The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

Hello, Offseason - it’s not nice to see you Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Last week, we took what we thought was a very early peek at Denver's cap situation for 2013, and the players due to become free agents.

Unfortunately, we were only days premature - not weeks - and it's already time to think about 2013 in earnest.

To review, Denver's pending unrestricted free agents are Ryan Clady, Brandon Stokley, Kevin Vickerson, Justin Bannan, Jim Leonhard, Keith Brooking, David Bruton, Dan Koppen, Jason Hunter, Tracy Porter, Ty Warren, and Matthew Willis.

The Broncos will have a three-day period from March 9-11 to negotiate exclusively toward new contracts with these players, whose 2012 deals will expire at 4pm on Tuesday, March 12, which is also precisely when the 2013 league year and free agency will commence.

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S#@% happens, especially when you’re playing Foxball Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans. For the Denver Broncos, 2012 revolved completely around one person - Peyton Manning.

To Denver's players and coaches, getting Peyton meant they would have a chance to win every game, and to improve their own play, as individuals and as a team. He represented the very real possibility of capturing the franchise's third Lombardi trophy.

We heard all week that Denver's veterans - namely, Champ Bailey, Keith Brooking, and Brandon Stokely - were trying to ensure that their younger mates would value the opportunity presented by making the playoffs, and being the AFC's number one seed.

From the fans' standpoint, this season was about once again having one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, and getting to watch his every play, series, and game in orange.

Put simply, 2012 was, for all connected to the Broncos, about appreciating Peyton.

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Cold weather Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's been 14 years (SB 33, -7.5) since the Broncos entered a playoff game as heavy favorites, as they are today (-9).

That 1998 team was also favored by 13.5 points against Miami, 9 over the Jets, and covered all three postseason spreads with relative ease.

We can all worry that today will be a repeat of Jacksonville, but given the gulf between the quality of these Broncos and Ravens, it will likely take an extraordinary set of circumstances for the upset to occur. These Broncos scored 90 more points than the 1996 squad did, and are the most well-rounded team in football.

Of course, Bill Simmons is predicting a Baltimore victory, but relies upon stupid trivia to do so. That a heavy favorite has lost a divisional game in each of the past seven postseasons means absolutely nothing, and the silly part is that Simmons (naturally) dismisses out of hand the possibility of his Patriots keeping that string alive tomorrow.

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Chudzinski to Cleveland, with Norv as his OC Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! After long being expected to land one of the biggest names among potential candidates, whether Nick Saban or Chip Kelly, the Browns went for the surprise move by hiring Rob Chudzinski.

Chudzinski, an Ohio native who grew up rooting for the Browns, had previously been an assistant on two Cleveland staffs, coaching tight ends for Butch Davis, and working as Romeo Crennel's OC.

Prior to his recent stint directing the Panthers offense and guiding Cam Newton to an unprecedented career start, Chudzinski was the assistant head coach/tight ends for two seasons under Norv Turner in San Diego. With Carolina, Turner's son Scott was on Chudzinski's staff, and why are we discussing the Chudzinski/Turner connection?

Turns out Norv will be Rob's OC in Cleveland, which of course means that he won't be replacing Mike McCoy in Denver, should McCoy earn a head gig elsewhere. Know anyone surprised by that news?

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Seau brain tests confirm worst fears Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! As we all celebrate the Broncos' return to the NFL's heavyweight class, here comes another sobering reminder of the long-term costs associated with the sport.

Junior Seau had CTE.

Much in the way gun advocates said it was too early to discuss gun restrictions in the days following the Aurora and Sandy Hook massacres, those who prefer to keep their heads in the sand regarding concussions (or claim that players have chosen to subject themselves to these consequences) said it was in poor taste to speculate about what caused Seau to shoot himself in the heart last May.

Just because they didn't want to face the truth, they preferred that everyone else ignore it out of some perverted sense of decency or respect.

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Kuper on track for career playoff debut Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's been well-documented here and elsewhere that the Ravens will come to Denver with many players they didn't have for the first matchup between the two teams.

But Denver has several recovery stories of its own, if not all with an eye toward Saturday, or even this 2012 season.

Willis McGahee's return to practice yesterday offers hope of a particularly deep backfield - given the emergence of Knowshon Moreno - but Willis will only become a factor should the Broncos emerge victorious from this upcoming divisional round game.

To get there, a likely reappearance by Chris Kuper in the starting lineup would be a major boon, given the oft-noted vast difference between the offensive line's pass protection with Kuper around rather than Manny Ramirez.

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Several factors stacking up against Ravens Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Denver heads into Saturday's rematch with the Ravens buoyed by several distinct advantages:

  1. They know they're the better team, and if they weren't already sure of that, their Week 15 boatrace job proved it.
  2. This team is loaded with veterans who are quite aware the Ravens are looking at Saturday as a chance to avenge that game.
  3. Having a week off bought Chris Kuper and Ryan Clady time to heal up; the chances of either one not playing would appear slim or nil.
  4. Previously injured key defenders Terrell Suggs (reaggravated Achilles) and Dannell Ellerbe (ankle) were further hobbled during Sunday's win over Indy.
  5. Baltimore faces the triple whammy of a shortened week of preparation combined with a trip up to 5,280 and two time zones over.

That latter quartet of factors could loom even larger than normal.

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What were Shanny and Chip thinking? Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! After a mostly meh wild card weekend, the decisions of two head coaches are in the spotlight today.

First, there's old friend Mike Shanahan, who left a gimpy RG3 on the field, only to have the dynamic quarterback further aggravate the knee injury he'd suffered in Week 14 against Baltimore, and leave for good in the fourth quarter. While many are skewering Shanahan for the decision, Griffin demanded that he be kept in the game, and let's not forget that Shanny himself almost died playing football, so it's not like he was asking his player to do something he wouldn't have done.

That doesn't make his decision right, and it doesn't mean reason ruled the day, but as Patrick Hruby writes, that's the problem with football. Mike Silver rightly points out that people should think about their own reactions to Jay Cutler's knee injury from a couple of years ago before they judge Shanny and RG3.

As for the original injury, Shanahan doubled down on his claim that Dr. James Andrews had cleared Griffin on the sideline during the Baltimore game, so stay tuned for that he said/he said showdown. Should get more interesting before all's done with.

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RIP, Jeff Lewis Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In just a few hours' time, we'll be learning which subpar playoff team (between Indianapolis and Baltimore) will be visiting the rarified air on Saturday afternoon to take on your top-seeded Broncos.

By edging the middling Bengals and their scattershot quarterback (who Mike Klis pronounced earlier in the year would meet Cam Newton "in a future SB or three") by a 19-13 margin, the Texans earned a return trip to New England and a chance to avenge the 42-14 thrashing they suffered there four weeks ago.

Houston will need to bring with them the defense that showed up last night, and find the confident Matt Schaub who threw 21 touchdowns in the first 12 games of the season - not the milquetoast one who's thrown just one in the past five.

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McGahee on track for return Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Although Chip Kelly is likely to become the next coach of the Browns, he still met with the Bills last night and will interview with the Eagles today.

It was a busy day for Buffalo's front office, who also interviewed former Bears coach Lovie Smith and Doug Marrone of Syracuse, and will interview Broncos OC Mike McCoy today in the Denver area.

With Kelly probably ending up in Cleveland, Philly has expanded its search to include Colts OC Bruce Arians and Seahawks DC Gus Bradley; they'll meet with McCoy tomorrow.

Arizona, the other team McCoy will sit down with today, is apparently still waiting to hear whether Handshake Haley will take their interview request, as he reportedly doesn't want to jeopardize his standing Pittsburgh.

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