Prime Cuts

Slices of great NFL content from around the web

Dungy: Dallas defense will look quite familiar to Peyton

Denver's Peyton Manning might be able to play this one by memory
www.latimes.com

“A lot of the calls haven’t changed, a lot of the principles and the tenets,” Dungy said by phone Monday. “Peyton has just got a memory that’s unbelievable. So day after day after day for seven years, he was practicing against it, knowing the looks and everything.

“As far as fooling him or doing things different than he’s going to expect, I’d be surprised.”

It's bad enough when Peyton has six days to watch tape of your defense. When he has seven years' worth of practice memories to draw upon, too? Yikes.

Stuart: Denver projects to 13.5 wins

Follow the Points: The Broncos Are the Favorites
www.nytimes.com

Denver’s 179 points through four games are the second most in N.F.L. history, trailing only the 1966 Cowboys. Only 10 teams have scored 179 or more points in any four-game stretch in a season. Only five of those teams did so in the last 35 years: the 2012 and 2007 Patriots; Manning’s 2004 Colts; the 2000 Rams; and the 1998 Vikings. All of those teams failed to win the Super Bowl, however; a hot start guarantees only higher expectations.

That's somewhat surprising, right? Granted, it's only a sample of five teams, so my immediate thought was that anything can happen in the playoffs.

It just so happens that the Harvard guys posted a study on this yesterday, although their data shows that the NFL does better than MLB and the NHL at producing champions who actually played like champs during the regular season.

The glaring exception? Eli Manning's Giants, who, of course, took down those 2007 Patriots.

Barnwell: How can PMFM & Co. be stopped?

Broncos Busting Out
www.grantland.com

There are other ways. An ambitious team will try to take away the screens and quick hitches at the line of scrimmage by putting its cornerbacks on the line and bumping Denver’s receivers out of their routes, just as the Patriots did when they famously forced a Bill Polian–inspired rule change in the mid-aughts. That will leave it susceptible to whiffs and bigger plays — and it’s hard to imagine anybody successfully jamming the enormous Demaryius Thomas — but the occasional miscue might be preferable to giving up an easy eight yards on every play.

Good luck with that, NFL.

In a programming note, there will sadly be no Lard today (first time ever), as my laptop is on the fritz and currently deleting half of every sentence I type. Hence all the short bursts...

Goldner: Whither Chip Kelly?

What Are You Doing, Chip?
www.advancednflstats.com

While I did not expect him to immediately institute his Oregon trademarks, I did expect to see him going for it more often on fourth down, especially in situations where the numbers called for it—and generally, making decisions to maximize the Eagles win probability.

It’s four weeks into the season, and too many times I’ve asked my TV, “What are you doing, Chip?” Today against the Broncos, there were a couple of questionable decisions.

Ted and I were discussing Kelly's surprising decisions yesterday as they happened, and I made note of them in my recap. It's interesting to see the EP numbers that correspond to the questionable calls. I think it's safe to posit that Chip didn't cost his team the game with these choices, but he certainly didn't do them any favors.

It’s official: Peyton Manning is a robot

Broncos briefs: Jack Del Rio will stay through entire season
www.denverpost.com

Peyton Manning was able to name Milt Plum’s college (Penn State), pro team (Cleveland) and number (16) after Sunday’s game. Manning tied Plum’s 1960 record for the longest stretch without an interception in NFL history; he has gone four games and thrown 16 TD passes without one. The quarterback joked that he and his brother Cooper played trivia games on road trips as kids and that Cooper would be proud of him for remembering so many details of Plum’s career.

If any of you had even heard of Plum before Sunday, a gold star to you...

Tanier: Book your trips to NJ, Broncos fans

The Broncos and Seahawks are bound for the Super Bowl
www.sportsonearth.com

What? You think I am jumping the gun? Have you been watching the NFL this season? The Broncos and Seahawks are going to the Super Bowl. They are undefeated. They have outscored opponents by a combined score of 288-138, which means the average Broncos or Seahawks victory is a 36-17 rout. They have defeated Super Bowl champions and conference champions, divisional foes and the quarterback’s brother. Super Bowl XLVIII: Seahawks-Broncos. It’s impossible to come up with any other prediction, unless you are going out of your way to be contrary.

Of course, half the fun is in getting there. So, as nice as it would be to know the Broncos are going to the SB, let's just enjoy the ride, wherever it takes us.

MMQB Quote #2: Weekly players-only meetings

Peyton at 37—The Best From the Best
mmqb.si.com

This afternoon, after a brief workout and some weightlifting, all of the Denver offensive players will gather in a Broncos meeting room. No coaches, just players. For one to two hours (the time varies; when they’re finished they’re finished), the players will look at the tape of Sunday’s games. They started this in Manning’s first year last fall. Anyone can speak up about anything. Communication on the field will be discussed. Audibles will be discussed. Route-running, blocking and blitz pickup … everything they see from every offensive snap.

We all know about the in-game sideline debriefing sessions, but I don't recall having read about these Monday meetings (some of you probably do). Just serves to reinforce the notion that it's Manning who is the true ultimate teammate.

MMQB Quote #1: Tony Dungy says Peyton & Co. will do more

Peyton at 37—The Best From the Best
mmqb.si.com

“I’ll tell you what’s scary,’’ said Tony Dungy, Manning’s coach in that 2004 season, in the NBC Football Night in America green room Sunday night. “Peyton will be better in November. He’s still getting used to his receivers, I can tell you, the longer he works with guys, the better they’ll all be.’’

When Denver signed Manning, Dungy and former Colts GM Bill Polian said some things that may have seemed a bit nutty or starstruck, if not self-serving in a sense. But the reality is that those two guys had the best firsthand perspective on Peyton's greatness, and it seems like all of their predictions have come to fruition.

Right now, Dungy and Polian are looking prescient, not unlike Earl Woods and Richard Williams, who each predicted their children would forever alter their respective sports, and quite frankly, sounded batshit crazy when they did.

PFF: Woodyard’s speed creates pressure

ReFo: PHI @ DEN, Week 4
www.profootballfocus.com

Added to the three pressures recorded by Phillips (1 Sk, 2 Hu) and three hurries from Ayers though, was a cameo by Wesley Woodyard (+1.7 pass rushing) doing a lot of good work on delayed blitzes and reacting to scrambles by Michael Vick. He had a highlight-play on his sack by running over Jason Kelce to get to Vick, but plays in pursuit and clean up only built his presence as a pass rusher. His speed to Vick, having initially dropped into coverage, gave him the strange quirk of recording five pressures (1 Sk, 1 Ht, 3 Hu) in spite of having rushed the passer (by design) on only three occasions.

Woody (+3.6 in just 27 pass rush snaps) now has PFF's highest pass rush grade among Denver defenders, ahead of Malik Jackson (+2.9 in 92) and Terrance Knighton (+1.8 in 76). His progression as a player has just been remarkable.

I'd be surprised if the Broncos weren't working feverishly to get this pending UFA signed to an in-season contract extension.

La Canfora: Gase may not be far behind JDR

Broncos OC Adam Gase emerging as hot young coaching candidate
www.cbssports.com

With Peyton Manning on a record-setting pace and the Broncos offense flourishing, young coordinator Adam Gase has a rising profile, and his time in that role might not extend beyond 2015. His resume is impressive and, though just 34, some GMs believe he will get overtures for head coaching interviews in 2014 should the Broncos continue this tear, though 2015 may prove to be his sweetspot to land a job.

It's not ideal, but obviously, there are prices to pay for being one of the NFL's overdogs, and this is one of them.