The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

The Daily Lard 12-11-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! As another slate of NFL games chock-full of bone-jarring tackles approaches, another sobering article is here to remind us of the long-term consequences facing the players whom we'll soon be imploring to lay down a harder hit, or to get an extra yard or two for the benefit of our fantasy teams. Peter King and SI spoke with 39 of the 48 players (46 are living) from the Week 1 roster of the 1986 Bengals, and they of course found a wide range of maladies, from the aches and pains inherent of any physical sport or labor to the precursors of dementia and worse.

How these ex-players (gladiators?) look back upon their careers is similarly expansive, from CB Ray Horton's I'd do it again in a minute, to S David Fulcher's it wasn't worth it whatsoever, to TE Eric Kattus not wanting his own sons to take up the sport at all. If I have a son someday, I doubt I'd encourage him to play the game. Yet here we are...

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The Daily Lard 12-10-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Willis McGahee and Eddie Royal have been listed as questionable for tomorrow's game, while Ryan Clady, Von Miller and several others are listed as probable; only Royal is unlikely to play among that quartet. S Major Wright is out for Chicago as expected.

Naturally, the first matchup Chris Benson considers is that between the Bears' woeful offensive line and Denver's elite edge rushers (Von and Doom officially have 17 sacks, but PFF cites them as having combined for 20 - it's not a typo, but a disagreement between the official scoring and PFF's tracking), and he points out that too much attention paid to the Dynamic Duo could result in sacks for guys like Ryan McBean and D.J. Williams.

Benson wonders if the Broncos can win if/when their running game is completely shut down and reminds that last week was not an example of that, as much as the current narrative says Tebow beat the Vikings by airing it out. He thinks tomorrow could be the day we find out, thanks to the Bears' fine run defense.

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The Daily Lard 12-9-11

Happy Friday Broncos fans! Jeffri Chadiha says the success of Tim Tebow is about more than timely plays on defense and special teams - rather he suggests it's matter of Tebow exploiting the disappearance of quality tackling at the NFL level. He also cites a lack of defensive discipline as evidenced by the Raiders' Week 9 (second half) debacle and Jets S Eric Smith's whiff on Tebow's game-winning TD run, and the shoddy play of Minnesota's secondary last week.

Chadiha thinks the case of Tebow and how John Fox and Mike McCoy catered the offense to match his strengths is all too rare in today's NFL, and he's baffled that other teams haven't done the same for their players - especially offensive coaches like Mikes Shanahan and Martz, who clearly don't have the tools at their disposal (QBs for Shanny, O-line for Martz) to run the offenses that won them rings.

These are all fair and interesting points, to be sure, as is his closing sentiment that Tebow's example is making everyone question their own long-held notions. But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. When four of your six wins have come by four points or less and mostly against poor teams (after trailing for all but 93 minutes in total), it might be a little early to be talking about sea changes and epidemics of highly-paid entitlement and a lack of toughness. After all, it can easily be said that scheduling, injuries, and luck have played a large role in Denver's winning streak, even if luck doesn't fit into the red-meat/macho image of NFL football (more on that in a bit).

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The Daily Lard 12-8-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Ben Stockwell went over each of Tim Tebow's pass attempts Sunday for PFF, and he calls it "Step 1 in Tebow’s maturation as a passer" but cautions not to overstate the quality of his performance. By "Step 1" he means that Minnesota sold out to stop Tebow's run threat and gave him just two or three different looks to decipher in the passing game, and of course that didn't work out so well.

Stockwell also writes that Tebow & Co. have become a tough group to game plan for in just a week's time, and he suggests that, provided Tebow is the QB next year, opponents having had a full offseason to cook up a defensive strategy for Tim could make for a different story. Either way, it's obviously great to see Denver described as a matchup problem offensively - something they haven't been in a very long time.

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The Daily Lard 12-7-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! How anxious is Matt Forte to get back onto the field for the Bears? Well, he's already turned to PRP injections (platelet-rich plasma) to help heal his sprained right knee, if that tells you anything. There's basically no chance Forte suit up on Sunday in Denver; so the Broncos will be facing the fearsome backfield duo of Caleb Hanie and either Marion Barber or Kahlil Bell, who's spent more time in scout-team duty than actually playing in Chicago's offense.

