Denver Broncos

2009 NFL Season: How the Steelers Can Make the Playoffs

Which way is up?

On NFL.com, there are over 21,000 comments on the article concerning playoff scenarios.  I can barely remember and article getting so much attention that wasn’t dedicated to the lucrative commercial in images of Black criminality.  Even illegitimate births by scrawny super models with star QB’s don’t get the juices flowing like 2nd rate cornerbacks in strip clubs.  Whomever said “Sex sells,” never had to compete with the All-American psychopathic racial personality.  Now, it seems the only thing to trump the potential for a Negro perp walk is the prospect of making the playoffs.  Isn’t naked self-interest a beautiful thing?  But I digress…

Polamalu: Closer and Closer to Taking the Field

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2009 NFL Season: Steelers Smother Broncos, 28-10

Like I said when they were 2-0, 3-0, 4-0, and 5-0, and 6-0…” I’m not buyin!”

The Broncos deserve a great deal of credit for beginning the season at 5-0.  In the past two weeks, this solid team of newly-acquainted veterans has lost to the two teams that battled in the conference championship game in 2008.  There is no shame in that, but it is clear that Denver has some work to do.  The offense is mediocre and we know its not because of Brandon Marshall and Eddie Royal.  They have played in a high-powered explosive offense before.  The problem may not be Josh McDaniels either.  He knows something about “matriculating the ball up and down the field.”  Even Brandon Stokely has been part of an elite offensive unit.  So who hasn’t been there and done that?

The man who threw 3 interceptions tonite against a team that refused to allow any men in orange jerseys to run the ball: Kyle Orton.

Frankly, I think the Broncos are on the verge of a collapse until they do some things differently.  I thought they were fortunate to beat the Chargers in San Diego.  For all of their success on defense, that game boiled down to a couple of returns by Eddie Royal.  Only the 2007 Bears and Devin Hester can live that way.  This Broncos team simply isn’t cut that way.  The offense managed 3 points tonite — and that was due to Troy Polamalu’s defense on teammate William Gay.  APTOPIX Steelers Broncos Football

Denver has to score more.  They have to get Tony Scheffler involved in the offense.  They have to get their running game untracked.  If they don’t, that undersized defense will be forced to stay on the field as much as they did tonite.  That defense can’t do it.  The success of the defense is predicated on the speed of the front 7 and the savvy of the secondary.  That formula was inverted tonite.  The demise of the Broncos was due to the fatigue of the front 7 and the “experience” of the secondary.  The Steelers made Champ Bailey look older than Ty Law.  Did you see the hurdle?

The Broncos don’t have to collapse, they just have to adjust.  I like the Chargers to find a way to win this division.

As for the Steelers, the offense is powerful but sloppy.  Roethlisberger plays like he knows he is playing with house money.  He plays as if he is unconcerned with the consequences of his actions.  The Steelers defense is so ferocious that he is seldom taxed the way another passer might be by miscues.  The Steelers could have scored 40 points if they did not turn the ball over.  Rashard Mendenhall was spared the disgrace of a goal line fumble in the 4th quarter.  And it wasn’t because he didn’t actually fumble — he did.  The referees were probably still trying to make up for that blown call when Jerome Bettis called the coin toss in overtime vs. the Lions.  Ben Roethlisberger had two turnovers: a blind-side fumble and a goal line interception.  Both turnovers were committed when the Steelers were moving the ball with ease.  The second half was a relative walk in the park.  Bruce Arians appeared to have surrendered the play-calling to Ben as the team ran effortlessly without huddling.

Note 1:  It was interesting to hear the announcers talk at the beginning of the 2nd half about how Denver’s frequent movement on defense was causing the Steelers to run the clock down to the final seconds.  That was not the case.  The Steelers were entirely in control based on the change in tempo.  Roethlisberger took his time looking over the defense to maximize the quality of his pre-snap reads.  There was no need to rush.  The no-huddle limited defensive substitutions.  Roethlisberger took his time.  Game over.

Note 2:  When Troy Polamalu is healthy, he makes plays all over the field.  In the 4th quarter of this game (with about 9 minutes remaining), Polamalu stuffed a first down in the backfield with the Broncos pinned down in the own end.  On the very next play, Kyle Orton tried to get some breathing room and the ball was intercepted by Polamalu about 20 yards downfield.

