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.
And no - arming teachers, or forcing the smallest, most precious among us to navigate metal detectors each morning is not the answer.
This is not a political issue. Taxes, military budgets, the economy, elections, foreign policy are politics.
Protecting our children is an issue of humanity, not politics.
Gun control. Nobody likes to use those two words together anymore, but it's time. It was time after Columbine; it was time after Aurora. It is still the time now, if not more so.
Do something. Here's a great place to start.
Our thoughts are with so many today - the children whose lives were cut unfathomably short; the brave adults who died trying to protect them; the families destroyed; the community of Newtown, which is changed forever, for the worse; the surviving children who lost their innocence years, even decades, too soon.
Reluctantly, we turn to football (Stick to football? Sorry, that's impossible today.):
Videos: John Fox, Von Miller & Rahim Moore speak after practice; John Elway visits with NFLN; NFLN's Playbook crew expect a Denver win; Shaun O'Hara and Willie McGinest discuss the completeness of the Broncos and Patriots.
Wesley Woodyard and Chris Kuper were again limited and are listed as questionable; three others are probable. With Kuper on the field, Peyton Manning has taken just two sacks; with Manny Ramirez, that number rises to 17.
Denver has a whopping eleven strip-sacks this year, with ten of them belonging to Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil.
While he admits objectivity is a tall task given his position, John Elway is stumping for Peyton's MVP candidacy and the case for Von as DPOY.
As Jeff Legwold sees it, the keys to a Denver victory tomorrow are containing Ray Rice, pressuring Joe Flacco, and faring better in the red zone than they did last week.
Legwold reminds the big-picture-blind that Brock Osweiler is gaining invaluable experience holding the clipboard for Manning, and suggests he could play in Week 17 if Denver's playoff seeding has already been cemented at that point.
Gordon McGuinness previews the game for PFF; Baltimore has faced all three of the DPOY frontrunners, and not fared well; the Ravens' receivers have a tough matchup against Denver's corners.
J.J. Cooper breaks down the varieties of sacks by Von and his DPOY competitors, with Von holding a distinct advantage in speed rushes, while notching similar coverage sack numbers to Aldon Smith - a testament to both the relentlessness of each player, and the quality of the secondaries behind them.
Ashley Fox correctly adds Cincy's Geno Atkins to the mix, but she sees none of the candidates as being more important to their squads than Von; Greg Cosell tells her Baltimore needs to make Joe Flacco's task easier, even if that is unlikely to happen by tomorrow.
Chris Sprow's lists Ryan Clady as third among top pending free agents, and he thinks the Cardinals should make a run at him (ESPN Insider).
For the next couple weeks, it will be Peyton Manning's voice greeting DIA train riders.
Baltimore is holding out hope it will have Marshal Yanda, Bernard Pollard, and Ed Dickson on the field tomorrow, but it's highly unlikely; eight Ravens are listed as questionable.
Even if Ray Lewis is never anymore the physical presence he once was, his teammates admit there's been a major on-field leadership void in his absence.
With the status of
Lewis and Terrell Suggs still very much up in the air, the Ravens couldn't have picked a worse time to be facing the Broncos.
ESPN is reporting that Lewis will not be activated tomorrow.
It's not just Rice who's a serious ground threat; rookie back Bernard Pierce has played an increasingly significant role as the season has worn on.
A moment of silence will be observed prior to the singing of our national anthem at every NFL game this weekend.
According to Albert Breer, any expansion of the playoff field would be accompanied by a shortening of the preseason.
Jovan Belcher's actions are never condonable, but they appear differently today, given rumors that his girlfriend's orphaned daughter may not have been his own (KC police say they've heard nothing to that end).
Doug Farrar/Greg Cosell (podcast), Clark Judge, Peter King, and John Clayton preview the week's games; all have plenty of thoughts on Broncos/Ravens, and Clayton says an expanded NFL playoff field is an inevitability.
Mike Lombardi expects the Ravens will rally around Jim Caldwell and Joe Flacco tomorrow, and he thinks that eventuality or not, adding more teams to the postseason is a bad idea.
Farrar thinks that for Nick Saban to make a successful return to coaching in the NFL, he'll have to have learned the same lessons that Pete Carroll, Jim Harbaugh, and Greg Schiano have before him.
Bill Barnwell says it's become too easy to forget the remarkably successes of Andy Reid's tenure in Philadelphia, prior to recent struggles.
The presence of Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith would seemingly preclude most from watching ESPN's "First Take" show (but, apparently not). If not, then perhaps Rob Parker's would do the trick? Suspension or not, the Worldwide Leader exhibits daily their despicable willingness to employ stupid people who repeatedly say stupid things.
Update 1:18pm ET: Baltimore will reportedly not activate Ray Lewis tomorrow; 1:32pm ET: added "developed" to line calling U.S. the "mass-murder, assault-death capital of the world" - an important distinction, for sure