The Broncos are about to find out just how (un)important a placekicker is to their squad.
As first reported by Mike Klis, the team will be without placekicker Matt Prater for the first four games of the season due to an alcohol-related suspension.
Per Klis, there will be no appeal, as Prater had been facing a one-year ban as a repeat offender under the league's substance abuse policy.
This would suggest that Prater is in stage three of the drug program.
His lawyer, Harvey Steinberg, claims the ban stems from "a couple beers...consumed at home while...on vacation."
Prater was arrested in 2011 after having drunkenly backed his truck into a parked car in a hotel lot.
2013 was Prater's best season, as he missed only two FG attempts (one each during the regular and post seasons), and set a new NFL record for the longest FG of all time.
Then again, very few of his kicks were of the high leverage variety, as Denver's high scoring offense renders a kicker's contribution nearly moot.
To wit, Prater's made field goals significantly impacted the result of only one of their 15 wins (Week 5 at Dallas).
Klis clearly didn't take any of this into consideration when he wrote that Prater "by nearly any measure is the league's best kicker." (LOLZ)
The Broncos outscored their opponents by a 12.9-point margin during the regular season, and that includes losses.
According to Jeff Legwold, the Broncos will be paying close attention to kickers cut by other teams.
Mitch Ewald, who was clearly brought in as camp fodder, has produced short kickoffs this preseason and missed a 36-yard attempt on Saturday night.
Of course, the league's best kickers are often undrafted retreads, so Denver stands a decent chance of finding an adequate one on the waiver wire.
Denver's altitude - which makes both kickoffs and field goals easier than anywhere else in the league - will help.
Three of the Broncos' first four games will be played at home, so we'll expect Prater's altitude-inflated stats to take a hit this season.
As for what Peyton Manning might have to say about the situation, here's our guess: