Friday, November 30, 2007

Week 13 prediction

Based on last week’s results, the Broncos and Raiders appear to be heading in different directions. Oakland got a road win at Kansas City, its first AFC West win since 2004. Denver blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead against the Bears.

But the Broncos have played very well against the Raiders since 1995, when Mike Shanahan became head coach, and are the better team on paper. The best reason to believe the Raiders will win is they should have beat Denver in the second week of the season. That was the game in which Shanahan called a timeout at the last moment as Sebastian Janikowski hit what Oakland thought was a game-winning field goal in overtime. Then Janikowski missed the second attempt and Denver ended up winning.

Based on that near-miss, the Raiders probably feel good about their chances of winning the rematch at home. But the Broncos have treated Oakland like their own home stadium, and have enough left for one more win there.

Broncos 20, Raiders 17

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bailey drop-off

K.C. Joyner agrees that Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey isn’t having the same kind of season he had in 2006, when he almost won NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Joyner, who breaks down film for his extensive statistics on, said he has done a full breakdown of three Broncos games. Bailey didn’t play in one, against Pittsburgh. The other two, against Jacksonville and Tennessee, Bailey didn’t dominate. Joyner said Bailey had 11 passes attempted at him when he had direct coverage and allowed nine completions for 76 yards. He also allowed a touchdown to Jacksonville’s Reggie Williams.

Joyner admits two games is a small sample size, but said it’s telling because Jacksonville's and Tennessee’s receivers are mediocre. Bailey allowed 4.7 yards per attempt his way last year, which was the best rating for any cornerback in the four seasons Joyner has kept the stat. The 6.9 yards-per-attempt for Bailey’s two games Joyner has charted is not very good. Joyner considers a 7-yard-per-attempt rating for a cornerback to be average.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Week 12 prediction

If a team believes in itself, it usually continues to play well. The opposite is true. A losing streak can cause a team to go in the tank once something goes wrong in the next game.

The laws of momentum will be on display this week. Denver has seemingly turned around its season with a two-game winning streak. A modest streak, sure, but it does have the Broncos back in a first-place tie in the AFC West. The Bears have lost two of three since a dramatic last-minute win at Philadelphia. The quarterback situation is a mess, and Rex Grossman is back in the starting job this week. The Bears are 4-6, have no shot of catching Green Bay for the division crown, and after a NFC title last season they are one of the NFL’s disappointing teams.

The Broncos also appear to be a good matchup for the Bears. Chicago has struggled to run the ball all season behind Cedric Benson, and Grossman has a penchant for interceptions. As long as the Broncos offense is efficient and relatively mistake-free, they should continue on the right path in the second half of the season.

Broncos 19, Bears 12

Friday, November 16, 2007

Week 11 prediction

Predicting what the Broncos will do week to week seems pointless. They’ve been so inconsistent, it’s impossible to tell which team will show up on any certain week.

One thing is obvious, however: when the Broncos get turnovers they win. No interceptions in five losses. Nine interceptions in four wins. Those figures are staggering. And the good news for the Broncos is Titans quarterback Vince Young has 10 interceptions this year. The Broncos will probably stack the line of scrimmage, dare Young to throw, and rely on cornerbacks Champ Bailey and Dre Bly to make plays.

The biggest factor in the game should be if Young avoids any mistakes. That’s not too likely.

Broncos 17, Titans 13

Friday, November 9, 2007

Week 10 prediction

The Broncos could win this week. True, they haven’t played well, but the Chiefs are vulnerable. Without top tailback Larry Johnson, Priest Holmes and rookie Kolby Smith will carry the load. Holmes was a star once, but nobody knows what to expect from him now. And if the running game struggles the Chiefs probably won’t be carried by quarterback Damon Huard, who has been looking over his shoulder at backup Brodie Croyle most of the year.

However, the Broncos have problems too. Even though quarterback Jay Cutler appears fine after a scare with a leg injury, running back Travis Henry and safety John Lynch are banged up. Even if they play and the Broncos are close to full strength, it’s still Arrowhead Stadium. Since Mike Shanahan took over as Broncos coach in 1995 the Broncos have won only twice there in the regular season.

Maybe Denver can shut down Holmes and the Chiefs’ running game, make the Chiefs throw the ball more and cause some turnovers. But it’s Arrowhead Stadium, and somehow the Chiefs will pull it out.

Chiefs 13, Broncos 10

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Walker improving

Receiver Javon Walker hasn’t run since his knee surgery and the Denver Broncos don’t know if he’s in football shape, but there is some hope Walker can return soon. Walker might return for Denver’s Nov. 19 game against Tennessee, Broncos coach Mike Shanahan said.

Shanahan said Walker will have to start running by the end of the week. Walker had surgery Oct. 19 and doctors thought he might miss six weeks. But if he starts running this week, Shanahan suggested he could quickly come back to practice.

“We won’t know that until later on in the week,” Shanahan said. “We’ll wait and see when he runs and gets into football shape.”

Walker’s return would be a help to Denver’s offense, which scored only seven points against Detroit.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Cheap shot?

One thing that is tough to tell, even after watching the replay many times, is whether Lions tackle Cory Redding’s hit that knocked Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler out of Sunday's game was illegal.

Cutler said after the game that he was hit on the leg by a helmet. That was by Redding, who was flying into the play when it was obvious Cutler was going to be sacked by tackle Shaun Rogers. Even though it appeared Redding hit Cutler’s leg with his helmet, it also seemed Redding tried to hit with his shoulder pad as Cutler’s legs were being swung forward.

Shanahan said he hadn’t seen the television replays of Redding’s hit. He saw it on the coaches’ film and said he thought Redding led with his helmet but didn’t know that was the hit that injured Cutler’s leg. Using the helmet to unnecessarily and violently butt, spear or ram an opponent is illegal under NFL rules. Shanahan said if the NFL finds anything wrong with the hit, they’ll take action.

“If he did and it’s something illegal, obviously he’ll get fined for it,” Shanahan said. “I can’t tell you for sure.”

Friday, November 2, 2007

Week 9 prediction

Maybe leaving Denver will help the Broncos. After all, they’re 3-7 in the last 10 home games, 10-5 their last 15 road games.

The problem is the Detroit Lions aren’t a pushover anymore. They are 5-2 and have swept the defending NFC Champion Chicago Bears. The Lions have also been blown out by Philadelphia and Washington, so they are prone to some bad days.

Detroit has many dangerous offensive players and a defense that forces a lot of turnovers. The Broncos have to avoid the turnovers, score when they get close to the end zone and the defense has to avoid giving up big plays. That seems like a tough task on the road, no matter how much better the Broncos have been away from Denver lately.

Prediction: Detroit 28, Denver 24