Prime Cuts

Slices of great NFL content from around the web

Mike Silver strikes again

Tebow playing for more than his playoff life
sports.yahoo.com

As of right now, Broncos executive vice president John Elway and head coach John Fox regard Tebow as their presumed starter for 2012 and plan to proceed accordingly. Yet in the wake of last Sunday’s 7-3 defeat to the Kansas City Chiefs, they’re starting to get a little squeamish. And you can be sure that if Sunday’s season-defining performance against the NFL’s top-ranked defense is an unmitigated disaster, their first order of the offseason will be formulating a viable backup plan – whether it’s drafting a promising passer, acquiring a proven veteran or both…

...If this Sunday is anything like last Sunday, I suspect that plenty of Broncos fans will re-evaluate their conviction on this issue and start imploring the team to explore other alternatives. And Elway and his fellow decision-makers – the people whose opinions do matter – will certainly oblige.

For all Tebow has accomplished this season, the only guarantee it has earned him is that he’ll get another chance to shine on Sunday. It’s showtime, and the magnitude of the stakes should not be underestimated. For should this story take a dark turn, nothing that anyone puts on a billboard will keep his bosses from seeing him in a different light.

There are plenty of quotes to choose from in Silver's piece.  I could have gone with the more inflammatory ones, but I picked these for a reason.  Mike Silver, despite what a lot of Broncos fans might believe, is close with John Elway. He always has been, going back to Elway's days at Stanford.  In fact, interestingly enough, his current Twitter pic is a shot of he and Elway being BFFs.  So the context with which he covers the Broncos is not simply that of a hack or a guy with an agenda.  To a large extent, I think Silver's got real insight into the mind of John Elway. 

Benoit: Broncos need deep balls, luck and trick plays to win

Film Room: Broncos vs. Steelers wild-card preview
eye-on-football.blogs.cbssports.com

Whatever LeBeau chooses will work; we’re talking about the league’s top-ranked pass defense against the league’s most inept passing quarterback…The first idea is to just throw deep and hope luck tilts your way (a cornerback falls down, a ref calls pass interference, two Steelers collide while going after the same easy interception, etc.)...Another idea is to draw up trick plays. Lots of trick plays.

As lopsided as this matchup seems, the final score could be tight given that Pittsburgh’s offense might have trouble against John Fox’s and Dennis Allen’s defense…As much as the Broncos might like their secondary, they can’t expect it to be the league’s first unit that sustains coverage against the Steelers’ prolonged improvisational plays. Thus, when the Broncos do blitz, don’t be surprised if they bring the kitchen sink to ensure that Roethlisberger goes down or throws hot.

Barnwell: Broncos could win a puntfest

Playoff Preview: Steelers at Broncos
www.grantland.com

The Steelers might not have beaten a tougher team on the road this year than the one they’ll face this Sunday…If the Steelers get out to a double-digit lead early, the Broncos basically have no hopes of coming back. But there are reasons to believe that this will be a close game.

...the Steelers will need to hit on a big play or two downfield to score points. Mike Wallace is certainly up to the task, but if Roethlisberger is inaccurate and the Broncos pass rush comes to play, we might see a lot of punts.

Tebow went from offering up two turnovers in five weeks to two turnovers per week. If he arrests that trend, the Broncos might be able to turn this game into a field-position war…There’s no reason to think the Steelers will be totally unable to create turnovers because of what happened in the first half, but there’s also not any strong evidence suggesting they’re the ballhawks from 2010, either.

None of this is unreasonable - the Broncos definitely have more than an anything's possible chance.

Yellow and black attack!

Expect a lot of Steelers fans in Denver Sunday
eye-on-football.blogs.cbssports.com

So come Sunday at 4:30 p.m. ET, expect Sports Authority Field to be littered with Steelers fans and Terrible Towels. Never mind that this is the Broncos’ first postseason appearance since 2005 (the Steelers knocked them out of the AFC Championship game that year), or that Tebowmania is still alive. As of Thursday morning, there were 3,900 seats available on StubHub and 5,700 ready for purchase on Ticketexchange. Even if those tickets remain unsold, history suggests that it’s fair to expect Steelers fans to number in the tens of thousands.

Part of the problem? Maybe Tebowmania isn’t quite so much alive as on life support. After winning six in a row and getting the Broncos to 8-5, Denver backed into the playoffs after three uninspiring losses. The last, a 7-3 effort against the Chiefs that saw the Broncos punt three times for each point they scored, was the last straw for some fans.

“That game was one step above watching paint dry,” said longtime season holder Todd Tenenbaum (via the Associated Press). “To watch the running back and quarterback bump into each other to see who can get up the middle first is just boring. I’d rather stay home and watch ‘Wizards of Waverly Place’ with my kids.”

