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Posted by the fanatic on October 31, 2009

Once again, the Broncos are in one of the best football games of the weekend.  Denver V Baltimore.   When John Jesus Krishna Clayton (He prefers JC for short) predicted we would go 3-13 if we were lucky, it was hard to imagine that we would be the highlight game 3 out of 4 weeks  in a row.  Furthermore, we will be the highlight game next Monday against Pit, we will be the highlight game two weeks later with SD, then the Giants, and two weeks after that against IND.  Guess that is what happens when a really good team plays a really tough schedule.

  1. General Pace of the Game:  This game is going to be for football lovers, not casual fans.  The punters are going to get a workout.  Likely, the FG kickers will oft be in action.  Both teams have the same general game strategy: Hit ‘em in the gut, hit ‘em hard, win the field position battle – win the game.  The thing that worries me about the chances of going far in the playoffs starts with this stretch of “great games” – we are playing bal, pit, nyg, philly, and for the sake of this argument, oak … those are a lot of physical defenses and opportunities to get hurt.
  2. Offense:  In my previous post, I spent most of the time talking about either turn overs or the defense (in some cases, both).  I want to focus a little more on strategy this week.  The middle of Baltimore’s defense is ferocious.  Ray “the knife” Lewis still has it and Terrell Suggs is flat out great, and they have the best true NT in the game.  The McD game plan philosophy is simple: avoid & neutralize their strengths while exploiting their weaknesses.  When looking at their D, you can bet we are going to look to avoid the middle of the field.  I expect to see buckhalter and YesShon! attacking the perimeter more than in previous weeks.  We will have to go between the tackles to keep them honest, however.  And while I have been calling Hillis’ number for weeks now, I would prefer to use Jordan up the gut (I don’t want to risk Lewis killin Hillis).  That is not to say I don’t want a lot of Hillis action though.  The next phase of the game is neutralizing their weakness.  We need to for them into nickel and dime packages a lot.  That means 3 and 4 wide out sets.

For every bit as good as the middle of their defense has been, their perimeter (particularly CBs) are not good.  In fact, without Cortland Finnegan, their CBs are weak.  So, forcing them into a nickel where they have to put their 3rd best CB in place of Ray Lewis sounds like a great deal.  Better yet, in the dime they also take Suggs off the field.  So what does that look like for denver?

  1. The speed set.  4 true receivers.  Marshall, Royal, Gaffney, Stokely.  It is a basic double slot set where the under guys look to work the sideline, Marshall works the sideline deep, and Royal starts wide and looks to create a deep seem down the middle.  Probably my least favorite option, but this one almost assure Ray Lewis to be on the sideline.
  2. 3WR and a TE.  Normally I like sheffler as the receiving TE.  Not this week.  While he is a monster match up for every defense and my feature prominently in the 2nd half, I prefer a set where Graham (or Quinn) is the big target.  Honestly, those guys are just more physical and will wear them out more quickly.
  3. My favorite option.  A single back (Hillis), Single TE (Probably Graham, but Quinn would be fine), 3 WR set.  The TE stays in pass protection and Hillis goes wide.  Lewis is already off the field, so when we throw a quick out to Hillis, he gets to (literally) run over their smaller corners and safeties.  Look for this set at key junctures in games and look for us to use it to set the pace for physicality early.  I think this set is money.
  4. One final set that I think will be really difficult for Bal to play against … a 2WR, 2TE, 2Back set.  Brandon and Eddie split wide, Graham and Sheff at TE, and Hillis and YesShon as the backs.  After using Graham in the passing game, they will have to respect him as a target, as with Hillis.  This set is a monster option because the D has no idea who the targets are at the line of scrimmage.  While there is honestly a max of 4 check downs (and maybe a dump option), all players from the D point of view are viable.  I don’t expect to see this much in the passing game because it leaves their middle of the field with its best personnel, but it might be used in really obvious running situations for misdirection.
  5. Goal line.  Denver must find a way to get goal line yardage against their D line, otherwise my fantasy kicker could have a big day (not good from the POV of this post).  This is the one situation where I want Hillis to be the ball carrier against Lewis and company.  I also think we need to use the 3TE set here to establish the line of scrimmage.  Besides, that still leaves Sheffler and B Marsh as passing targets on the goal line.  Plain and simple though, we need to score TDs.
  6. Defense.  Every week is a favorable match up for your defense when you have the best defense in football.  This week is no exception.  There are several things I like this week for this matchup.
    1. Flacco is still learning his checkdowns, which is obvious because he can hold on to the ball too long.
    2. This is a very bad defense to hold on to the ball too long against.
    3. ChampBaileyFEAR:  There are always two sides of a coin.  This stare is the strikes fear into the hearts of 31 men in the NFL.  However, Vincent Jackson, Randy Moss, and Roy Williams do not scare Champ Bailey.  Do you think he is afraid of old man Derrick Mason?  Their receivers are nothing special and will have a very tough time finding space and creating separation against our secondary.  This will make Flacco hold on to the ball longer.
    4. I expect DOOM to have some more sacks, but I also think it will be a quiet 1st half for him because their game plan will be to double team him.
    5. NFL/To adjust for this, expect Denver to send DJ up the gut and and make Flacco look like this.  One hit like that, and that will be the end of double teaming DOOM.
    6. RUN D.  This is the key to the game.  BAL has a great running game and we must stop the run.  Making them one dimensional is a guaranteed win for us.  This goes back to our secondary discussion.  Because their receivers are not that good and because Goodman is the most underrated CB in the league and we have a guy named Champ, we have really good options for this.  1. Move B. Dawk into the box frequently.  This will punish their running game.  It also makes him a ligit threat for the safety blitz.  See above strategies for freeing up DOOM.
    7. We must prevent them from 3rd and short as BAL has one of the best 3rd conversion percentages – all related to the efficiency of their run D.
  1. Keys to the Game:
    1. I mentioned in my last novella of a post – we must figure out a way to get things going in the 1st quarter.  This is more important this week than any previous.
    2. Use the score board to your advantage.  Sounds obvious – but if we can get up on BAL by 10-14 early, they are more likely to abandon the run.  They will not beat us by passing and our defenders are less likely to be injured.
    3. Special Teams:  I didn’t focus on this through the rest of the post.  I should have.  We have a new punter whose specialty is field position.  This is going to be key in this game.  No more line drive punts, no more touchbacks when punting from the opponents 45.  Both are unacceptable.   Also, I alluded to this earlier … but Spencer Larsen is back, healthy, and ready to take someone’s head off.  Having your gunner on coverage teams is key, and Larsen is actually one of the best in the game.  If he doesn’t decapitate the ball carrier, he takes out 3 guys trying to do so.  Look for this to be the most improved phase of our game.
    4. Blitz:  Like playing SD, over committing on blitz packages leaves bubble screens wide open.  BAL loves this play as much as Norv  “the playground bully” loves to pile extra touchdowns on KC.  We were burned early against SD with this type of play, but adjusted extremely well to it in the 2nd half.  I expect BAL to try it early and often.  I don’t expect it to work.
    5. Blitz:  Dump their QB.  Its Nolan’s philosophy, so expect heat up the middle early and from the outside the rest of the game.  BAL has only given up 7 sacks in 3 games …. I expect close to that many tomorrow.  However, only if we can establish the line of scrimmage and get ahead on the score board.
    My Prediction:  Denver 26, Baltimore 16