Quite a downgrade from Jay Cutler and Matt Forte, huh? Just goes to show that when looking at a fearsome schedule months in advance, any multitude of events can change its complexion when the games actually roll up. Just two months ago, Denver's schedule looked like a largely-winless gauntlet with the Broncos headed back for another top-five draft choice in April. But, an improved running game, the defense stepping up in a huge way (even last week, some key takeaways were mixed into the poor play) and the mostly turnover-free play of Tim Tebow, and a slew of opponents injuries has the Broncos appearing headed for the playoffs. But it's not just the Broncos' fortunes that have changed so drastically, as Chase Stuart points out. Remember how the Bills and Shanny were each back to relevance? Oops...

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The Daily Lard 12-6-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In our CTF from Sunday’s game, Ted pointed out that Eric Decker was sporting some epic sideburns. Well, it turns out that Decker wasn’t alone in Mutton Chop Land. Apparently several Broncos did a no-shave November in support of men’s cancer awareness, and Britton Colquitt (A la Souvarov), Decker (The Winnfield), Adam Weber (Franz Josef) and Matt Prater (Friendly Mutton Chops) each reprised a classic moustache/beard style.

If this team does end up making a playoff run, it would be pretty neat for the whole squad to be sporting some epic facial hair, coaches included. John Fox could go with the C. Everett Koop, and someone would have to do a Dali. We’ve already seen Champ Bailey rocking the Old Dutch; how great would it be to see a French Fork or Sparrow from him?

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The Daily Lard 12-5-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The Denver offense must have set their watches wrong upon arrival in Minnesota, because they did their thing about an hour earlier than usual in leading the Broncos to a 35-32 victory over the Vikings and into a first-place tie with the Raiders. Instead of waiting until the last five minutes of the game to show up as has been their trademark, Tim Tebow & Co. came out firing after halftime.

Following their fourth-consecutive brutal first half (48 net yards, one first down, zero points), the Broncos scored 28 second-half points and Tebow was a sparkling 6-of-9 for 173 yards with two TD passes to Demaryius Thomas - the first a beautiful strike on a busted coverage by the Vikings and the second a catch-and-run by Thomas after Tebow bought time outside the pocket before making a patient throw.

True to form early on, the Denver defense kept the Broncos in the game and provided all of the team's first-half points with a pick-six from Mario Haggan, who was subbing for the injured Von Miller. But Willis McGahee was caught for a safety on the Broncos' first play from scrimmage, and a fumble by McGahee and another by Tebow led to a pair of Vikings field goals, helping Minnesota to a 15-7 halftime lead.

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The Daily Lard 12-4-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! As distant and microscopic a possibility playoff contention had appeared just a few weeks back, Denver has a chance to move into a tie for first place in the AFC West today with a victory in Minnesota combined with an Oakland loss at Miami. Key to the Broncos' chances will be the status of Von Miller, who had surgery on Tuesday to repair torn thumb ligaments and will be a game-time decision. But even if he does play, he'll be wearing a cast on his right hand and will likely cede a good deal of playing time to Mario Haggan.

For those of you clamoring for Tebow's pass/run data combined, stay tuned...

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The Daily Lard 12-3-11

Good Morning, Broncos fans! I know some of you are probably exhausted by the Tebow/stats talk, but in the comments of yesterday's Lard, reader DavidinLA shared a link to a Mark Kriegel column about those very topics, and I think it's worthy of some discussion. If nothing else, I'd like to share my opinion of stats and writing about them in general.

My first reaction to Kriegel's column is that a red flag goes up for me anytime a sports columnist who rarely or never mention stats in their typical writing decides to suddenly cite them because they happen to support his/her viewpoint. In this case, Kriegel sought out some stats to prove his point, which is the worst mindset from which to turn to stats - when you set out to prove something via stats, you are going to have blinders on, and you're going to get someone to feed you some line of crap, because damnit you've got a deadline to meet and a premise to bolster.

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The Daily Lard 12-2-11

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! You may recall that the other day I applauded the "spirit of what (Kerry) Byrne and CHFF are trying to do" with their "Real QB Rating" before going on to criticize Byrne's interpretation of the numbers CHFF's new metric had spit out. Well, I guess I should have looked deeper into this Real QB Rating, because as Mike Tanier explains in great detail, it has extreme flaws. Relax, Tebowmaniacs - none of this is a criticism of Tim, but rather of CHFF's methods as they relate to Real QB Rating.

So, here's the problem with it: Real QB Rating relies upon the old-school QB Rating as a framework, and it overcredits completion percentage in a big way - and as my friend Ted Bartlett has written many times already, completion percentage is completely overrated (although I wouldn't go as far as to say it's worthless). As Tanier shows, a slight improvement in completion % without adding even a yard of production has a significant positive impact on a QB rating, and that's just not going to help us evaluate a quarterback.

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