Brooks: Steelers offense may be better off without Mendenhall

Steelers have enough weapons to survive without Mendenhall
www.nfl.com

While most view his season-ending injury as detrimental to the Steelers’ title chances, I believe there could be a silver lining in his departure.

Roethlisberger doesn’t just make improvisational magic; he is also capable of picking apart defenses with pinpoint strikes from the pocket. He has become more efficient when making short and intermediate passes, enabling him to stretch the defense at every level.

Isaac Redman and John Clay give the Steelers’ running game a different dimension than Mendenhall did. The combination of Redman and Clay gives the offense a punishing downhill running attack that will pose problems for opponents. Losing Mendenhall is certainly significant, but it could be a blessing in disguise for the Steelers.

Jay Cutler is the new GM of the Bears

Pressure on Bears coach
www.chicagotribune.com

It’s well known Jay Cutler had to be cajoled into the idea of working with Martz in the first place. So it’s not surprising the quarterback went to Halas Hall on Tuesday and let Smith know he was in favor of moving on without Martz before the coaches had met.

Cutler might push for Jeremy Bates, who he worked with previously with the Broncos. Bates was out of the NFL this season after one year with the Seahawks. How would Smith perceive him after Bates declined overtures from the Bears for an interview two years ago? Maybe just fine. Sources said Angelo turned off Bates.

Here's a handy reminder of why Pat Bowlen (yes, it was his call - not Josh McDaniels') decided to ship Cutler out of town. And wow - it could be that both instances will have been for the sake of Jeremy Bates. Gotta wonder if Jay realizes that Bates isn't a package deal with an offensive line that permits him be sacked only 11 times in a season, like the 2008 Broncos did.

How long before Jay runs Lovie Smith out of his job?

Miller goes from sublime to part-time due to injury

Defense Had Big Role in Rise of the Broncos
www.nytimes.com

After spending the previous two weeks refusing to use the injury as an excuse, Miller on Wednesday acknowledged the problems it has caused.“I’m coming off the ball playing on the defensive line,” he said. “The first thing you strike is your hand. I still feel like I can get it done; it’s just that there’s a lot more thinking involved in how I place it.”

“Like other young players, he makes mistakes,” Coach John Fox said. “Von played two-thirds of the game. He’s doing fine; we have others who can play, too.”

Miller handled the de-emphasis without complaint. “I don’t think it’s a re-proving or anything like that,” he said. “They know what type of player I am and know what type of player I can be. Unfortunately, I haven’t been the same-type player. I don’t like to make excuses; I still feel like I can go out there and make those plays, but we’ve got to do what’s best for the team.”

Von Miller is playing through an injury and putting the team first.  A fair number of high-profile rookies would be bitching and complaining.

The Broncos got the right guy.  

No Plan B, No Dice

Polian regrets not having backup plan for Colts
sports.yahoo.com

On Wednesday, Polian told The Associated Press that not grooming a replacement for the injured Manning was the primary reason the Colts collapsed this season, going from Super Bowl contender to the league’s worst record. “I’ve always told the staff that our approach should be to hope for the best but plan for the worst, and I didn’t do an adequate enough job of planning for the circumstances we were in,” Polian said in a phone interview. “It led to this catastrophe.”

When asked if he was referring specifically to finding a backup for Manning, Polian said: “Yes.”

Risk--it's a harsh reality of any business.  Good businesses have contingency plans; better businesses have two (or three).  Either Bill Polian misjudged the risk of Manning going down for an extended time and he chose to ignore it or he simply believed his contingency plans were enough.  Clearly, whatever the reason, he failed to account for the probability of a 2-14 season.  A little hubris?  Apathy?  Feeling a little too comfortable after a decade of Manning? 

Risk management--it does a body an organization good.  

Kirwan: Quinn could see action; look for Steelers to air it out

Tebow, Broncos no match for Steelers' top-ranked defense
www.nfl.com

Tebow couldn’t beat the only two playoff defenses he faced (Detroit Lions and New England Patriots), and this Steelers unit will clearly be his toughest challenge yet. I won’t be shocked if backup Brady Quinn gets some consideration in the second half.

Roethlisberger averages 37 pass attempts a game this year (40 per game on the road), and now that running back Rashard Mendenhall is out with a knee injury, expect at least 40 throws on Sunday.

Broncos a steal at 120 to 1

Postseason Projections: Wild Card Round
www.advancednflstats.com

It seems even three consecutive losses is not enough to put a damper on Tebow-mania. Denver’s odds of winning the Super Bowl are variously listed as anywhere from 50/1 to 120/1, but, regardless, the Broncos are still over-valued, with the model estimating their true probability of a Super Bowl win to be less than one in eight hundred.

Hey, a 19% chance of beating the Steelers? Not too shabby!