Just so you know: Next season these game previews are really gonna kick ass. They'll all be researched, and we'll have stats, and more photos, and maybe little ActiveX battlebots for each team, and free beer.
This season, being the first Field Gulls season, we're still phoning it in until the playoffs. (Well, I'm still phoning it in. Scruffy's injury reports are pretty spectacular. Dude's shaming me.)
Here are my thoughts about the Denver Broncos, who we're playing in the Sunday Flex Game of the Week on NBC:
- They were the consensus pick to win the AFC West from just about every football annual I bought, except for the one that had chicks with guns on the cover, who naturally chose Oakland. You didn't really read this annual for the articles, as you might expect.
However, something semi-unexpected happened: the surge of the San Diego Chargers. I didn't think San Diego would be bad at all, but I didn't think they'd be anywhere nearly as complete a team as they turned out to be. Now the Broncos are lingering with the Chiefs, tied for second place in an AFC West that may very well provide both of the wild-card teams in the conference playoffs. (Which would make their division the anti-NFC West, who will provide a couple armchairs and a headrest for the playoffs.)
- But the Broncos don't suck, especially at defense, and especially at home.
- In the matter of rookie quarterback Jay Cutler, who is getting his first NFL start against the Seahawks Sunday night, I have heard nothing but hosannahs about him.
Still, for a Denver team that's certainly not going in the tank, Mike Shanahan's decision to bench Jake Plummer in the midst of what still would've been a winning season is rather bold. True, Plummer's season had hit the skids, and he was lingering towards the bottom rungs of most statistical categories in the game. Nevertheless, it's still a gutsy move.
The crosstalk I've been getting about Cutler is that his acumen's beyond his years, that his presence and command in the pocket is astonishing to onlookers, and that he'll be entrenched as the Broncos' quarterback for the next decade. I also understand he will cure the common cold sometime in the 3rd quarter.
So there's a chance this might be a momentous game, that it'll be a part of the 21st century's NFL lore. Which is great. I still hope we crush the kid's spirit like a tinfoil baking pan, but it's nice to be part of history. Hooray.
- Denver has great rushers who have had significant problems finding the end zone.
- Despite talk of their dominating defense, I notice that although the Broncos are 11th against the run, they are -- and this is kind of stunning -- only 23rd against the pass. (Two spots behind the Seahawks.) There has to be some situational revision in those numbers, though: Opposing quarterbacks have only mustered a 77.4 rating against the Broncos this year. That's 10th best in the league. (Seattle is 22nd, with 86.3.)
- As I write this, right now, it's a balmy 3 degrees Fahrenheit in Denver. They were sippin' ice cold pina coladas at a blistering high of 24 degrees on Saturday. Game time forecast is a Sahara-chokin' 26 degrees. And whip out the sunblock: It'll be clear skies.
More on this game as it actually takes place.