Friday, December 28, 2007

Smith upset with "individuality"

In his role observing the third losing season during his 14-year career with the Denver Broncos, receiver Rod Smith said he continues to be upset with the focus on the individual and not the team.

Smith has talked before about the way the Broncos’ championship teams of the 1990s worked out, practiced and conducted meetings with a single purpose, which was winning a Super Bowl.

“Our organization had a certain standard and how we did things,” said Smith, who was named a captain this year even though he hasn’t played. “Somehow we lost that standard. It’s not a matter of not playing hard, but it’s a certain way we conducted business. I know we’re going to get that back.”

Smith said he has tried to instill that attitude with the younger players, but sounded like he didn’t think his message was getting across. Smith said everyone within the organization, including players, coaches and himself, was to blame so he wasn’t pointing his finger at anybody. But he was frustrated because he didn’t think the Broncos’ 6-9 record is indicative of the type of team they have.

“Sometimes you see more individuality,” Smith said. “I’ve seen more individuality in the last four, five years than I have team. That’s a problem with me.”

Week 17 prediction

The Broncos have almost nothing to play for Sunday, and they’ll be facing a physical Vikings team that could make the playoffs with a win.

The Broncos certainly aren’t entering the offseason on a high note. They’ve been outscored 54-16 by Houston and San Diego the past two weeks. Beating a good Minnesota team would provide some momentum going into 2008, but that won’t be easy. Vikings tailbacks Chester Taylor and Adrian Peterson have 2,066 yards and 19 touchdowns combined running behind a powerful offensive line. The Vikings also lead the NFL in rushing defense by a wide margin.

The Vikings have too much to play for to give a lackluster effort this week.

Vikings 24, Broncos 17

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Rivalry heats up

The shouting match between members of the San Diego Chargers, first and foremost quarterback Philip Rivers, and Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler was still being discussed Wednesday.

In the fourth quarter of Monday’s game, the Broncos were stopped on fourth down and ESPN’s cameras showed an exchange in which Rivers came off the sideline a few yards and yelled in Cutler’s direction. Even though trash talk isn’t uncommon, and was going on for much of Monday’s game, it is rare to see two quarterbacks talk trash to each other.

Cutler didn’t say much about it when asked Wednesday, but said he has never done that with another quarterback, and added it would be remembered when the teams meet next year.

“They talked a lot of stuff and it got heated between the two teams,” Cutler said. “Personally, I don’t think the teams like each other, which is fine. It’s just going to add to it later next year and the year after that.”

Also on Wednesday, safety John Lynch was given the first Darrent Williams Good Guy Award for his cooperation with the media.

“I was very fond of this young man,” Lynch said, holding the plaque with Williams’ name on it. “To win an award in his name is nice.”

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pro Bowl candidates

The Pro Bowl teams are announced Tuesday, and the Broncos probably won’t have a huge group going to Hawaii after this season.

Champ Bailey led all AFC cornerbacks in fan voting, which counts for one-third of the final vote. Even though Bailey won’t duplicate his numbers from last season, he’ll probably make the team. Nobody else is a favorite.

Receiver Brandon Marshall has had a very good season, but he’ll have a tough time making the squad ahead of New England’s Randy Moss, Indianapolis’ Reggie Wayne, Cleveland’s Braylon Edwards or Cincinnati’s duo of Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. There are four receivers on each conference’s squad.

Defensive end Elvis Dumervil has 11 sacks, but he is also at a crowded position. Houston’s Mario Williams, Kansas City’s Jared Allen and Miami’s Jason Taylor seem to be the candidates to fill the three spots.

Middle linebacker D.J. Williams leads the team in tackles, but the Broncos defense has struggled this season. Williams also doesn’t have big numbers in other categories, with only one sack and one interception.

Punter Todd Sauerbrun, who is second in the AFC averaging 46.8 yards per punt, also should get consideration.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Week 15 prediction

The Broncos are coming off a very good performance against Kansas City, which means little. Denver has only one two-game winning streak since starting the season 2-0.

The Broncos are also traveling on a short week, a tougher challenge than Houston had hosting tonight’s game. But the Broncos are healthier, which is a major advantage. Houston has suffered many injuries this season. The Texans will be without quarterback Matt Schaub against Denver and might have to start rookie tailback Darius Walker if Ron Dayne can’t play because of an ankle injury.

Denver’s offense has scored at least 27 points in four of its past five games, and as long as the defense does its part, the Broncos should be able to keep their season alive.

Denver 31, Houston 23

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Kubiak-Calhoun connection

Gary Kubiak has plenty of ties to the Denver Broncos, but he also is close to Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun.

Calhoun was hired by Broncos coach Mike Shanahan before the 2003 season to be a part of a staff that included Kubiak, the offensive coordinator. Calhoun spent three seasons with Denver. When Kubiak was hired by the Texans to be their head coach, he hired Calhoun to be his offensive coordinator.

Kubiak praised Calhoun, who was Houston’s offensive coordinator before taking the job with Air Force.

“It’s interesting because when Mike brought him in, Mike told me from day one ‘This guy is going to be a great football coach,’” Kubiak said. “As a staff in Denver we could see that from the get go.”

Calhoun worked on defense for a season, then moved to the offensive staff. Kubiak said that experience helped Calhoun prepare to be a head coach.

"Troy’s knowledge of both sides of the ball and the game of football are tremendous,” Kubiak said. “As a person, this guy is off the charts. You guys see what he’s doing at Air Force. I’m happy for him.”

Friday, December 7, 2007

Week 14 prediction

The Broncos’ season officially became a disappointment with a two-game losing streak, but they’re still not as bad off as the Chiefs.

Kansas City has lost five straight games. Their quarterback rotation will stop on Brodie Croyle for this week’s game. Damon Huard started the first meeting against the Broncos. Running backs Larry Johnson and Priest Holmes are both out, and rookie Kolby Smith will start Sunday.

The Broncos are at least getting healthy. They should have every player on the active roster available except safety Nick Ferguson. And Denver still has a slight glimmer of hope at winning out and making the playoffs, which is more than the Chiefs have.

Broncos 21, Chiefs 17

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Playoff chances dim

The Broncos’ loss at Oakland on Sunday was a crushing blow to their playoff chances, and not just because they added another loss to their record. They also significantly hurt their chances of winning the tiebreaker against San Diego.

If two teams from the same division are tied, the first tiebreaker is head-to-head record. Denver can even that up with a win at San Diego on Dec. 24. The second tiebreaker is record in division games, and that is where the Broncos blew it Sunday. After losing to the Raiders, Denver’s division record is 2-2. San Diego is 3-1. Even if Denver hands San Diego its second division loss on Christmas Eve, the only way the Broncos win that tiebreaker is if the Chargers lose against Oakland in the season finale.

If the Broncos and Chargers each finish with two AFC West losses, the next tiebreaker is common opponents aside from the AFC West foes. Denver is 1-5 against common opponents (Chicago, Green Bay, Houston, Minnesota, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee and Detroit) with two remaining, so the best they can finish is 3-5. The Chargers are 3-3 in those games with two remaining. A Chargers win against Tennessee or Detroit – or a Broncos loss to Houston or Minnesota - would clinch that tiebreaker for San Diego.

The fourth tiebreaker is conference record and San Diego has an edge in that as well with a 6-3 record. Denver is 5-4.

So even if the Broncos go 4-0 the rest of the way, they likely either need the Chargers to lose to the Raiders on Dec. 30 or lose each of their other three remaining games for Denver to win the division.