Note 3:  The only guy who really gets open down field against Ike Taylor is Randy Moss (and he needs Tom Brady on the field).  If you don’t have Randy Moss, don’t bother.

If Rashard Mendenhall can secure the ball, this team is going back to where they came from.  Right now, the Colts, Bengals and Steelers (in that order) look to be the class of the AFC.  I don’t know where to put the Patriots.  It’s been so long since they played a quality opponent with a two-dimensional offense.

Closing Note:  Last season, in Week 9, the Steelers played on the road against a team with a new “genius” coach that was oaded with veterans in the secondary, a young quarterback who had yet to throw an interception, a dynamic running game, apass-catching tight end, .  Ben Roethlisberger was knocked out of that game by the Washington Redskins, but Jason Campbell threw his first interceptions of the season.  The Redskins, like the Broncos, struggled mightily to score and lost 23-6.

2009 NFL Season: Week 9’s Biggest Losers

The week isn’t over yet, but on Sunday, some teams lost more than a single game.  It’s still early enough that anything can happen, but some teams may be watching their seasons fall apart.  Let’s take a look at the early casualties.

  • San Francisco 49ers. You knew the Titans were a dangerous opponent.  With Vince Young quarterbacking and Mike Heimerdinger calling plays, the Titans were sure to rely on a conservative attack  and their ability to pound the rock and force turnovers.  That’s exactly what happened.  The Titans won 34-27 on the road and forced Alex Smith into a sloppy, hurried game.  Frank Gore was dynamic and versatile, but he didn’t dominate the action like he did before the Viking game.  Suddenly, a team that began the season 3-1 with quality wins over division opponents is sitting at 3-5.  The bad news is that first-place Arizona won at Chicago on the strength of a 5 td performance by Kurt Warner (without Anquan Boldin).  The good news is that the Niners only trail them by 2 games — and already have a win at Arizona.  Mike Singletary has changed quarterbacks.  They score more points with Smith, but have less ball security than under Hill.  Next up: the Bears, Packers, Jags, Seahawks.  There is no reason this team can’t be 7-5 in a month.  Book It: If they’re +8 or better in turnovers over that time frame, they’re going to the playoffs.
  • New York Giants. If the playoffs began tomorrow, the New York Giants would have the same vantage point as the New York Yankees, and you and I.  They’d be watching from home.  The Giants have lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals and San Diego Chargers.  They’ve lost on the road to the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles.  There really is no shame in losing to any of these teams.  The Saints finished in last place last season, but they’ve been remade and have yet to lose a game this season.  Arizona and the Eagles played in the NFC Championship game last year.  San Diego is a perennial playoff contender.  That the Giants have lost to these teams in consecutive weeks is surprising.  That the Giants have failed to score more than 20 points in any of these games is shocking.  The Chargers have been an enigmatic bunch all season.  They’re 5-3, but could be 7-1 or 2-6.  They’re inconsistent and have been unable to stop the run since the injury to Jamal Williams in September.  All of that sounded like a recipe for resurrection in the Meadowlands.  It didn’t happen.  Instead, the same depleted secondary that was undressed by Drew Brees was dissected by Philip Rivers.  The Giants could do “soul-searching” or any number of things on their bye week, but the answers (like the problems) are on the field.  The execution is simply what it has been — on either side of the ball.  When the sun rises tomorrow, the Giants will be 2 games behind the leader of the NFC East.  Next up: Atlanta, Denver, Dallas, Philadelphia.  This could get much worse before it gets any better.  Book It: If the Giants are not able to defeat second and third tier quarterbacks like Matt Ryan and Kyle Orton, the season will be over before they meet host Dallas and Philadelphia in consecutive weeks.
EliManning_Scramble_JacquesCesaire

Eli Isn't the Only Man On the Run (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun)

  • Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens are kicking themselves tonite for taking the Bengals lightly.  I don’t know why they continue to do that.  It seems they forget that they have a 3-8 record vs. Carson Palmer.  They don’t scare him.  He torches them more regularly and scars them more deeply than any QB in the league.  Really, if they think about it, they’re his bird bitches.  They probably don’t like to admit it, but 8 wins is 8 wins.  The Ravens know they will not be winning the AFC North this season.  They will not be beating the Steelers twice.  They may not even beat them once.  The good news, though, is that they hold tie breakers over the Broncos and Chargers.  Only 1 of them can win the division.  If the Ravens can somehow manage to get to 10 or 11 wins, they can sneak in as the 3rd in the AFC North.  New England, a probably division winner is the only team they’ve lost to in the AFC aside from Cincinnati.  It means their destiny is still in their own hands.  Baltimore can win 6 or 7 of their final 8 games.  If they do, they’re in because of their wins over the AFC West.  Next up: Browns, Colts, Steelers, Packers.  They get Indy and Pitt at home.  Book It: If Baltimore finds a way to win these 4 games and wins out until their Dec. 27th game in Pittsburgh, they’ll beat whomever they play in the Wild Card round.

Teams like the Bears, Texans and Packers lost games yesterday that likely surprised their die-hard fans.  What Bears fan doesn’t expect to beat the Cardinals in Soldier Field?  In all honesty, the Bears simply are not the same team they were at the beginning of the season.  The Bears were fortunate to beat the Steelers this season — and that win has been the cause of all “great expectations” since the signing of Jay Cutler.  It was a quality win.  It was something the Vikings were unable to do.  Still, there hasn’t been much for the Monsters of the Midway to hang their hats on.  Without Urlacher and Hillenmeyer, I don’t expect much.

For all their talent and perennial promise for unleashing potential, the Texans simply cannot be expected to win at Indianapolis.  I expect them to do what they did — play tough, play a little less than smart, and lose.

The Packers simply are not a good team.  They play unevenly and had to be flatter than week-old Coke after playing against Brett Favre under the national spotlight at home last week and then traveling in anonymity to lifeless Raymond James Stadium for a late game vs. a rookie quarterback and a rookie coach.  Teams that lose games like this don’t really belong in the post-season.  Green Bay will find their way out.

Addendum:

  • Philadelphia Eagles. Anytime you lose at home to a division rival, it’s painful and it adversely impacts your playoff positioning.  This version of the Eagles is losing games they are supposed to win.  They’ve lost at Oakland…and now this.  If you don’t think the Eagles are going to regret this loss, consider that over the next four weeks, they will be on the road at San Diego, at Chicago and at Atlanta.  The Eagles could lose every one of these games.  The last time the Eagles played on the West Coast, they lost to Oakland.  Against Dallas, the Eagles only ran the ball 23 times.  They didn’t run many plays overall.  Philly only converted 4 of 12 first downs, including some notable failures on 3rd and 4th down with short distances to go.  Jason Peters was injured.  Asante Samuel was roughed up.  Sheldon Brown was toasted.  Brian Westbrook was inactive.  Michael Vick was ineffective (He’s got time.)  McNabb looked like his ribs are still sore…and he also looked like he always looks.

2009 NFL Season: An Early Peek at Week 9

Some games are already taking on a playoff atmosphere.  The Week 8 Falcons-Saints game on Monday night was one such game.  The one thing that is painfully clear to me (and probably to the Atlanta Falcons general manager) is that the Falcons really miss Harry Douglas.  If you don’t live in Atlanta or didn’t go to Louisville, you’ve probably never heard of him.  Douglas is a speedy wideout who was injured and lost for the season during pre-season.  He had two of his best games in 2008 vs. Chicago (5 catches, 96 yards) and Carolina (4 catches, 92 yards).  Douglas is a young guy, but he can stretch the field and create space for Roddy White.  That’s what’s been missing as teams exploit the absence of Jerrious Norwood and the presence of Michael Jenkins.

Next week, we’re going to see who gets off the mat…and who rolls over.

A month ago, if you told someone that the Chargers had the remotest chance of beating the Giants in New York, you’d have been run out of town.  Yet, after overpowering losses at New Orleans, home vs. the Cardinals and down in Philadelphia, the Giants may have shrunk the betting line to 2 or 3 points.  The Chargers are still a shell of their former selves, but anything is possible — especially in a game where Philip Rivers and Eli Manning will be playing for bragging rights.

Around Christmas time, when the Arizona Cardinals get the final confirmation that their 9-7 record is not good enough to get into the playoffs, they’re going to be kicking themselves for losing at home to Carolina.  They’re going on the road to Chicago.  The Cardinals have the perfect personnel to throttle the Bears all up and down Lake Shore Drive.  But, if Kurt Warner has his mind on other things, they can lose just like Cleveland did last week.  And if they do that, they’ll be watching the 49ers in the post-season.

