Championship Game Preview: New England at Denver
Since the game on Sunday is in Denver, it seems relevant to mention that the 10-4 record is about as relevant at this stat: Manning has lost a home game to Brady once in the last ten years.
Sunday will mark the first road playoff game for New England in 7 years!
That's insane, but also a testament to their greatness - the Patriots have played 11 straight postseason games either at home or a neutral site (meaning, the SB).
Their three prior road playoff games? Indy's 2006 title game victory, the Pats win over San Diego that got them there, and the Broncos' divisional round victory from the year prior.
Two Broncos Quarterbacks, Sparkling in the Twilight
“It took me a couple of years to figure out that really I’m built to be involved in football somehow,” Elway said. “That’s what I really know the best.”
While proud of his off-the-field successes, starting with his car dealerships, Elway said, “Those don’t have scoreboards on Sunday.”
For Elway, building a championship-caliber team and quarterbacking one provide different kinds of satisfaction.
TYJE (Judy Battista has more complete versions of those quotes from Elway and Manning)
Browns not giving up on Adam Gase, Gus Malzahn as head coach options
There are no guarantees that Gase will interview, and, some close to him believe he will remain uniquely equipped to be the it coordinator a year from now. Considering he will continue to work with Peyton Manning in Denver—who set NFL records for yardage and touchdowns this regular season—and given how young Gase is, the possibility exists that a number of teams will approach him heavily next January, and he could have his pick of jobs (as was the case with former Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, now the head coach in San Diego).
It was reported that Josh McDaniels pulled his hat from the Browns' ring because he wasn't the frontrunner for the job. What are the chances they said to him, Josh, we really like you, and you had a great interview, but we need to leave you hanging until we talk with Adam Gase?
Through the end of November, San Diego allowed opposing offenses an average of 7.2 yards per play on first down. That’s terrifying: The league average is just 5.4 yards per first-down play. They were more than a half-yard worse than the league’s second-worst defense over that time frame (Dallas). A league-high 29.7 percent of plays on first down against the Chargers gained 10 yards or more. But from Week 13 on, the Chargers basically retreated to league average, allowing 5.3 yards per play on first down. It was a December miracle.
“He was getting frustrated because they were expecting too much from him coming off of surgery,” says his father, Greg, a high school principal and former college receiver. “They told him he wasn’t running full speed in one of the preseason games, and he called me and said ‘Dad, if this is what it takes, then maybe this isn’t for me. I’ve got to use these ankles for the rest of my life.’ ”
This is the best profile of Julius that we've seen, although we're pretty sure he was never on the practice squad - perhaps Klemko means that Thomas was relegated to scout team work last season.
0.28 San Diego at Denver 0.72
Yes, Brian Burke's data again says the Broncos are the heaviest favorite for the divisional round, just like it did last year. No, they didn't win last year's game. No, that doesn't mean Burke's data was wrong, as the anti-math/thinking crowd would prefer to suggest.
Whatever your thoughts on the matter, we strongly suggest re-reading TJ's stellar (and prescient, sadly) piece from 365 days ago. All of it still applies.
Game Riffs can't get excited about divisional round underdogs
Welker will be back, and he challenges Pagano’s preferred tactics (man coverage on outside receivers, single safety deep, rolling zones in the middle) the way Andre Caldwell could not. Welker has made a career of serving as a de facto outside running game, his slot screens and short slants like extra-long handoffs from Hall of Fame quarterbacks. The Chargers secondary can barely match up two-deep at wide receiver, let alone three-deep.
I don't know about you, but the "Sumerian strategy" and "outdated wisdom" Tanier correctly assigns to John Fox is going to give me nightmares until at least Sunday...
Yes, Manning has lost some power, but he’s not Chad Pennington. Manning can still pinpoint difficult throws from unconventional angles. Perfect ball placement has long been his most under-appreciated trait. When coupled with his field awareness, special things happen.
Analysis shows always make a big deal out of quarterbacks looking off or pump-faking a defender, or throwing a guy open. PMFM? He does all three...at the same time.
Defensive End Added to Practice Squad
Davis, a third-year player, will wear No. 72 with the Broncos. He was originally drafted in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. The University of Louisiana-Lafayette product has seen action in three career games with Tennessee (2010) and Cleveland (2012).
Five of the six players signed in the past eight days are former Browns (Davis, Ryan Miller, Jordan Norwood, Eric Hagg, L.J. Fort), meaning they weren't good enough for a team that just went 4-12 and fired its head coach after one season. Great idea, Heckert.
2013 PFF Offensive Player of the Year
We have seen plenty of talk in the last two seasons about Manning being on the decline physically and yet he still had the arm strength and ability to have the league’s second-best completion percentage (45.8%) on deep targets, ranking third on yards per attempt en route to a dozen touchdowns on throws aimed 20+ yards down the field. If Manning has lost some of his physical ability, he has been exceptional working around it.
But can he win in the cold? Just kidding.
Update: PMFM is also PFF's MVP, because duh...