Good Morning, Broncos fans! For most of the season, Houston (12-3) has sported the best record in the AFC. Only three weeks ago, they were 11-1 and appeared to have an ironclad grip on the conference's top seed, and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
But with their stunningly futile 23-6 home loss to Minnesota (9-6), the Texans have now dropped two of three, and fallen into a tie with YOUR Denver Broncos (12-3), who strolled past the Browns (5-10) in a 34-12 cinch of a win, their tenth consecutive victory (Gamebook, ANS box score).
Of course, Kubes & Co. own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Broncos, thanks to their Week 3 win at SAF@MH. Therefore, Denver will need the host Colts to knock off the Texans next week, and then take care of their own business at home against the Chiefs, in order to snatch away the number-one seed.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! We've been highly critical of John Elway & Co. for having made the strong-legged but inaccurate Matt Prater one of the league's highest paid kickers this season.
After using their franchise tag to retain the restricted free agent last off-season, Denver gave the sixth-year kicker $4.25M in guarantees as part of a four-year, $13M deal. Those guarantees amount to his 2012 compensation, and he's due salaries of $2.5M, $3M, and $3.25M over the next three seasons.
Has Prater lived up to the tag, or the contract? So far, he absolutely has not.
At 23/29 (79.3%) on the season, the UCF alum ranks 26th out of 31 kickers who have attempted at least 15 field goals.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Denver has gone four weeks without having lost a fumble. In most years, this probably wouldn't be particularly notable.
But in the case of these 2012 Broncos, it's quite a turnaround, given that they had lost at least one fumble in nine of their first ten games, for a total of 13 lost fumbles out of 16. As we had shown after nine games, much of this was a matter of luck, but the team's improved fortunes have not solely been about not losing fumbles - they've also been putting the ball on the ground much less often.
After those 16 fumbles in 10 games, Denver has just three fumbles in its past four games - a poor snap by Dan Koppen against Tampa Bay, a muffed punt by Trindon Holliday at Oakland, and a Holliday fumble on a kickoff last week. The former two were recovered by Denver, while the latter went out of bounds and stayed with the Broncos.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's a tired phrase, as most Chris Berman-isms are, but...this is why they play the games.
After the Patriots (10-4) had reeled off seven straight wins, topping 40 points on four occasions along the way, it appeared they would swat away the visiting 49ers (10-3-1) last night, thus retaining their advantage over Denver (by virtue of their head-to-head tiebreaker) in the race for a first-round bye.
San Francisco's inability to capitalize on early mistakes by New England seemed to be just the sort of thing that would keep the Niners and their young quarterback from knocking off the apparent AFC favorites.
But the ball kept bouncing the way of the Niners - and, indirectly, the Broncos - and San Francisco eventually converted enough Patriots errors into touchdowns, to hang on for dear life in a wild 41-34 stunner that helps put Denver in prime position for the AFC's number-two seed, and a week off to start the playoffs.
Good Morning, Broncos fans. As TJ noted last night, several factors are making today's showdown in Baltimore appear to be a lopsided one in Denver's favor.
The more valuable Terrell Suggs (who just married the woman whom he allegedly dragged alongside his car at a high speed recently) will play today, but Ray Lewis - the importance of whose leadership has not deteriorated along with his physical skills - will not play.
Fellow starting inside linebacker Dannell Ellerbe is questionable, and if he does not play, the Ravens will have Josh Bynes wear the defensive headset in what would be his first NFL start.
Good Afternoon, friends. We've never been shy about touching upon hotly debated issues here, but have only done so when prompted by words and actions from NFL figures.
Today is different though, because for the past 24 hours, it's been impossible to go more than a few minutes without thinking of the 20 small children who were murdered yesterday. That's murdered, mind you.
Immediately following the horrors in Aurora, and again yesterday, the airwaves and social media have been strewn with claims that it's "too soon" or "not the time" to discuss our nation's status as the mass-murder, assault-death capital of the developed world, and what must be done to fix that.
No day is better or worse to have this conversation, because by the time the self-appointed arbiters of national dialogue deem it's appropriate to broach the topic, we're onto our next mournful episode. Sadly, there's no law of nature that says today won't bring the next tragedy.