The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

Andrew Luck, athletic white guy Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! The Colts (6-3) whipped the hapless Jaguars (1-8) 27-10 last night for their fourth straight win, avenging Jacksonville's only victory of the season.

Andrew Luck ran for two scores, and although I wasn't paying close attention, I heard Mike Mayock and others in the studio mention at least three times that Luck's athleticism is underappreciated. Well, gee - why might that be, Mike?

It's the same reason people wonder if Eric Decker is the next Ed McCaffrey, or why everyone was in such a hurry to say Peyton Hillis was the second coming of John Riggins.

No, this is not racism.

Rather, it's intellectual laziness, where people who spend their lives studying football and breaking physical traits and talents down to the nth degree, are somehow unable to see past the color of a player's skin (meaning, the people who are doing the underappreciating, not necessarily Mayock).

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Peyton Manning, reefer opportunist Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! We've been saying since before the season began that fullback Chris Gronkowski wouldn't be seeing many offensive snaps. Or at least, that he shouldn't be.

Not sure why Jeff Legwold & Co. believed otherwise, unless they were just willing to believe whatever sound bite John Fox and Mike McCoy provided them.

And now that Virgil Green is becoming more involved in the offense following his four-game suspension, he's taking some snaps at fullback. We'll disagree with Legwold's claim that Denver's large scoring deficits have been the reason for Gronk's limited play, especially since Chris has hardly played offense in the games when the Broncos didn't trail big, including Sunday.

The biggest factor is using the no-huddle offense and substituting less, which requires players be versatile pieces that can be moved around a formation. That's clearly not what Gronkowski is.

However, that doesn't mean Gronkowski has been a wasted acquisition; as Legwold notes, Gronkowski has been active in all eight of Denver's games, and is second on the team in number of special teams snaps to David Bruton.

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Broncos gain heaps of midseason props, FWIW Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! So much of the talk this season has been about Cam Newton's struggles.

But as several numbers-centric writers have noted recently, Cam's not been performing measurably worse in a lot of categories. Yes, he's passing and rushing for touchdowns at a lower rate this year, but that happens. His Y/A and NY/A numbers are actually better than they were in 2011, while his AY/A and ANY/A trail last year's figures by a tiny margin.

He even has a higher YPA on the ground than last year, albeit with fewer touchdowns and a lot more fumbles.

Point is, Cam Newton has not suddenly been figured out, nor turned into a crappy QB. He's still a serious threat, and five of his team's six losses have been by six points or less.

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Kuper injury not disastrous Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! As feared, a severe ankle sprain will keep right guard Chris Kuper out for as long as a month.

While the credit is not all his, the team's streak of three wins and three games without Peyton Manning having taken a sack, does coincide with the return of Kuper from the forearm injury he suffered during training camp. Denver also had (by far) its most productive game running the ball with Kuper, totaling 225 yards on the ground against New Orleans.

In 175 snaps played over three games, Kuper has graded out at an excellent +3.5; backup Manny Ramirez has a -2.4 grade in 387 snaps.

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No trap games with PMFM at helm Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The trap game. It's been a while since the Broncos were good enough to actually have one, but the memories are still painfully fresh.

There was the 2006 playoff-costing finale against San Francisco, the 2008 duds against Kansas City, Miami, and Buffalo, and any number of recent losses to Oakland.

But instead of laying an egg in Cincinnati yesterday, Denver overcame a few big mistakes and left town with a 31-23 victory (Gamebook, ANS box score) over the Bengals.

Of course, there are some whopping differences between those middling squads and the 2012 Broncos - namely, Peyton Manning and Von Miller.

With the demanding perfectionist Manning leading the way, it's hard to picture this team having a letdown. Sure, it can lose - but probably not for having overlooked an opponent.

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Who’s afraid of Andy Dalton? Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Among the main storylines for Denver's season is the string of marquee quarterbacks they've opposed and will continue to see.

The preseason chatter on that topic included Cincy's Andy Dalton, but now that tune is starting to change. Why? Because Dalton's had a few poor games in a row, with his team mired in a three-game losing streak.

Mike Klis is declaring that the TCU alum is amidst a sophomore slump, even suggesting that, "No other explanation is needed for his disappointing play this year as the Cincinnati Bengals' starting quarterback."

This, only a few weeks after having called the Red Rifle the league's 12th-best QB, even suggesting he could meet Cam Newton "in a future Super Bowl or three."

Perhaps he's being a bit tongue-in-cheek with the sophomore slump stuff, and we're not meaning to pick solely on Klis here.

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Front office love Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Been forgetting all week to mention a couple of points that came up in our game chat last Sunday.

For one, it was very encouraging to see the extra gear of speed provided by Ronnie Hillman on offense and Trindon Holliday returning punts. It's been a long time since the Broncos have regularly put the ball into the hands of anyone with as much pure speed as either of these guys - a quick look during the game at recent Denver rosters took us all the way back to 2006, for Tatum Bell's first (pre-mobile phone salesman/Lions baggage thief) stint with the team.

Each has some learning ahead of them - Hillman has Willis McGahee to show him better reads and the proper balance between decisiveness and patience with the ball, and Holliday could stand to gain a better understanding from Jim Leonhard of how/when to fair catch a ball. Both have time on their side - Hillman is the youngest player in the NFL, and Holliday has only returned 23 punts in his brief NFL career.

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Chiefs probing new depths of futility Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Anyone remember when the 2012 Chiefs were supposed to be all kinds of teh awesome?

Haha.

KC managed to stay with the host Chargers for three quarters - but then the floodgates opened, in the form of three quick touchdowns - two of them off Matt Cassel turnovers. The $63M man now has 18 out of his team's league-leading 29 turnovers, and the Chiefs have still not held a lead at any point during this season. Among entire teams, only the Cowboys have more giveaways (by one) than Cassel alone.

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Manning Offensive POM Lard

Good Afternoon, Broncos fans! We've just overcome some technical difficulties brought on by our friend Sandy; apologies for the late Lard.

The latest Broncos accolade belongs to Peyton Manning, who was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Month for October. This is Peyton's fifth time winning the award, and the first such honor for a Bronco since Jay Cutler won in September 2008.

As for the state of his right thumb, Peyton says it's fine, and "more of an irritant than anything."

More great news comes in the form of Tracy Porter's return to practice Wednesday, albeit on a limited basis. It remains unclear whether Porter will be available for Sunday, but appears certain he won't start.

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Orlando Franklin as Cleopatra Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! No new word yet on the health of Denver cornerback Tracy Porter.

But if/when Porter is cleared to play, Mike Klis expects he'll spend a week working behind youngsters Chris Harris and Tony Carter, who have proven themselves more than capable in his absence.

As for the sophomore improvement exhibited by Rahim Moore, Klis says the 22-year old has matured quite a bit, perhaps thanks to the humbling experience of a difficult rookie season. Moore apparently worked extremely hard over the offseason and has earned newfound respect from both teammates and coaches.

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