Who’s afraid of Andy Dalton? Lard

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Among the main storylines for Denver's season is the string of marquee quarterbacks they've opposed and will continue to see.

The preseason chatter on that topic included Cincy's Andy Dalton, but now that tune is starting to change. Why? Because Dalton's had a few poor games in a row, with his team mired in a three-game losing streak.

Mike Klis is declaring that the TCU alum is amidst a sophomore slump, even suggesting that, "No other explanation is needed for his disappointing play this year as the Cincinnati Bengals' starting quarterback."

This, only a few weeks after having called the Red Rifle the league's 12th-best QB, even suggesting he could meet Cam Newton "in a future Super Bowl or three."

Perhaps he's being a bit tongue-in-cheek with the sophomore slump stuff, and we're not meaning to pick solely on Klis here.

Now's as good a time as any to discuss Dalton's reputation.

The guy's been impressive in a few ways, having gone from a second-round pick to a 17-game starter in a matter of months, and having helped a team go from four wins in 2010 to nine in 2011. A second-round QB is never expected to be a starter from Day 1; if you know that's what you're getting out of a quarterback, you're taking him in the first round.

It's a nice story. But here's the truth - Dalton's nowhere near being a franchise quarterback.

The first reality is that Dalton got off to a nice start in 2011, but struggled mightily down the stretch. During Cincy's first eight games last year, his QB rating was a respectable 85.0; for the rest of the year, including the playoff loss to Houston, his rating was a subpar 72.4.

During his last 16 games including the playoff loss, Dalton has been a 77.8 passer.

So, we're not really talking about a sophomore slump. Rather, it's been a struggle since midway through his rookie season.

There's another side to the Dalton tale, and that's the level of competition he's faced. His numbers have been inflated by Cincy getting to play Cleveland twice a year.

Seven of his games have come against the Browns (four games), Jags (once each year), and Colts (once, in 2011), the three teams that won the fewest games in 2011 (11 between them). The 2012 Browns and Jags have three wins combined.

Against those three franchises, Dalton's QB rating is a stellar 101.3.

But versus all other competition, he's been a rather poor 73.5.

Cincy's three victories in 2012 have come against Cleveland, Washington, and Jacksonville.

Is this a hit on Dalton's future prospects? Not at all. He may very well go on to have a very good, long career. He's young, and it's only his second season.

But let's not call him a franchise QB, or worry too much about what he'll do against the Broncos today. There's little reason to think he's going to have a big game today.

Broncos

LB Joe Mays will undergo surgery to repair his broken fibula on Tuesday. Mike Klis says Mays is expected to be fully recovered by May, but color us shocked if he's making the $4M salary in 2013 that he's currently scheduled to receive.

It's rather impressive that Jim Leonhard is now in his eighth NFL season since having been an unrecruited walk-on and an undrafted rookie.

Andrew Mason and Jeff Legwold each offer five keys to today's game; Legwold gives Denver the edge in every facet of the game. According to Legwold, ex-Colts GM Bill Polian regrets not having drafted Dalton. Sure, he'd still have his job today, but would Colts fans really trade last year's misery and Andrew Luck for Andy Dalton? Don't think so.

LJ says the Broncos need to win the turnover battle, but we'll say they just need to not lose it in a big or dramatic way (meaning, no pick-sixes or the like).

Legwold says Demaryius Thomas and A.J. Green, by virtue of their height, represent the future of the NFL's passing game.

Trimmings

The NFL apparently voided the contract extension given Sean Payton by the Saints last September, meaning he'll be free to sign with any team once his suspension is up after this season.

Oakland has not yet activated LB Aaron Curry, who had been on the PUP list until 2.5 weeks ago; they have a few days to decide what to do with him. Chargers fifth-rounder Johnnie Troutman is expected to start practicing this week for the first time all year, but not to play until next season.

The Giants activated TE Travis Beckum from their PUP list; Philly did the same with DT Mike Patterson, who has sufficiently healed from his brain surgery last year.

Ryan Tannehill is expected to start at QB for the Dolphins today in a showdown versus Luck and the Colts, for which Indy coach Chuck Pagano will be in attendance for the first time since his leukemia diagnosis.

Scrapple

Vikings punter Chris Kluwe quit blogging for the St. Paul Pioneer-Press after they clearly editorialized in support of an anti-gay amendment in Minnesota while spinelessly claiming to be taking no sides in the matter.

Here's guessing most people know very little about the play-clock operators at NFL games; they're employed by the league, are considered part of officiating crews, and cannot stop the clock based upon what happens on the field - only when an official motions to stop it. An exception? A ball cannot just lay on the field for more than five seconds after a blocked field goal, so the clock would stop there. If you knew that, a gold star for you!

Doug Farrar and Matt Bowen preview the day's action; Farrar predicts a runaway win for the Broncos.

Dan Pompei includes Peyton Manning and Ryan Clady among his midseason All-Pros.

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

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