Dallas travels to Philadelphia for what should be a classic confrontation of high-powered offenses.  The Cowboys have proven to have a stronger preference for running than the Eagles.  Too often Andy Reid get enamored with the beauty and grace of their passing game.  If that happens again this week, Dallas will leave town in first place.

The Miami Dolphins have had an interesting few weeks.  They lost a tough, tough game to the New Orleans Saints.  The offense could only muster 3 points vs. the Jets for much of the game, but the special teams unit exploded behind Ted Ginn, Jr.  The New England Patriots are coming off a bye and this could be the end of the ride.

The Baltimore Ravens play at the Cinncinati Bengals.  This is a game of the week candidate.  The Bengals have a one game lead over the Ravens and have already won in Baltimore.  A win here forces the Ravens to turn their attention to beating the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers twice…and they haven’t played this season.  If Baltimore loses, the chances of them making the playoffs, to me, drop considerably.

Don’t the Texans have something to prove?  When are they going to prove it?  They get to play the Colts in Indy this week and prove they can run and pass and stop the run and slow down the pass.  If they can’t do it, Indy gets to 8-0 and holds all the cards.  If Houston can find a way, a much deserved bye week is just around the corner.

NOTE: It had occurred to me that very little was probably said with respect to “race” last week as Mike Singletary’s 49ers faced off against Jim Caldwell’s Colts.  The NFL still has a long way to go, but it is worth noting that 5 of the last 6 teams to compete in the Super Bowl have had either a Black head coach or general manager.  The lone exception to this new trend is the New England Patriots.

The Raiders, Rams, Bills and Browns are all on a bye week.  Television programmers have never been so happy!

Monday night — Steelers vs. Broncos.  That’s a big one, even though the Ravens subjected Denver to an old-fashioned AFC North chin checking.  Denver will show up to play the Steelers and their fans will be juiced.  This game will get all the hype that probably should go to two teams who’ve already outdueled these two (Baltimore and Cincinnati).

Mr. Reed, I Presume.

Ed Reed set the tone for yesterday’s Week 8 win over the Denver Broncos with this crunching blow on rookie running back, Knowshon Moreno.  The Ravens were waiting on Denver’s screen game all day long.  This play resulted in the game’s first turnover.  The Ravens went on to win 30-7.

THE ANATOMY OF A FUMBLE.

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Loose Ball -- Inside the Blue Circle

Here it comes.  The breeze before the boom!!

BREEZE — The read by Reed.  “Screen, screen, screen!”

Ed Reed_Moreno1a

Here Comes Mr. Reed

2009 NFL Schedule: Ravens, then Steelers

This season, the AFC North is pitted against the NFC North and the AFC West.  That makes for some interesting matchups.  In looking at the schedule, however, I noticed a pattern.  The NFL has granted a tremendous gift to the Pittsburgh Steelers at the expense of the Baltimore Ravens.

And you thought THIS was out of bounds!!

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The Denver Broncos: Six and So, So…So What!

The Broncos against the World!

Do you believe in the Broncos yet?  How many more wins will it take before you convert to the faithful?  Do they have to beat your team?  Do they have to beat your team on the road?  Do they have to beat your team in perfect health?  Do they have to beat your team or some other “proven favorite” by 25 points?  Or can they just win, baby?

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2009 NFL Season: The NFL’s Search for Dominance

We are nearly through 6 weeks of the NFL season and some interesting trends are beginning to emerge.  I decided to take a look at 2 indicators for some of the leading teams in both conferences.

Former Vol star, Robert Meachem Goes High

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Is Steeler WR Mike Wallace the Real Deal?

Last week, Steeler rookie WR Mike Wallace had 7 receptions and 102 receiving yards on the road vs. the Cincinnati Bengals.  The Steelers lost the game, but the rookie served notice that he just might be a player.  I was impressed enough to scoop him up in my FFL, even though I think the Steelers are at the softer spot of the 2009 schedule and are likely to run the ball more.  I think Wallace is about to do some special things.  Here’s why:

Mike Wallace takes Jonathan Joseph for a ride.

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