Posted in Broncos, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

NFL musings

Posted by the fanatic on October 25, 2009

I actually was pretty bored today by the games I got to see.  The Vikes V Steelers looked like two slightly above average teams slugging it out, and was definately better that the other game.  When Jay Cutler took the field for the bears first drive – I saw a look in his eye that I knew all too well and loathed when he was my QB.  It was the vacant stare that showed he was not excited about today, not having fun, and – most importantly – was going to play VERY, VERY poorly.  Turns out – he threw 3 INT. That would be one fewer than the number of true TO the broncos have had all season.  Thanks for helping our draft pick, Jay.

Now...this face brings us joy

Now...this face brings us joy

So, who is the best team in the league now?  Miami making NO look really vulnerable, the Giants loose to AZ, Colts roll on.  I say the power rankings should be Colts 1, Broncos 2 (moving up 2 spots after not even playing!)

The other thing I find impressive: the Broncos beat a team and the defense makes them look pretty weak.  The next weeks… the patriots kill back to back opponents, the chargers kill the chiefs, the cowboys roll on.  Oh, and the bengals … granted our win was “lucky” – they only put up 7 points on us, they beat the shit out of the bears so badly today that Palmer sat the entire 4th quarter!

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

Great for the team…

Posted by the fanatic on October 25, 2009

But damn do I hate the bye week.

Peter Forsberg is in town this weekend and we are hanging out tomorrow and watching football.  Unfortunately, the most interesting thing for us will be the chiefs v chargers.  If the chargers loose to the chiefettes, then it is almost numerically impossible for us not the make the playoffs… weird to root for the chiefs, but — GET ‘ER DONE.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments »

How good are the new Broncos?

Posted by the fanatic on October 24, 2009

So good that I honestly have to question whether our new coach learned to cheat from his rat-bastard mentor.  But for the time being, we will assume that we are honestly this 6-0 and one of the best teams in the NFL.  In fact, we are so good that there is a very real chance that McD wins coach of the year, Orton is offensive MVP, and Doomervil is Defensive MVP.  Think about that.

Here is a more detailed analysis of where I think we are really good, inconsistent, and need a lot of improvement.

