Broncos football, the team had never attempted fewer than 11 passes in a game; yesterday Tebow threw eight passes and completed two of them. This marked just the third time Denver had as few as two pass completions in a game; the first two instances were in 1966 and 1967, both blowout losses. Denver's 55 rushing attempts were their most since twice topping that figure in 1978.

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The Daily Lard 11-13-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! As Dave Krieger stresses in his column today, one of the keys to the potential success of the zone read is that defenses are not used to facing it. Krieger reminds us that teams like Miami, Tennessee and Atlanta have gone to the Wildcat or a version of the option in recent years to compensate for a less-than-stellar passing game. As usual, the key today will be whether Tim Tebow can keep the Chiefs defense honest with his arm, and if he can exploit enough of the single-coverage matchups he's sure to see. If so, Tebow will have his third road victory of the season, he'll be above .500 as an NFL starter, and the Broncos will be just a game out of first place in the AFC West. We'll see what happens...

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The Daily Lard 11-12-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Pat KirwanMike LombardiMike SilverClark Judge, and Peter King preview the week's games: Kirwan wonders if Tebow could run for 100 yards on a frequent basis, Judge is picking the Broncos, and Silver thinks Penn State acted just like the Catholic Church in trying to first protect itself rather than do the right thing. Lombardi thinks the Chargers are suffering from a lack of talent at this juncture. Plus, Judge thinks it's ridiculous that the league scheduled three games for San Diego in 11 days, and it's hard to dispute that.

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The Daily Lard 11-10-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Andrew Brandt points out that the deadline has passed for teams to extend players' contracts and confine the financial impact to the 2011 salary cap. This means it's likely Denver will allow Eddie Royal, Daniel Fells, Marcus Thomas, Brodrick Bunkley, Wesley Woodyard, Mario Haggan, Joe Mays, and Matt Prater become free agents, among others (not that it's a shock). Based upon their respective roles, age and what interest they'd likely command on the open market (not much, frankly), I'd say the only one I'd like to have seen locked up would be Prater - and Denver can always franchise the guy if they're unable to reach agreement with him after the season. Then again, the team is still able to work on a new deal with any of these players until the day before the season finale, and Denver has plenty of cap room - so any guaranteed money would be prorated over the length of the contract rather than assigned to the 2011 cap.

Obviously it'd be nice to hang onto most, if not all of those other guys, but the question is at what cost and rather than which potential draft/FA replacements? Even if Denver were interested in keeping Royal, it's safe to presume he'll want to test the FA waters to find a situation where he can start instead of potentially being stuck behind Eric Decker and Demaryius Thomas in a run-first (and second) offense. The question to consider is whether there will be better, cheaper and/or younger options available in the offseason, and the only resounding "no" in that regard is Prater.

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