Kuper on track for career playoff debut Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! It's been well-documented here and elsewhere that the Ravens will come to Denver with many players they didn't have for the first matchup between the two teams.

But Denver has several recovery stories of its own, if not all with an eye toward Saturday, or even this 2012 season.

Willis McGahee's return to practice yesterday offers hope of a particularly deep backfield - given the emergence of Knowshon Moreno - but Willis will only become a factor should the Broncos emerge victorious from this upcoming divisional round game.

To get there, a likely reappearance by Chris Kuper in the starting lineup would be a major boon, given the oft-noted vast difference between the offensive line's pass protection with Kuper around rather than Manny Ramirez.

For the seventh-year lineman, whose 2011 season ended in gruesome fashion during the regular-season finale against Kansas City, Saturday would be his playoff debut.

Trindon Holliday also will be ready to go, and he put in some overtime yesterday fielding punts as he looks to continue his own personal perfect season.

Unfortunately for DE Jason Hunter, who's been on IR since tearing a triceps during camp, there's no prospect of seeing the field for these playoffs. But Hunter has been a constant figure at Dove Valley for his rehab, and he says his teammates have been highly supportive in helping him get through the process.

The 29-year-old Appalachian State alum says he'll be ready to go for the 2013 season, but he is due to hit free agency this offseason. Of course, if he weren't in the Broncos' plans, they'd have given him an injury settlement and sent him on his way long ago. Figure to see him back on a non-guaranteed contract and competing for a spot in camp come summertime.

Broncos

Videos: John Fox, Peyton Manning, Elvis Dumervil, and Keith Brooking speak after practice, from which BTV reports.

Peyton says his move to a glove on his throwing hand has been a nod to the lingering effects of his neck injury, and his limited ability to grip the ball well in cold weather. But as for the playoffs, Manning says his preparation is the same as ever.

Rahim Moore says that getting to exchange jerseys with his idol Ed Reed a few weeks back brought tears to his eyes, and we can only hope Rahim can develop the perceptiveness, studiousness, and great hands Reed brought to the position.

Britton Colquitt crushed his own franchise net punting record originally set last year; the CO Sports HOF named Manning its pro athlete of the year; Chris Kuper was named this year's Ed Block Courage award winner by his teammates.

As per PFF, Champ Bailey, Chris Harris, Brandon Stokley, Justin Bannan, and Kevin Vickerson have posted some great numbers this year, while Manny Ramirez's run blocking is on the rise.

Because he clearly doesn't know what he's talking about, Mike Klis says the Ravens are a team capable of winning the Super Bowl, while also forgetting that the 2005 Broncos were a very good team, and joining Legwold in floating Norv Turner as a potential replacement for Mike McCoy. There is one value add in the mailbag though - Knowshon Moreno has apparently been wearing new, lower cut shoes this year, which he says is the reason he's lost so many during games.

Jeff Legwold looks back to the last time these teams met in the playoffs, but omits the largest difference - Peyton Manning at QB instead of Gus Frerotte.

The secondary market for tickets to Saturday's game is coming in a bit, as there was apparently more excitement for a Peyton/Colts matchup than a rematch with the Ravens; look out for scammers if you're going this route for tickets.

Remember when Klis said Brian Malapropism Xanders would be a hot GM candidate? Yeah, not so much.

Irv Moss checks in with retired RB Jim Jensen, whose rookie season was the Broncos' magical 1977 ride to their first Super Bowl.

Ravens

John Harbaugh predicts with certainty that Peyton will be looking to target nickel corner Chykie Brown on Saturday.

Several Baltimore players are trying to take the Rodney Dangerfield angle leading up to Saturday night's repeat beatdown.

LB Dannell Ellerbe, who has been hampered by several injuries this year, and was missing for the Week 15 showdown in Baltimore, says his latest ankle injury wasn't severe, and that he expects to be in pretty good health come Saturday.

Although Ray Rice has just seven fumbles in five career regular seasons, he now has had five fumbles in eight playoff games after putting the ball on the ground twice on Sunday.

Vince Verhei says Baltimore needs to provide Michael Oher some help against Von Miller, and that the Ravens must stay on schedule if they're to keep Joe Flacco upright enough for them to pull off the upset.

Coaching/GM Carousel

San Diego reportedly contacted Jim Mora about their head gig, although he is expected to stay at UCLA. There were some questions about what we meant by a failed retread the other day; to be clear, John Fox was never such a thing, whereas Jim Mora may be the very definition of one.

Arizona promoted personnel man Steve Keim to GM; Jacksonville hired David Caldwell to be their GM.

The Eagles have added Lovie Smith to their lengthy list of HC candidates and will interview him tomorrow.

The Browns interviewed Alouettes coach Marc Tresthman yesterday.

It was another banner day for the LOLJets, as Sticks Johnson and Sexy Rexy finally had their season-ending presser together; Rexy claims 2013 is a "new beginning" for him, and that his squad will be "dangerous" and feature an "attacking" offense. He says the tattoo of his wife is three years old, and that if Buttfumble doesn't improve, he'll have to change the jersey number on the tat. Of course, the whole session was full of lies and platitudes; defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman is expected to become the team's new DC.

Rexy's twin brother Rob also had a rough day, as he was fired by the Cowboys with a year remaining on his contract.

New Bills coach Doug Marrone is bringing his OC Nathaniel Hackett with him from Syracuse to run Buffalo's offense.

Carolina fired three position coaches, a few days after announcing that Ron Rivera would return as head coach.

Bill Cowher says he does plan a return to coaching someday.

News

RG3 is scheduled to undergo a total reconstruction of his knee, as his ACL and LCL were found to be completely torn; thankfully, the reported recovery estimate is for Griffin to be fully healed in 6-8 months. Mike Lombardi thinks Daniel Snyder must improve FedEx Field's playing surface, and that RG3 needs to run a bit less whenever he does return to action.

Seattle plans to dig up former Bronco and Wyoming Cowboy Patrick Chukwurah - who hasn't played in the NFL since 2008 - to be a situational pass rusher behind Bruce Irvin as the team deals with Chris Clemons's season-ending knee injury. They also will sign kicker Ryan Longwell, with Steven Hauschka hobbled by a calf injury and likely headed to IR.

In other delayed LOLJets news, linebacker Bryan Thomas was arrested and charged with aggravated assault against his wife on Halloween, while reports say the team's original intent when they acquired the Ultimate Teammate™ was to use him as a running back.

LB Rolando McClain, who's not long for the Raiders, was arrested again in Alabama, this time for allegedly providing a false name during a traffic stop. He says the cops are out to get him...

Analysis

Mike Tanier examines the numbers which clearly make J.J. Watt this year's DPOY over Von Miller (56 defeats to 39). In PFF parlance, if we total up sacks, hurries, QB hits, forced fumbles, picks, batted passes, and run stops, then Watt has a 180-144 advantage.

Good old Mike Silver takes down Nick Saban as only Silver can, calling him an "intractable, humorless control freak" and power-consumed autocrat characterized by "ill-tempered insecurity" who is best suited for the college game, where players are only around for a few years and don't have the standing of veteran pros.

Doug Farrar thinks Manti Te'o's physical strength is now a concern following his lackluster performance Monday against Alabama.

ESPN thankfully will not renew the contract of Rob Parker; as soon as they do the same with Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith, we'll respect them again.

Chase Stuart looks back on his own prescient take of how the Broncos' second half would unfold; Don Banks reminds us that he predicted months ago that Peyton Manning would lead his team to the playoffs, while brother Eli would not, and he picks Peyton, Ryan Clady, and Von Miller for his All-Pro team.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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