Good Morning, Broncos fans! Hard to believe it, but the end of the regular season is already here today.
We've all understandably had our eyes to the future - on playoff seeds and scenarios, and dreams of a Broncos trip to New Orleans. And incredibly, after years of mediocrity or worse, last week brought a 34-12 home blowout that was, for all intents and purposes, boring.
It's amazing how drastically things have changed in the nine months since Peyton Manning showed up, and the two-and-a-half months since the team trailed 24-0 at halftime in San Diego. We're already taking blowouts for granted, after having endured, almost exactly a year ago, an excruciating 7-3 home loss to Kansas City in a win-and-they're-in scenario.
364 days later, the Broncos again will host the Chiefs to close out the regular season, and once again, the game has significant playoff implications.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! While the Broncos and other teams are prepping for the postseason, with an eye tomorrow toward playoff seeding, many other franchises are ready to dump their coaches, perhaps as early as Monday.
It's apparently known around the NFL as Black Monday, but someone probably needs to come up with a more accurate moniker, given the difficulty black coaches still have in finding opportunities as head coaches, and even rarer, offensive play callers. Perhaps Not-Black Monday would be more appropriate.
As for the field of candidates and job openings, each got at least one smaller last night, as Sean Payton agreed to a new five-year deal with the Saints. Not only does that settle the situation in New Orleans, but it also makes Payton unavailable to Jerrah Jones and the Cowboys, further ensuring Jason Garrett's job security in Dallas.
Happy Friday, Broncos fans! So, turns out that the UT™ didn't actually demand out of the LOLJets Wildcat package, thus preserving his reputation as someone who would never tell a lie. Neat little trick by the Tebow camp:
One last word on what was effectively a Tim Tebow mutiny. A source close to the situation explained that Tebow didn't say directly to coach Rex Ryan that he would no longer play in the wildcat after learning he was being passed over for Greg McElroy. But this fact was definitely conveyed to the Jets from a member of the Tebow camp -- with Tebow's knowledge -- to the Jets.
Tebow is a good human being. There's no question about that, but there's also no question this was blatant insubordination. It doesn't matter if Tebow later came to his senses and told Ryan he would do whatever the team needed. It was too late.
If almost any other player had pulled a stunt like this, they'd be pilloried by fans. The same should happen to Tebow.
Yeah, we know - Timmy played hard for the Broncos in 2011. Big whoop. Does that mean the other 52 guys on the roster didn't?
Why was it okay to call all summer long for D.J. Williams's head while excusing everything from the UT™? Did D.J. - who was the team's leading tackler and third-leading sack man - not play hard last year too? Can anyone really be sure the Broncos would have made the playoffs without D.J.?
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Yesterday afternoon, we discussed the Denver futures of Von Miller, Demaryius Thomas, and Ryan Clady.
Let's consider a few more points about Miller's situation, because it's not a simple matter of prioritizing one player over the others.
To be sure, Miller is the best player of that trio, and perhaps to a greater degree, most important to the Broncos in the long term. Therefore, he's undoubtedly the one guy we'd all choose for Denver to lock up with a lengthy, lucrative deal - more than any other player on the roster.
But chronologically, it's rather unlikely to play out that way. Check out this provision of the current CBA:
A Rookie Contract for a Drafted Rookie may not be renegotiated, amended or altered in any way until after the final regular season game of the player’s third contract year.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! Prior to Sunday's game, we checked on Matt Prater's statistics from this season, and what we found wasn't pretty.
Prater's not only been struggling with inaccuracy on field goals, but is allowing teams better starting position following kickoffs than teammates are, at least in the mile high confines of SAF@MH. You know - where Prater is supposed to be blasting touchbacks on every try. Sunday's visit from Josh Cribbs did nothing to help Prater's numbers.
What about on the road? Let's take a look.
Just to clarify our data, and this applies to the home numbers as well, we've excluded all onside kicks, squibs, and kicks by Britton Colquitt.
Good Morning, Broncos fans! It may be cliched for the team to say it's not looking past Sunday's game against the woeful Chiefs.
But considering the prize that awaits a regular-season-ending victory, it's not hard to believe. After all, the Broncos will guarantee themselves a first-round bye and two weeks to prep for their playoff opener, if they're able to dispatch with the NFL's worst team.
Even better, if the Colts somehow manage to knock off the Texans in Indy on Sunday (in an early kickoff), Denver will have an opportunity to snatch home-field advantage from Houston with a win.
Win Sunday, and the Broncos will have two weeks to heal up, rest up, and game plan for whomever they'll end up hosting in the divisional round - New England would appear the likeliest opponent, if Denver remains the number-two seed.
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.