  1. Offense.  We can talk all day about which stat means the most in the NFL (or any given sport), but the most important statistic in the NFL, ultimately, is W:L ratio.  And no single statistic more accurately predicts a team’s chance of winning games than turnovers.  Analysts frequently use the term “winning the TO battle” to describe the team that cough’s up the ball less than their opponent.  And for good reason.  I have seen quotes ranging from 65-85% of teams who “win the TO battle” win the game.  But, here is another statistic I have come across recently that is very simple and still helps to analyze the broncos.  Over the past 2 years, teams with:
    1. 0 turnovers win 75% of the time
    2. 1 turnover win 59% of the time
    3. 2 turnovers win 39% of the time

What does this mean for the Denver Broncos?  I want to talk about our offense first.  Tons of analysts have been commenting that we rely on our defense to win games.  I beg to differ.  We have given the ball away 5 times this year* in six games (1 game with 2 TOs, 3 games with 1 TO, and 2 games with 0 TOs).  Based upon that statistic alone, it is not surprising that we are undefeated.  Only once have we dipped into that range where it was statistically unlikely for us to have won the game, which is where our defense stepped up to the plate.  In the game where we gave the ball away two times, the defense had 3 take-aways – thus returning the turn over statistic to our favor.

I need to move away from the offense, otherwise this is going to turn into a novel.  But, I think it also needs to be pointed out that we have not been held under 100yd rushing since week 1.  That is bronco football.  Our QB has a 9:1* TD:INT ratio.  He also has a career record of 27-12.  It isn’t flashy, but our offense is kicking defenses across the league in the crotch – and it is awesome.

*Orton’s INT was on a Hail Mary at the end of the 1st half of the NE game – hardly significant other than it showed he cares more about winning than his own stat line.

  1. This brings me to the other great part of our team: our defense.  You cannot argue with any credibility that there is a better coached defensive unit in the league.  The broncos have not allowed a 3rd down conversion in the 2nd half over the last four games.  THAT IS MIND BLOWING!  But, it gets better.  In those four weeks, they played the Chargers, Partiots, Cowboys, and Raiders .  We have now entered into the realm of mind fucking.  It is really, really, really hard to score if you cannot convert a 3rd down, which has led to 10 second half points all year.  Mind fucking.

Back to turnovers.  Our defense has caused 1 TO in 2 games, 2 TO in 2 games, and 3 TO in 2 games.  That is good for a TO differential of 12:5 or +7 in the favor of the Broncos.  Please refer to above info regarding TOs.

Sacks:  DOOM leads the league with 10 sacks and he will be a finalist for the 2009 defensive MVP.   But it comes from all directions – double team Doom and your QB will get hit in the gut by middle LB DJ Williams.  If you saw the hit DJ put on Roy Williams 3 weeks ago, it is easy to see why teams opt to try to put one blocker on DOOM instead of watching their QB throw up blood on the sideline.  Our D has 21 sacks total.

Lastly: tackling.  With an emotional leader like Dawkins, talented rookies, and a guy named Champ Bailey – we don’t miss tackles on defense.  PERIOD.

  1. The inconsistent.  Special teams.  We have been mostly good on special teams all year.
    1. Now that Prater has settled down, we are not missing FGs.  A missed FG is like a TO – and this is an area of concern that appears to be improving.  I still would like to see him kick off more unreturnable balls.  We know he can get it to the goal line every single kick because we all saw him put a kickoff through the uprights against the Cowgirls that might have been good for 85yds.
    2. Coverage teams:  Much improved from last year, but still been weak.  Sproles took advantage of this last Monday night.  It looks like Larsen should be back after the bye week, which is good.  We miss the heat and tackling he provides as a gunner.  I expect this to be the second most improved phase of the game by the end of the season.
    3. Returns.  Eddie Royal.  Even before the TDs, he has been fantastic.  I would like to Alphonso Smith or McKinley step up so as to not get Royal killed.  Returnman is a brutal position.
    4. The bad.  First quarter.  Shannahan was an offensive genius.  He prepared for a game like no coach in the league.  The broncos were unstoppable on his “scripted” plays.  And we miss that.  We have been starting slow every game (except against the Patriots thanks to the wildhorses formation).  We have been outscored 39-24 in the 1st quarter this season, and 30-7 against the 3 chargers, patriots, and cowboys.  And those 7 were special teams points.  We will eventually loose a game if we continue this trend.

The other Bad: 3rd and short.  We have been TERRIBLE in short yardage situations.  Fuck Jordan, we need Hillis.  Jordan is fine to use as a 4th quarter bruiser to break the spirit and bones of the other team, or to eat some clock, but when we are on the goal line or looking to convert in short yardage, Hillis must be the man.  Peyton Hillis is one of the most versatile weapons on our team and we need to start putting him into our offensive game planning – especially for tough short yardage situations.

So these are my musings for now.  The question remains, how good is this team?  I legitimately think that we are a top 5 team, and probably 3rd best behind the colts and the saints.  I also think, that to some extent, it is an irrelevant question.  Most teams show up to practice every week and work on the upcoming game plan.  The broncos are in their first year under McD and his system.  We also have to show up and learn the playbook and work on stuff they have not yet mastered.  But every week, they will get more comfortable with it and will get better.

So, the true question will be – How good will the broncos be when we start the playoffs?  AND, how bad do you feel for the team who has to play us if we get a bye and McD has 2 weeks to prep for his foe?  WE ARE AWESOME!

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