The Lard

A comprehensive daily examination of NFL happenings and analysis

Gronk hurting for real Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Mike Reiss says Rob Gronkowski's hip injury is nothing to be taken lightly and has had him in significant pain, and that the Pats are quite concerned about it.

Sal Paolantonio just reported the same thing on ESPN, but that Gronk will play today. As for his fellow tight end, Aaron Hernandez is still not expected to play.

As devastating as the Patriots offense can be, and as they were in the second half their demolition of the Bills last week, an absent Hernandez and a hobbled Gronkowski give the Broncos a chance to come away with an upset.

Reports continue to be that Chris Kuper will be a game-time decision, but that just reads like John Fox playing Bill Belichick's injury game.

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Chiefs fans ready to fly Pioli out of town Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Five Denver players are on the Week 5 injury report, but all of them are listed as having fully practiced on both Thursday and Friday, and all are probable for the game.

John Fox is maintaining that Chris Kuper will be a game-time decision; the team headed to New England yesterday, a day early, due to the two-time-zone difference.

WR Julian Edelman and S Steve Gregory are out for the Patriots, while in typical Bill Belichick fashion, TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, RB Brandon Bolden, LB Dont'a Hightower, G Logan Mankins, and T Sebastian Vollmer are among twelve Patriots listed as questionable.

New England is clearly trying to make it appear that Hernandez will be ready to play, presumably to force the Broncos to plan for the possibility. Hightower claims that he himself will be a game-time decision.

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Broncos’ 53 healthy heading to Foxboro Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! Chris Kuper was listed as a full participant in practice yesterday, as were the rest of Denver's active 53-man roster.

Even so, John Fox isn't yet saying whether the right guard will return to the starting lineup this week; Mike Klis says it's "almost certain" Kuper will at least be on the gameday roster.

Likewise, Bill Belichick continues to give the league's injury report policy the finger, listing thirteen players as limited in Thursday's practice.

Word out of New England continues to be that TE Aaron Hernandez will not play Sunday, although he did return to practice on a limited basis yesterday.

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Owner may put Jets on Tebow Time Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! As the team prepares for its trip to New England, it's only natural that much of the talk focuses on the showdown between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

QBs aside, these are two franchises that are very familiar with each other; not only did they face off twice last season, and seven times in seven seasons, but several players (Dan Koppen, Brandon Lloyd, Daniel Fells) have played for both teams (Niko Koutouvides doesn't count*). And of course, there's the Pats offensive coordinator, some dude by the name of Josh.

Unfortunately, three of their last four meetings have been absolute shellackings, with the exception being the Hoodie Jr./Hoodie Sr. game of 2009.

One key to this week's edition of Broncos/Patriots could be health.

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Chargers need Peyton’s help to sell tickets Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! In his latest mailbag, Mike Klis addresses concerns about the boringness of using Jim Leonhard as Denver's punt returner.

He's right - although Leonhard isn't making any big plays, he's also not making major gaffes. And once the defense has gotten the opposing offense to give up the ball, the next play is all about making sure Peyton Manning gets his crack with it. Sure, a faster player might bring an extra couple of yards per return, but that doesn't seem worth the tradeoff of a less-experienced returner who may be more likely to fumble or make a poor decision.

Unfortunately, the Broncos just don't have a punt returner who's the complete package. This was readily apparent during the preseason; it's just one of those things the Broncos will have to accept until next offseason, when they are yet again presented with the issue.

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Centers have W-L records too Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! After 134 games as New England's starting center, Dan Koppen will be making his Broncos starting debut against his old mates.

But the transition to Koppen from J.D. Walton may not be as difficult as one might expect.

After all, Koppen is well-versed in Josh McDaniels's offense (much of which Mike McCoy still uses in Denver), and he also has loads of experience in operating sans huddle. Of course, the real question is, how familiar is Koppen with the Peyton Manning offense?

And as Sacco & Co. want us to know, all Koppen does is win. So what's there to worry about?

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Now that’s more like it Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! For anyone spoiled by the Mike Shanahan Era in Denver, yesterday was how Broncos/Raiders games are supposed to go.

Peyton Manning, Willis McGahee, and Elvis Dumervil were absolutely dominant in a 37-6 thrashing of Oakland yesterday at SAF@MH (Gamebook, ANS box score).

Manning had spoken during the week about faring better in the first and third quarters of games, and his teammates clearly got the message. The Broncos tallied all but six of their points in those periods, scored a first-quarter touchdown for the first time all year, and unloaded for three touchdowns in the third quarter, turning what had been a tight game (on the scoreboard, at least) into a laugher.

But the game was never in much doubt.

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Streak-ending time Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! We're all too aware that the Broncos have lost four straight home games to the Raiders, and six of nine matchups regardless of location.

No figure has loomed larger in this matchup recently than Oakland RB Darren McFadden, who has racked up 510 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns in his last three games against Denver, all Raiders wins. Injury kept the back out of their last meeting, when the Broncos won 38-24 in Oakland.

Obviously, the Broncos defense is well aware of the threat McFadden brings; fortunately for Denver, Oakland may be somewhat one-dimensional today due to a banged-up WR corps.

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Hillman itching for more play Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It was another fine day at Dove Valley yesterday, but not in the positive sense of the word.

Von Miller was slapped with a $15,750 penalty for his late hit on Matt Schaub, which preceded Joe Mays's own suspension-inducing hit on the quarterback by one play. Mays will still collect a game check tomorrow, but he was fined $50K. In his brief career, Miller has already been penalized with over $60K in fines.

Meanwhile, John Fox has formally appealed the ridiculous $30K fine he received for his behavior in Atlanta; Jack Del Rio is expected to follow suit regarding his $25K penalty.

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D.J. to learn of extended ban soon Lard

Happy Friday, Broncos fans! As expected, the first group of real officials were welcomed back heartily last night, as Gene Steratore's crew was given a standing ovation before the game.

Steratore even got hugs from Ravens coach John Harbaugh and linebacker Ray Lewis, and safety Bernard Pollard says the players have a new appreciation for the skill of the regular refs.

Before the game, Roger Goodell apologized to the fans, but framed the lockout as something that had to happen, and even summoned up the nerve to call the craptastic officiating as part of the "beauty of sports."

Judy Battista reports that indeed, progress in negotiations had been made prior to Monday, so there was actually a possibility of a deal before the game-deciding blown call. But according to her sources, owners Jerry Richardson of the Panthers and Woody Johnson of the Jets were among the owners digging their heels in on Tuesday, while the Patriots' Robert Kraft and Giants owner John Mara - often described as key moderates during last year's player lockout - were more concerned with the impact of using scab officials.

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