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Good Morning, Broncos fans! When Denver got thumped by Seattle last week, we found encouragement in the play of the starters, specifically the progress of Peyton Manning and the pass rush.

Causes for concern were the run defense, depth on the offensive line and throughout the defensive roster, and the influence of horrendous officiating.

Yesterday brought another loss, this time 29-24 to the 49ers (Gamebook, BTVNFLN, & PMFM highlights). The worries remain, for as much as John Elway & Co. have served to upgrade the team's depth, the second and third teamers continue to get whipped.

It's the reality of overhauling a team that won but four games in 2010 and scored more like a 6-12 team than the 9-9 record they sported (348 points for, 458 against = 6.2 expected wins, 11.8 expected losses).

What does that really mean? Two things:

  1. This is a good reminder that the 2012 Broncos are not an elite team, top to bottom. If the starting lineup turns into a MASH unit ala the 2010 Packers, a deep playoff run is not likely, if they even make the postseason.
  2. If the Broncos do go far this season, luck - in the form of key players remaining healthy - will play a big key.

HOWEVAH...should the starting lineup remain mostly intact over the next four months, look out, AFC West - and look out, NFL.

After showing improvement from his one series in Chicago to the opening half against Seattle, Manning was supposed to play much of three quarters yesterday in a final tuneup for the regular season. But Peyton was so Manningesque that fourteen minutes (and three seconds) and three possessions sufficed.

PMFM departed with a 17-0 lead, having completed ten passes for 122 yards, two touchdowns to Eric Decker, and just two incompletions - the first, a drop by Joel Dreessen; the second came a play later when Brandon Stokley was both held and interfered with (but the Ginger Hammer says these officials are "competent").

Another pair of consecutive plays provided the best of highlights for Manning, who delivered a flawless (and difficult) 38-yard pass to Lance Ball while getting drilled by Niners LB Parys Haralson. Eschewing the customary give-the-QB-a-break handoff, Peyton popped right  back up and completed a pass to Willis McGahee.

The defense was almost as good, allowing just 83 net yards on 17 plays. Most of them came on a single play, a 44-yard TD on a blown coverage by Rahim Moore, that followed a nearly-perfect onside kick (save for Matthew Willis forgetting to count his strides).

Caleb Hanie shook off an early interception to former Bronco Perrish Cox and a dropped TD by Eric Decker, by firing a laser to a well-covered Dreessen, and heading to halftime up 24-10.

From that point on, it was a repeat of last week - shaky play from Brock Osweiler, poor tackling by the defense, and wretched officiating. Nineteen unanswered points.

But oh, those starters...

Broncos

John FoxPeyton Manning, and several others (videos) spoke with the press afterward; here are some of their quotes.

Lance Ball (ribs) and Omar Bolden (knee) left early with minor injuries; Kevin Vickerson (concussion) returned to see both first- and second-team action.

As per usual, don't expect to see any of the starters play on Friday morning Thursday night in Arizona.

Denver must cut or waive thirteen players by 4pm ET today to get to the 75-man roster limit; on Friday by 9pm ET, they'll have to cut 20 more, with the suspensions of D.J. Williams and Virgil Green going into effect and getting the number down to 53.

So, who's going to make it? Andrew Mason thinks Lance Ball, Chris Gronkowski, and Caleb Hanie are pretty much locks, and perhaps Steven Johnson, too. He thinks a fourth RB spot will be a tough choice between Knowshon Moreno and Jeremiah Johnson, but our money is still firmly behind Knowshon.

Adding to Ball's chances is that he spent much of the 2008 season on the Colts practice squad, so he has more familiarity with Manning than do any of the other backs.

Jim Leonhard and Keith Brooking did not play, but Jeff Legwold expects both to make the final roster, and says they could be joined by players cut from other squads.

When Mark Kiszla thinks about Knowshon, apparently all he sees is Josh McDaniels. As for Legwold, since he doesn't see things with his own eyes, consults his Rolodex, and it says Knowshon still isn't at 100% after knee surgery (which was only nine months ago).

Matt Bowen breaks down Peyton's final throw of the afternoon, a five-yard touchdown strike to Eric Decker.

Trimmings

Seattle named Russell Wilson their starting QB, dealt Tarvaris Jackson to Buffalo for an undisclosed draft pick, and dumped Terrell Owens and Deuce Lutui.

The big trade Colts owner Jim Irsay had been predicting was one to acquire Vontae Davis from Miami, which they pulled off in exchange for a 2013 second-rounder and late conditional pick.

Baltimore cut kicker Billy Cundiff; Bears S Brandon Hardin, Texans K Randy Bullock, and Colts DT Brandon McKinney are done for the year, while the Falcons placed DT Corey Peters on the PUP list.

The Chiefs got rid of 14 players to get down to 75.

Andy Benoit analyzes a Jaguars team he expects to struggle again under the weight of a weak roster.

If Peter King were banned from using the words weird, interesting, and eerie, what would his MMQB columns be reduced to?

Offal

The Jets are still without a touchdown through three preseason games after losing to the Panthers 17-12 last night; Teebs was Teebs (four of fourteen, a pick, three sacks). Still, our double-secret super-confidential sources tell us there were folks calling Denver sports radio stations last night to discuss about Timmy rather than the exploits of one Peyton Manning.

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

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